Shipping Carriers Compared: DHL Vs. FedEx Vs. UPS in 20209 min read

As a retailer who ships to your customers, have you struggled to decode which carrier is the best for your business?

When it comes to choosing between carriers, there are a number of critical factors to keep in mind, such as shipping rates, services, and overall value.

Having a better understanding of what the carriers have to offer can help you choose which works best for your eCommerce business.

Luckily, there aren’t hundreds of companies for you to skim through and choose the ultimate one, which is obviously a tedious process.

There are four basic choices for you — namely, DHL, FedEx, UPS, and USPS.

DHL, FedEx, and UPS, the three private giants, have been in business for decades. They’ve transported billions of parcels. And yet, there remain doubts aplenty about each of their strengths and weaknesses.

Graphical representation of DHL vs FedEx vs UPS

Though in the same industry, the three behemoths function in unique ways. FedEx reigns supreme in the air, while UPS has an exhaustive fleet on the ground. DHL, on the other hand, specializes in international shipping.

What about USPS, you ask?

The government-run carrier is most often significantly cheaper and a great option for small business shipping. It, however, does not have the variety of short-term expedited options that DHL, FedEx, and UPS have.

For our purposes, we will limit our study and analysis to the three private carriers.

DHL

DHL is an American-founded company that is now part of Deutsche Post. It is headquartered in Bonn, Germany.

Today, Deutsche Post DHL is known to be the world’s largest logistics company. Its international game is by far the strongest among the three, and it is the only carrier that delivers to sanctioned nations like North Korea.

It delivers over 1.3 billion parcels per year.

Dr Frank Appel is the current Chief Executive Officer of Global Business Services and Ken Allen is Head of eCommerce Solutions at DHL. The carrier employs 550,000 employees including trainees.

DHL is the world's largest logistics company
Deutsche Post DHL is known to be the world’s largest logistics company

While DHL is a great choice for international shipping, it is not a viable option for shipping within the US.

Since DHL is a non-American company, it is not permitted to make domestic flights between U.S. airports. As a result, it contracts U.S. domestic services to other carriers.

DHL is recognized within the shipping industry for its commitment to reducing emissions.

In 2014, it purchased electric-vehicle manufacturer StreetScooter with a view to reducing its carbon footprint in delivery operations.

DHL operates a gamut of services to cater to the shipping needs of its customers.

Compared to 2019, the German giant announced an average 5.9% rate increase in its Express service for U.S account holders, which took effect from January 1, 2020.

Some of its domestic non-freight service types are DHL SameDay Sprintline, DHL Express 9:00 Domestic, DHL Express 10:30 Domestic, DHL Express 12:00 Domestic, DHL Express 18:00 Domestic, and DHL Express Easy.

Its international non-freight offerings include DHL Sameday Jetline, DHL Sameday Sprintline, DHL Express 9:00, DHL Express 10:30, DHL Express 12:00, DHL Express Worldwide, DHL Express Envelope, DHL Express Easy, and DHL Globalmail Business.

Not all of DHL’s domestic and international services are available at every location. The carrier provides refunds for service failures on its part.

An Insight of DHL in 2020

FedEx

An American multinational corporation founded in 1971, FedEx is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee.

This shipping carrier holds the distinction of having the most planes on its fleet: 670, well ahead of UPS and DHL.

In its early days, FedEx was the pioneer that introduced an overnight shipping service as well as a system capable of tracking packages and providing real-time location updates. Today, it operates services in over 220 countries and territories.

Within the US, it’s possible to pick up, drop off, or ship at more than 50,000 FedEx locations.

Frederick W. Smith is the founder, Chairman, & CEO of FedEx.

The organization has over 425,000 team members worldwide and operates 5,000 hubs and facilities. 180,000 motorized FedEx vehicles pick up and deliver more than 14 million shipments per day.

The financials of the organization are strong. FedEx earned $65.5 B in 2018 revenue, a growth of 9% from 2017. The net income for 2018 was $4.6 B.

FedEx is known for having the largest air fleet
FedEx holds the distinction of having the most planes on its fleet

FedEx has announced its General Rate Increase (GRI), which is effective from January 6, 2020, with an average increase of 4.9% on Express shipments and 5.9% on FedEx Freight.

FedEx offers the following service types for non-freight shipments within the US:

FedEx SameDay, FedEx SameDay City, FedEx First Overnight, FedEx Priority Overnight, FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx 2Day A.M., FedEx 2Day, FedEx Express Saver, FedEx Ground, FedEx Home Delivery, FedEx SmartPost

The carrier offers the following service types for non-freight international parcels:

FedEx International Next Flight, FedEx International First, FedEx International Priority, FedEx International Economy, FedEx International MailService, FedEx International Priority DirectDistribution, FedEx International Economy DirectDistribution, FedEx International Ground

Like DHL, FedEx has a claims process to apply for refunds for service failures on its part.

An infographic providing an overview of FedEx in 2020

UPS

UPS, the oldest of the three majors and the reigning private behemoth in the US was founded in 1907.

Today, UPS has a presence in 220 countries and territories. It delivered over 5.2 billion parcels in 2018, an average of 21 million per day.

UPS operates over 2,500 facilities worldwide and maintains over 28,000 access point locations.

It uses 123,000 vehicles in its delivery fleet out of which more than 10,000 use alternative fuels. This is the largest fleet of alternative-powered vehicles in the world.

UPS was voted No. 1 in the delivery industry in Fortune magazine’s 2018 rankings of the “World’s Most Admired Companies.”
UPS was voted No. 1 in the delivery industry in Fortune magazine’s 2018 rankings of the “World’s Most Admired Companies.”

David Abney is the current Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of UPS. 481,000 employees work at UPS locations worldwide with a majority (399,000) based out of the US.

UPS increased the rates of its services an average of 4.9% effective from December 29, 2019.

If you’re shipping with FedEx or UPS, we’ve extensively covered the increased rates of FedEx and UPS for 2020 along with ways to reduce shipping costs. Feel free to read.

UPS offers non-freight shipping service types for both domestic and international shipments:

Within the US: UPS Express Critical – Domestic, UPS Ground, UPS Next Day Air Early, UPS Next Day Air, UPS Next Day Air Saver, UPS 2nd Day Air A.M., UPS 2nd Day Air, UPS 3 Day Select

International: UPS Express Critical – International, UPS Worldwide Express Plus, UPS Worldwide Express Shipping, UPS Worldwide Saver, UPS Next Day Air, UPS Worldwide Expedited, UPS 2nd Day Air, UPS Standard

UPS earned $71.9 B in 2018 revenue. The net income for the year was $4.8 B

DHL and FedEx are not immune from service failures. Neither is UPS. Like the other two, it has a claims process to apply for refunds.

An infographic providing an overview of UPS in 2019

Weigh the Pros and Cons

Here are a few details about these three carriers to help you get an idea about which one of them might best serve your requirements.

A chart comparing FedEx, UPS, and DHL

Based on the chart, it becomes evident that:

  • FedEx is strong with overnight shipping and expedited 2- and 3-day deliveries.
  • UPS has a strong ground shipment game.
  • DHL has the broadest global presence among the three and is the most vocal about its environmental commitments.
  • Priority or expedited services come at a price.
  • The slower service types work out to be more economical.

The Devil Lies in the Unmentioned Details

The process of zeroing in on one or more carriers requires thorough research. The information provided on this page is meant to serve that purpose.

Unfortunately, unbiased information about the major carriers is hard to come by, what with the internet filled with glowing reviews by their partners and affiliates. What is projected online is often far from the truth.

Unfortunately, unbiased information about the major carriers is hard to come by, what with the internet filled with glowing reviews by their partners and affiliates.

LateShipment.com’s delivery delay report compared the punctuality of FedEx and UPS deliveries between July and December 2018.

Both carriers under-performed on their claims.

November was the worst month, with both carriers having a combined delay percentage of 7.57%. December was the second worst, with a combined delay percentage of 5.86%

During the period, New York (12.1%) California (13%), Texas (13.2%), and New Jersey (20.1%) were the states with the worst delay percentages for both carriers.

Memphis, Hutchins, Mesquite, East Syracuse, and Jersey City were the worst-affected cities during the period.

Overall, UPS performed just a tad better than FedEx. It had a delay percentage of 4.9% during the period compared to 5.1% by FedEx.

This is the reality that not many get to see.

A Little About LateShipment.com

LateShipment.com is the world’s only logistics cloud tool that helps businesses of every size reduce shipping costs by up to 20% and provide memorable delivery experiences to customers at scale.

Some of our high-impact offerings are :

  • Save up to 20% on Shipping – Automatically audit your shipping carriers’ invoices and recover refunds for 50+ service failures & billing errors including late deliveries.
  • Real-Time Visibility – Monitor your outbound & inbound shipments across multiple shipping carriers on a centralized window, in real-time.
  • Critical Delivery Alerts – Pay attention to daily deliveries with predictive delay alerts and more on a purpose-built dashboard for support reps.
  • Proactive Issue Resolution – Proactively communicate with customers to prevent them from having bad experiences due to delivery failures.
  • Custom Delivery Notifications  – Send custom or automated delivery status notifications for events like “shipped,” “attempted,” & “delivered.”
  • Branded Tracking Pages – Build fully-customizable order tracking pages for your customers to improve brand recall and sales.

You can start using these features in less than 2 minutes without the need for any IT/business process change or coding. And the best thing is that LateShipment.com is a simple cloud-based plug-and-play solution that can seamlessly integrate with the tools you already use.

The value we add to businesses is most evident when experienced first-hand.

It’s that simple!