May 13, 2011

FedEx: We're faster than UPS on some ground lanes

FedEx Corp. claims it provides faster delivery than UPS on nearly one-fourth of U.S. ground parcel lanes.

By Mark B. Solomon

Who delivers faster—FedEx or UPS?

According to FedEx, it does—on some lanes, anyway. FedEx Corp. CFO Alan B. Graf, Jr. told a gathering of investors and analysts in late March that on a net basis, the company's ground-parcel unit, FedEx Ground, delivers packages faster than rival UPS Inc. over 23 percent of the U.S. traffic lanes that both companies serve.

Jess Bunn, a FedEx spokesman, confirmed Graf's comments. UPS spokesman Norman Black declined to comment.

Jerry Hempstead, a former Airborne Express and DHL Express sales executive who now runs his own parcel consultancy, says FedEx's claim is true. Hempstead says his research indicates that FedEx will often be "one or more days" faster than UPS in meeting their respective service commitments.

"I found this hard to believe when a customer of mine told me FedEx was faster on the ground," he says. "So I did a study of their shipments and, sure enough, FedEx was faster."

The "net" figure cited by Graf is calculated by taking the number of lanes where FedEx has faster delivery times and then subtracting the smaller number of lanes where UPS provides faster deliveries. A purely hypothetical example: If FedEx is faster on 100 lanes and UPS is faster on 60 lanes, then FedEx's net will be 40 lanes.

Hempstead says the two companies have different ways of moving goods to market, which will often affect transit times. As the nation's largest user of intermodal service, UPS relies heavily on trains to move long-haul shipments. By contrast, FedEx uses little intermodal and relies on two-man driver teams for deliveries, he says. Over-the-road truck service generally is faster than intermodal.

Hempstead says his research shows that FedEx is faster on some lanes and UPS is faster on others. In some lanes, they are equal, he adds.

About the Author

Mark B. Solomon
Senior Editor
Mark Solomon has spent 25 years in the transportation, logistics and supply chain management fields as a journalist and public relations professional. From 1989 to 1994, he worked in Washington as a reporter for the Journal of Commerce, covering the aviation and trucking industries, the Department of Transportation, Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court. Prior to that, he worked for Traffic World for seven years in a similar role. From 1994 to 2008, Mr. Solomon ran Media-Based Solutions, a public relations firm based in Atlanta. Mr. Solomon graduated in 1978 with a B.A. in journalism from The American University in Washington, D.C.

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