Ground vs. Air: How To Choose the Right UPS Overnight Services for Parcel Shipping

When your package absolutely must arrive by tomorrow, you have more small package shipping options than you may think. Many believe that UPS Next Day Air® or other express services are the only options, when in fact, it's possible that ground shipping can have your package delivered in the same amount of time. Having a better understanding of how UPS® overnight services utilize shipping zones can help you ship smarter and save money.

As always, Worldwide Express is here to help! As part of the largest non-retail authorized reseller of UPS® in the nation, we're committed to helping you understand and expand your small package shipping strategy. In this article, we'll take a closer look at shipping zones, and help you determine the best UPS overnight services to maximize your small package shipping budget.

The First Step: Understanding Your Shipping Zones

Carriers in the United States utilize shipping zones — geographic areas grouped together by zip codes, ranging from Zone 1-8. Rather than using miles, carriers will determine a shipment's distance by how many zones it travels through. This shipment's origin will always be designated as Zone 1, and the destination will be Zone 2-8, depending on the distance.

Often times, small packages can be shipped from one zone to another in the same amount of time regardless of whether you are using ground or air to ship. That's why it's important to understand shipping zones and determine when cost-friendly ground services will meet your deadlines.

Best Way To Overnight a Package: Ground Service vs Air

Saving money and being efficient are essential to running a profitable shipping operation. But some methods of shipping remain a better choice for certain types of shipments regardless of the cost. If you have determined that ground and air services can both deliver by tomorrow, the next step is determining which of those options are the best mode for your shipment. Here is a breakdown of scenarios of when you should ship ground vs. air.

Urgent small package shipping

If your parcel shipping absolutely must be there tomorrow, you may want to consider paying the extra cost and sending it by air. Ground services are highly reliable, but there is more potential for delay with this method. Variables include traffic, weather, missed pickups and a variety of other obstacles. Air does have its challenges, too, and is not exempt from delay. Working with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider like Worldwide Express can help you determine the best method for your urgent next-day package.

Fragile or high-value parcel shipping

Packages that can easily break or that hold a high value to the shipper will share space with other shipments whether you ship ground or air. However, with air, the shorter transit time for shipping could mean your package is handled less. Ground shipping often requires multiple stops, and packages are handled more frequently, making them more susceptible to damage and theft. Parcel insurance is available in both cases, and Worldwide Express provides shippers with options, along with advice on which mode to utilize.

Weather considerations for small package shipping

Bad weather happens, particularly during hurricane season, winter months and random other times in between. These incidents can impair ground transit. If the shipment route includes areas where road closures are common and weather often forces delays, shipping by air might be a better choice in certain cases. The key is knowing when shipments are typically delayed by weather and choosing the shipping option that makes sense during these times.

Scheduled pickup or drop off time

As a busy shipper, you know schedules are important. They're important to carriers, too! So, when considering air or ground for your next-day delivery parcel service, be sure to consider the time when your package is picked up or when you plan to drop it off. Both ground and air services have deadlines you need to meet to ensure your package will be delivered the next day. A 3PL can help you set up a schedule so you will know how to choose the best method based upon when the package is ready for its journey.

Distance to destination

There are times when distance prevents a package from being delivered overnight by ground. Examples include remote origin or destination, or when shipping from Hawaii or Canada to the contiguous U.S. (or vice versa). Check out the UPS Ground Maps website to understand whether ground can make it overnight or if the distance is too far.

Temperature-sensitive parcel shipping

Whether you're shipping by air or ground, special products and shipping containers are used to protect temperature-sensitive shipments. Dry ice is one option and isn't regulated for ground transport, meaning you can process ground shipments using standard shipping procedures. However, dry ice is regulated when you are shipping via air. That simply means ground shipping is less complicated and air shipping will require you to understand the regulations and act accordingly. If you want to understand dry ice and other methods of temperature-controlled shipping, Worldwide Express can help.

Need assistance choosing UPS overnight services? Worldwide Express can help!

Understanding the nuances of small package shipping and next-day delivery parcel service can be a challenge. There is a lot to consider and much you may not know about balancing cost savings and time commitments.

Worldwide Express has more than 30 years of experience providing top parcel shipping solutions for small to midsized business (SMBs). We are a UPS partner and can help you with all your small package shipping needs. Our team can create a strategy that will allow you to pick the right UPS overnight services so you can save money, ship efficiently and meet deadlines!

Are you ready to speak to an expert? Reach out for a free consultation today.