The term expedited transportation is often considered the definition of a "double-edged sword." It is a necessity for urgent shipments, but it can also be a costly method of transportation. While there's generally no easy way to avoid using expedited transportation when you're up against tight deadlines, there are options you may not have considered that could actually save you on both time and cost.

In terms of cost-efficient expedited transportation, most shippers tend to avoid the possibility of utilizing air cargo services. It was previously reserved for only elite shippers in the event of a massive production line shutdown where no other transportation option existed.

However, the "elites-only" reputation or air cargo shipping is no longer warranted in today's modern supply chain. In fact, expedited air transportation, in many cases, can outperform ground service in both cost and speed.

Let's look at a few reasons why you shouldn't immediately disqualify air transportation from your logistics planning.

Inventory Carrying Costs

The time that a shipment spends in transit can impact production and finances for you and your customer. For instance, if your customer's production is stalled until a replacement part arrives, each hour of downtime will take its toll on their bottom line. 

This is where expedited air services can truly save the day. Ground transportation, expedited or not, generally takes longer than air does—especially over long distances. The time difference between air and ground can equate to huge financial losses for businesses that run on stringent production schedules.

Shipment Costs

When it comes to the cost of expedited transportation, ground services are generally thought of as being more economical than air. However, there are a variety of factors that can upend this preconceived notion.

The distance that your shipment needs to travel will impact the transit time and cost when you compare ground against air services. A plane can travel across the country in less than a day and requires fewer man-hours. A truck will take two or more days, depending on if it is driven by a single driver or a team. The longer a truck is on the roadcompounded by the number of hands neededcan easily lead to higher overall costs than shipping cargo by air.

Unavoidable Obstacles

The origin and destination of your shipment will play heavily into the economics of expedited transportation. Trucks are more easily hindered by obstacles that can cause delays, including congestion, weather and road closures. The greater the distance a shipment has to travel will increase the risk of delays. Planes, however, bypass all of the possible bumps on the road below.

Expedited Air Cargo Examples

To better illustrate the opportunities you may find with expedited air cargo services, consider the shipping examples below.

Second Day Delivery
Weight: 300 lbs Dimensions: 1 skid, 61x44x37
Origin: Griffin, GA Destination: Washougal, WA
Arrive By: 15:00 Total Distance: 2,637 miles
Estimated Cost Comparison of Ground vs. Air
Exclusive Van: $4,467.08 Cargo Air + Ground Delivery: $1,775.00


In the example above, you can see how the distance the shipment travels plays an important role in expedited transportation costs. 

Next Day Delivery
Weight: 210 lbs Dimensions: 7 boxes, 12x12x12
Origin: Carrollton, TX Destination: Immokalee, FL
Arrive By: 17:00 Total Distance: 1,273 miles
Estimated Cost Comparison of Ground vs. Air
Exclusive Van: $2,156.46 Commercial Air: $914.00


This particular shipment had needed to reach a customer that requested an emergency product fulfillment just in time for a festival. 

These examples show that sky-high service will not always include a sky-high price tag. When you're up against the clock and seeking an expedited transportation solution, make sure you ask your service provider to see if air could outperform ground. You could end up saving money and time—and even impress your customers. 

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