What is a Courier Service & How Do They Work? (FAQ)

If you need a fast and efficient way to send or receive an item, you may want to consider a specialty courier service. It can be difficult to understand what a specialty courier service is and how it differs from other options, such as sending something by FedEx or UPS. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding specialty courier services.

What is a Specialty Courier?

Most people understand that a courier service transports items such as documents, packages, and other shipments. However, it’s a little more involved than that. Specialty couriers usually offer all of the following:

  • 24/7/365 Service – A specialty courier can pick up or deliver shipments any day or time, even on weekends and holidays.
  • Packaging — In some cases, courier services will package items safely and according to customers’ needs. Specialty couriers can provide and advise on specialized packaging such as validated cold-chain containers.
  • Tracking — When using a specialty courier, you can fully customize tracking notifications and the progress of your shipment. Technology enablers such as GPS-enabled real-time monitoring can add an extra layer of visibility and security to any shipment.
  • Inside Delivery — Parcel services like FedEx and UPS typically pickup or dropoff packages at designated points (such as a loading dock or front desk). Specialty couriers can arrange to make precise pickups or deliveries to a specific individual, room, or department.
  • Local Shipping — Businesses may need speedy delivery of important documents within a city. For example, law firms often use couriers to deliver legal papers.
  • Global Shipping — When shipping across borders, couriers may need to use multiple networks as well as deal with matters such as taxes and duties. People and businesses may hire a courier to simplify such shipments to avoid having to handle lots of paperwork themselves.
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Are Companies Such as UPS and FedEx Couriers?

Like couriers, UPS, FedEx, and other parcel carriers are private businesses, which function as alternatives to government-run mail services. What differentiates these companies from couriers is that their services are typically more restricted, and less customizable. For example:

  • They may impose size restrictions or may not offer customized packaging options.
  • They have strict cut-off times when they are able to receive packages for next-day delivery.
  • They have wide delivery windows that often lack specific and committed delivery times.
  • They will only deliver or pick up from designated points such as a front desk or loading dock.
  • They have restrictions on carrying certain commodities such as live animals, or human biological products like organs or tissue for transplant.

What is Unique About Specialty Couriers?

To understand what differentiates specialty couriers from other parcel carriers and delivery services, let’s examine the distinctive characteristics of this type of business:

  • Customized services. While parcel carriers and delivery services are used to send shipments on a per-item basis, couriers typically work with businesses in a more personalized way. This helps companies save money in the long run.
  • Speed. Specialty couriers are able to deliver items faster than other services. While delivery services may offer overnight service, a specialty courier can often deliver something within hours. When you need something the fastest possible way, a courier is the best choice.
  • Security. Specialty couriers provide the highest level of security and tracking for packages. They use industry-specific standards for medical, legal, transportation, and other industries.
  • Special handling. Specialty couriers are trained to handle specific commodities that require special handling such as dangerous goods or hazardous materials. They not only know how to properly handle such products to protect the safety and integrity of the shipment but also any regulatory requirements or customs paperwork to safely transport such shipments.

What Kind of Businesses Typically Use Couriers?

Anyone might have occasion to use a courier, though certain industries are more likely to require their services regularly. These include:

  • Medical — The medical industry deals with urgent needs and often requires the safe and rapid transport of items such as vaccines, drugs, clinical trials, nuclear medicine, laboratory tests, and medical equipment. Hospitals, clinics, and pharmaceutical companies often use couriers. Couriers may transport extremely urgent materials such as blood or organs for transplants.
  • Financial/Legal/Government — These industries and agencies often need to quickly and securely deliver legal forms such as subpoenas, contracts, and other documents. Whether documents are delivered locally or across the country, couriers ensure fast and safe transport.
  • Aviation/Aerospace – AOGs results in costly groundings for aircraft operators. Specialty couriers can help transport time-critical aviation parts quickly and securely to help get grounded planes back in the air.
  • Critical Infrastructure Service Providers – Companies providing critical infrastructure service such as maintenance and repair for cell phone towers and/or business cloud computing servers often have 2- or 4-hour SLAs they need to meet. Specialty couriers can bring service parts directly to the job site to meet with the service technician to meet any SLA mandated repair windows.
  • Other Industries — There are many other industries that may require courier services. Examples include companies shipping high-value items and one-of-a-kind prototypes.
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What are Some Specialized Services Couriers Offer?

Each courier is different, but the following are some standard services they may offer:

  • Expedited ground shipping — This refers to faster-than-normal ground shipping. When international shipping is involved, this typically means seamless border crossings.
  • Air charter services — If you need something shipped by air, a charter service provides a courier and chartered air delivery. This is often the fastest way to securely send an item as it’s in the hands of a reliable courier during each phase of transport.
  • Dedicated hand carry — This is an on-board courier service in which a dedicated courier carries a shipment onto a commercial airline and personally delivers it.
  • Next Flight Out (NFO) Shipping — When a courier arranges shipment on the next available flight, which might be a commercial or private air carrier. Using logistics, the courier is able to calculate the fastest and most direct itinerary.

When Should You Use a Courier?

Here are some instances when a courier might be a better choice than the mail or delivery service:

  • You have something time-sensitive. Couriers specialize in urgent requests. They are available 24/7 and can handle last-minute and urgent needs.
  • You have something that’s difficult to package. Couriers have fewer size restrictions and are able to package items for personalized needs.
  • You want real-time tracking. The USPS, UPS, and other delivery services provide limited tracking. With a courier, you can get real-time tracking so you know where your shipment is at every stage of the journey.
  • You’re shipping overseas and want to simplify paperwork, taxes, and duties.
  • You have ongoing, specialized needs. With a courier, you can develop a personalized relationship and find solutions that meet your long-term needs.

How Do You Choose a Courier?

When shopping for a courier, you want to find someone that is experienced and reliable as well as fast. The fastest courier at any given time depends on your needs, budget, and industry. Here are a few criteria to look at:

  • How long has the company been in business?
  • Do they offer door-to-door transportation?
  • Do they work with your industry? Deliver to the destinations you require?
  • Are they flexible about packaging and size requirements?
  • Do they offer insurance and proof of delivery?
  • Are they able to work with your specific requirements for the delivery time?

Seeking the fastest and most reliable specialty courier? With MNX, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that a team of logistics professionals are behind you every step of the process, protecting your shipments while ensuring they’re picked up on time, delivered quickly, and within specifications. Contact MNX today to get in touch with one of our service professionals.