IS UPS Ground really ground?

I have some computer parts coming from Illinois via UPS Ground. Will it really be on trucks from Hodgins to Phoenix or does it get on a plane at some time?

The shipper should be able to prvide you wth the UPS tracking number. You can go on the UPS website, enter the number, and watch the package as it arrives and departs destinations along the way.

I know that! I’m just curious if ground means it stays on trucks the whole time

most of the cross-country stuff is put onto a train IIRC

No, it’s on a train

It goes the cheapest way possible. Pretty unlikely to go on a plane, but you can’t say 100%.

Most of the cross country ground goes by truck. Trains would require dock to dock train hubs to connect anything in a timely manner. Not going to happen with 3-day ground. Rail is used for bulk shipments with longer delivery times.

To get an idea of how something would move from Chicago to Phoenix a package would be picked up locally and then moved to a hub. From there it is sorted and grouped with similar destination freight which may move direct to Phoenix or to another hub (say Kansas City) where it is cross-docked. Cross docking would be a container filled with a single destination that does not need to be sorted but can be combined with other containers of the same destination until they have a truck’s worth of freight. It then moves to the destination hub where it is resorted for local delivery.

So for a PHX to ORD run it’s 1917 miles or about 40 hr drive time with a team. Add in pickup/sort/transit/sort/delivery and you have your 3 day service.

Correct. As a general rule you don’t want to back-fill a plane with ground freight because it is a sign that the plane is underutilized. If it’s ground freight that was bumped a day due to overloads then it’s a delivery commitment but otherwise it’s a bad idea.

Prior to scanning/database technology it was difficult to judge aircraft loads if ground was allowed to mix. And you’d be surprised how crappy some of the carrier’s tracking abilities are. If freight isn’t specifically linked to a container or a vehicle then it “jumps” through the tracking system based on arrival scans.

UPS Ground takes longer and is cheaper than 3 Day Select. From San Jose to Boston a package will be 3 days in transit for 3 Day Select, but 5 days for UPS basic ground. I don’t think even 5 days is long enough to ship by rail, though.

Did anyone else think this thread was going to be about electrical safety for uninterrupted power supply units?

And I just realized that 3rd day will be Saturday (no delivery) :frowning:

I believe both FedEx and UPS only use air as part of their hub-spoke system. The hubs are at Worldport in Kentucky for UPS and in Memphis for FedEx, and all air packages go through there.

You are incorrect. I place orders with my main vendor on a regular basis. They are located in Chicago. The ground packages go to Palatine, IL for sorting, and then to Hodgkins, IL, to get put on a BNSF train (actually, they’re already in UPS feeder trailers (picture: and the train comes to Vernon, CA, where it will either go into the sort or will be directly assigned for transport to the hub.

Generally, it will only be more economical for one of the major shippers to send parcels via truck exclusively if the leg is 800 miles or less. However, companies like FedEx Ground (which isn’t really FedEx, but rather an acquisition they made, Roadway Services, will put shipments on a truck for longer distances (I’ve seen packages from El Paso come to LA via truck on FedEx).

In case you find this hard to believe, just refer to BNSF’s fact sheet:

You mean it isn’t? :eek:

Damn, I have to undo a few things now…

By the way, a ground package (at least, for UPS) from Chicago to Phoenix will necessarily travel over UP’s TransCon, Chicago, through Kansas City, El Paso and on to the Phoenix.

Ground simply means that you shouldn’t be expecting it any time soon.

When I was a youngun back in the early Jurassic, the U.S. Post Office had special “Air Mail” rates. A regular stamp would be about five cents (or six beaver pelts), but for an extra four cents, it would go Via Airmail. They even had a picture of a real life areoplane on it! Or maybe it was an autogyro…

Sometime in the 1960s, word got out that most mail that went more than 500 miles was sent by airplane anyway, and people stopped paying extra for air mail service.

I suspect something similar with UPS and FedEx. Ground and air packages share the same sorting facilities (it would be stupid to build separate facilities for ground vs. air.) I imagine that ground packages might be shipped in a plane if there was room for them and it would be cheaper and easier than getting a truck or van.

I know I sometime see something being shipped via FedEx ground go from California to Tennessee in a day, then take another four days to get from Memphis to my house.

Not necessarily. UPS Ground is gauranteed within a certain time. If you’re shipping to the same state or nearby areas of surrounding states, it will be overnight.

This app from UPS will show you a map of Ground shipping times from/to your location.

I would have been able to contribute something useful to that thread. All I can do is read this one.

12 year old information follows. This was what we were told during the brainwashing sessions when I started working at UPS.

After picking up the packages for the day the trucks would be unloaded, and packages sorted by delivery type, NDA, 2DA, 3DS, G. They would then sort the NDA, and get ready for the planes, followed by 2DA, and 3DS. If they had a container that wasn’t full at the end they would thow in any ground packages headed that way till full. At this point the planes would be on the way while the rest of the ground packages got sorted, and stuck on trucks. If they loaded all the trucks, and still had ground packages left then they would be the first ones loaded on trucks the next day.

How acurate that is I don’t know. I was on the computer support help desk, and did not normally speak to the package guys. This overview was given to us along with other random company info like why they paint all their trucks brown, and the official name of the specific brown they use.


No, I don’t think you understand. Looking at your own quote the best time for a train is 760 miles per day. That would mean 2.5 days of pure transit time from Chicago to PHX not including pickup, sorting, transfer,transit,transfer, and delivery. 3 day service pretty much depends on trucks with teams which can travel 1000 miles per day. When you go past 3-day ground then inter-modal would work but that is generally done with large shipments and not individually delivered freight. I’ve worked in the operations or route planning of air/truck freight for 26 years and have a fair idea of transit times.