National vs Regional Carriers - When to Choose One Over the Other

As of last year, over 500,000 carriers had recent activity operating in the United States. With so many carriers in operation, it’s important to be able to narrow down your choices to a manageable selection when deciding which ones to use. One important metric when doing this is whether you’re dealing with national vs regional carriers. Based on that information alone, an informed business can go a long way towards choosing their next shipping partner. Read on to learn some of the considerations that go into making this selection.

What Do We Mean When We Say A National or Regional Carrier?

National vs Regional CarriersFirst and foremost, it’s important to know the difference between these two types of carriers. National carriers are the largest companies in the country as far as transportation goes. These carriers can operate anywhere within the continuous 48 states and often engage in shipping routes up to a week in length. Examples of this type of carrier would be FedEx Freight, Old Dominion, or XPO.

Regional carriers, as the name implies, offer their services in smaller geographical areas than national carriers. Regional carriers are often defined as those providing service for shipments traveling fewer than 500 miles, though there are some that offer a second-day service of up to 1,200 miles.
Examples of this type of carrier would be Southeastern
Freight Lines, AAA Cooper, or Dayton Freight Lines.

What Are The Advantages of National vs Regional Carriers?

One major advantage of partnering with a national carrier is the size of the company. With the larger size comes access to greater resources such as technologies and services. These resources allow national carriers to plan more complex routes as well as maintain larger client bases. Of course, national carriers are also equipped for longer routes than their local and regional counterparts.

Regional carriers, on the other hand, thrive on shorter deliveries. Since they operate in a smaller scope, they can often provide greater flexibility to their customers. They are oftentimes more familiar with the routes in their jurisdiction since they travel them more frequently. Many clients have also reported a higher level of customer care and satisfaction when working with a regional carrier. The smaller customer base that is typical of these types of carriers allows the company to provide a greater focus to each of their customers when compared to those on the national level.

Regional carriers can also often be quicker than national carriers for the routes that they travel. For this reason, next day delivery costs for regional carriers can sometimes be less than with their national counterparts.

What Are The Drawbacks of National vs Regional Carriers?

While national carriers do well when operating over the scope of the entire country, their services tend to become less efficient when dealing with regional deliveries. Regional carriers’ greater knowledge of the routes they travel can allow them to plan deliveries more effectively than national carriers.

National carriers are also often slower than regional carriers when operating over the same distance since their routes necessitate larger loads to be cost-effective. This means that a national carrier will sometimes keep a trailer at its point of origin longer as it loads up additional cargo for its journey. These later starts can contribute to later deliveries.

National carriers are also often subject to greater delivery area surcharges and more accessorial costs than regional carriers. This can result in higher prices for the national carriers.

Of course, one major drawback of regional carriers is their geographical limitations. Commissioning a shipment outside of a regional carrier’s immediate delivery area can be costly, and even then they will only go so far. Using multiple regional carriers to collaboratively ship cargo longer distances can be expensive and unwieldily, putting regional carriers at a severe disadvantage for longer shipments.

So, When Do You Choose One Over The Other?

The choice of selecting national vs regional carriers is often one of shipment distance. Shipping routes that span large areas of the country are typically more efficiently handled by national carriers, with their larger infrastructure and access to additional resources and technologies. An exception to this may be for companies that possess multiple shipping points for their products and can then use regional carriers to cover distinct locations in the country.

Conversely, regional carriers may be a better choice for companies that don’t need the additional coverage area of national carriers. In these cases, regional carriers can offer more competitive pricing, greater speed and efficiency, and a greater degree of customer service than their national counterparts. Companies seeking next day shipping capabilities over smaller distances may also find that regional carriers are more responsive to their needs and may offer better service and pricing in this area.

Ultimately, there are many considerations that go into deciding between national vs regional carriers. Rarely is there a single carrier-type that is appropriate for the many varieties of cargo for which a company may be responsible. Here at LTX, we do a full analysis of your freight, DC locations, and lanes to find the best mix of both national and regional carriers that get your freight to its final destination fast, and at the lowest price. Contact us today!

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