When Sequent Computer Systems, a manufacturer in Beaverton, Ore., needs to get an item to a California customer the next day, it often entrusts the job to little Jet Delivery Services, whose fleet roams the coast between Vancouver and San Jose. One reason, says traffic manager Randy Merrill: last year Sequent saved $180,000 by choosing a local trucker over a mammoth air freighter.
A few more reasons: Jet has air-cushioned vehicles and toting equipment to handle heavy but delicate high-tech stuff. Jet phones ahead to let customers know their shipments are about to arrive. Jet temporarily stores shipments customers aren't quite ready for. Jet picks up later than Fed Ex.
And, like most regionals, Jet boasts an on-time percentage in the high 90s, close to Fed Ex's. Then why don't companies like Sequent expand their use of local deliverers, tapping an informal network of ground couriers capable of relaying one another's goods around the country? For one thing, regionals tend to focus on metropolitan areas, to the exclusion of the outlands. For another, Inc. found, coordinating a number of carriers is bound to be complicated. The divergence of pricing schemes alone, not to mention weight strictures and territorial limitations, could throw a traffic manager into a tizzy.
Here's Inc.'s gathering of regional next-day services that theoretically could relay a package from Puget Sound to Tampa Bay.
Years in business
Number of vehicles
For arrival by
Jet Delivery Services, Portland, Ore.; 503-256-3621
Portland to San Jose, 2:30 p.m.
Cellular phones; paper trail
Started as a local courier delivering Fed Ex pieces in Portland area; in 1984, when Fed Ex decided to provide local service, Jet decided to specialize, offering just-in-time service. Weight restrictions exceed 150-pound cutoff of Fed Ex door-to-door service. Offers same-day and third-day services as well. TERRITORY: Vancouver to San Jose. PRICING: Factor of distance, size, contents. Average overnight letter to Seattle: $28; to San Francisco: $42. MOST MEMORABLE DELIVERY: Glen Campbell's band instruments.
Now Courier, Los Angeles, CA;
213-252-5000; 213-671-1200 (for overnight service)
24 hrs./7 days
Computerized; paper trail; radio communication
Has arrangements with contiguous services that enable it to offer national and international service. TERRITORY: Sacramento to San Diego; east to Arizona. PRICING: By weight and distance; for example, an up-to-2-pound letter from San Francisco to L.A. is $18.50. MOST MEMORABLE DELIVERY: Commandeered a snowmobile to get through mountain pass when blizzard stalled truck.
United States Cargo & Courier, Columbus, Ohio; 614-491-8608
Varies by city
10 a.m. or noon
Started as flower deliverer; now general delivery, with emphasis on same-day and overnight service. Will pick up, deliver anytime of day or night. TERRITORY: Ohio, Pennsylvania; parts of Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, and West Virginia. PRICING: By weight and distance. Average overnight letter: $8.35. MOST MEMORABLE DELIVERY: Racehorse urine for drug test.
L.E.D.F.O.O.T. Express, Glens Falls, N.Y.; 518-798-8160
Territory expanded via arrangement with Twilight Express, an overnight service out of New York City, with which L.E.D.F.O.O.T. makes a rendezvous daily, at 1 a.m. Provides volume customers with their own built-in lockboxes for unattended drop-off and pickup. TERRITORY: Upper New York State and New England, to Virginia. PRICING: $1 a pound, with a $9 minimum; volume discounts. MOST MEMORABLE DELIVERY: 500 pounds of soil from a man in Albany to his brother, in Buffalo -- for gardening.
Eastern Connection, Boston; 617-723-3200
10 p.m., but 4 a.m. in NYC
Paper trail; computerized
Relay system of vehicles spiderwebs the Northeast. Weight limit: 150 pounds. TERRITORY: Covers area from Portland, Maine, to Albany, N.Y. PRICING: By number and size of packages and frequency of use. A Boston-to-New York City overnight-letter pouch costs about $11. (Fed Ex would run $15.50.) MOST MEMORABLE DELIVERY: Case of baked beans from mayor of Boston to mayor of New York City after Boston lost the '86 World Series.
Sonic Systems, Tampa; 813-884-8900
Usually 6 p.m.
12 noon; earlier at premium
Computerized; radio communication
More localized than most, hence makes a lot of same-day deliveries. Will do rush jobs around the clock. TERRITORY: Six-county area around Tampa/St. Petersburg. PRICING: Per mile, starting at $2.75 for up to 50 pounds. MOST MEMORABLE DELIVERY: Ongoing account to pick up human eyeballs from local funeral homes.
-- Researched by Susan Greco and Chris Caggiano