This guest blog comes to us from David Madden of Exchanger Hub.

Got something to ship? Whether you’re a major ecommerce store shipping packages to consumers all over the world or you’re trying to send an urgent package to a colleague across the country, you’ll have to choose between air freight and ground shipping. From a business perspective, choosing one shipping method over another can have serious implications for your bottom line and your company’s reputation. Both methods come with their fair share of pros and cons, including cost considerations, travel time and safety concerns. If you’re trying to decide between these two shipping methods, learn more now about the benefits and drawbacks of each so you can make the right decision for your business.

Air Freight – Pros 

Sending a package using air freight shipping will be much faster than using ground shipping. Packages can fly across the country in just a matter of hours, while it can take a freight truck several days or a week to get from one side of the country to the other.

You also don’t have to worry about dealing with as many unexpected delays with air freight shipping compared to ground shipping. Just like boarding a passenger plane at your local airport, planes run on a tight schedule with clearly-marked departure and arrival times. You can expect your package to arrive on time with minimal interruptions. This makes it a great option for urgent orders and perishable items like produce and meat.

The chances of your shipping crate being stolen or tampered with are also much lower when you choose air freight shipping. Security is an integral part of the air transportation process as every checkpoint is tightly managed by airport personnel.

Businesses and consumers alike have embraced the benefits of air freight shipping. According to the International Air Transportation Association, demand for global air freight shipping grew by 9 percent in 2017 and, in North America, demand increased by 5.4 percent.

Air Freight – Cons 

Air freight shipping usually costs quite a bit more than ground shipping, considering this is usually the fastest delivery option. Airlines spend a fortune on fuel, airport personnel and tight security measures, so your business can expect to pay a higher price than you would normally pay for ground shipping.

There’s also a chance that the occasional tropical storm or blizzard will push back your delivery date. But these kinds of delays tend to be less frequent and more predictable than the kinds of delays that come with ground shipping. Driving across the country means having to deal with construction, road closures and frequent stops. A flight usually only lasts several hours, so the window for weather delays is much shorter.

Your package will also face some size and weight limitations. A plane can’t carry nearly as much weight as a truck. When you look at the total weight of shipments per transportation mode, you see that ground shipping easily surpasses air freight shipping year after year. In 2015, the total weight of the shipments that traveled by ground was over 10,000 million tons, while air freight shipping saw a total shipping weight of just 10 million tons. 

The airline may also prohibit certain chemicals and hazardous materials, or you may need to pay special handling fees for these substances. You can take a look at the Dangerous Goods Regulations for more information on whether you can ship a certain item using an air freighter and how to properly ship these kinds of items. Shipping one of these substances may require you to buy a shipping container that’s specially designed to keep these substances safe and intact. Traditional gaylord boxes or plastic shipping crates may not offer enough protection for these materials.

Ground Shipping - Pros

There are fewer package limitations when you choose ground shipping as opposed to air freight shipping, which makes it a good choice if you’re looking to ship heavy, large or hazardous materials. 

You’ll also save a lot of money if you choose ground shipping. The rates tend to be a fraction of those associated with air freight shipping services. All you’re paying for is gasoline for the vehicle, maintenance fees and the driver’s time, instead of costly airline fuel, dozens of airline employees and increased security measures.

Ground Shipping - Cons

Of course, ground shipping will take longer than air freight shipping. But it’s a good option, if not the only option, if your destination is close by. It could take anywhere from several days or an extra week for your package to arrive if you’re shipping long distance. The driver will need to make several stops along the way, which can hold up the transportation process considerably. 

Traffic, road closures and the weather can also complicate matters. Flight delays tend to be easier to predict considering it’s only a few hours long, so you’ll quickly know how long these delays might affect your delivery time. But when the package is traveling on the road for days or weeks at a time, all kinds of unexpected interruptions and weather delays can easily impact travel time, making the final arrival date difficult to predict in some situations.

There’s also a greater risk of having your package tampered with or stolen along the way. Ground shipping comes with fewer security checkpoints and less package surveillance than air freight shipping. Packages may sit on the truck or van unsupervised while the driver completes a delivery. 

Choosing the Right Shipping Method

Choosing between these two methods all depends on your shipping needs. If speed is of the utmost importance, you're better off with air freight shipping. Ground shipping will save you money - which may be important for a business that ships hundreds or thousands of packages a month. Maybe you need to ship a sensitive item. In these instances, you'll benefit from the additional security provided by air freight shipping. It's essential to consider every variable and seriously reflect on your organization's priorities. The right level of effort and strategic planning will ensure you select the right method and enjoy successful deliveries every time.

Author Bio: David Madden is an efficiency expert, as well as being the Founder and President of Container Exchanger. His passion and business is to save companies money through the use of used reusable and repurposed industrial packaging such as plastic and metal bulk containers, gaylord boxes, bulk bags, pallets, IBC totes, and industrial racks. He holds an MBA as well as a certificate from Daimler Chrysler Quality Institute for completion of six-sigma black belt training.
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