Definition of Courier Service

Courier services help businesses and individuals transport important documents, packages, and other items. A courier service is noted for expedited delivery, tracking, and security of items being delivered. Large courier services, such as United Parcel Service (UPS), are often in direct competition with the United States Postal Service.


Courier services have been used for centuries. In its earliest form, a courier service relied on messengers to deliver telegrams and other messages by foot, horse, or bicycle. United Parcel Service, also known as UPS, is the oldest courier service of its kind. UPS was founded in 1907. Courier services became an increased necessity because businesses needed to ship items from one location to another. Other companies like FedEx were founded in the 1970s. The growth of international business has increased the competition among courier services. Today's larger courier services often use a sophisticated network of systems to deliver items.

Courier Service vs U.S. Postal Service

A courier service provides businesses and individuals with an alternative to the government-operated United States Postal Service. Courier services usually cost more than the U.S. Postal Service. On the flip side, courier service companies that compete directly with the U.S. Postal Service typically have faster delivery times. The U.S. Postal Service and competing courier services have similar security options for tracking items, and signature requirements.

Local Courier Services

Courier services can be huge, like DHL and UPS, or local. Local courier service companies operate in one particular city or municipality. Small courier services typically deliver packages by bicycle, scooter, or motorcycle. Local courier services can experience high business volume in large cities like Chicago and New York. These big cities have businesses that need documents and packages delivered to other locations in the same city, often on the same day.

Large Courier Services

Larger courier services operate on a national and international level. Large courier services use a network of hubs strategically placed throughout the globe, and transport large packages and other items by plane, train, and automobile. There are some courier services like Overseas Courier Service, which specialize specifically in overseas package delivery. UPS is the largest courier service, boasting a value of $49.7 billion.


The use of the Internet (email and faxing) has had a negative impact on the use of courier services. This is particularly true of the relationship between businesses and smaller courier services. If you're a small courier company, the good news is that some items simply can't be faxed or emailed. For larger courier services, the future seems bright, as individuals and businesses continue to operate in an increasingly globalized world.


About the Author

Christopher Carter loves writing business, health and sports articles. He enjoys finding ways to communicate important information in a meaningful way to others. Carter earned his Bachelor of Science in accounting from Eastern Illinois University.