Domestic shipping simply means you've limited your shipping area – and your shipping options – to destinations within the United States. You can call on a range of domestic shipping options to move your correspondence or products for you for anything from documents and parcels to giant industrial equipment.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Domestic shipping is simply the act of shipping goods to a location within your own country.
Why Stay Domestic?
Depending on your company's products and aspirations, you might want to ship internationally at some point, but there's a case to be made for sticking to the domestic market when you're just starting out. Other countries' import duties and customs procedures can vary broadly, so calculating shipping costs and delivery times to international customers can be a real headache. Depending on your profit margins and your customers' cost-sensitivity, these factors might make foreign sales impractical. By comparison, the domestic U.S. market, a large and affluent one, is much easier to reach. In many cases, domestic shippers offer a level of cost certainty and predictable delivery dates which you, in turn, can pass on to your clients.
Sending Documents and Parcels
You have the most options at your disposal when you're sending documents and parcels. The bicycle couriers who deliver throughout a downtown core are the most hyperlocal of all domestic delivery options, but there are plenty more. These include independent courier and delivery services for local and regional deliveries and the major courier companies and USPS for similar deliveries on a national scale.
Options for Larger Deliveries
While courier companies can handle reasonably large deliveries, some products, such as furniture, appliances and industrial machinery, require larger vehicles or specialized handling. Local trucking and delivery services can take these on a local or regional basis, while long-haul trucks and air freight can extend your reach nationally. Having a truck filled with just your product going to a single destination can be faster and more cost-effective than sending your product as part of a mixed load – called "less than truckload" or LTL shipping – that must stop at many destinations. If your product and sales volume allow you to containerize your shipments, you may be able to reduce costs by sending containers by truck, rail or inland waterways to warehouses in regional hubs, and then break down those loads into smaller shipments into the outlying areas.
Truck vs. Rail vs. Water
If you ship a high volume of products or oversized products, the heavy-hauling capacity of trucks, trains, ships and barges will play a role in your shipping decisions. Trucks offer the greatest flexibility because they'll go anywhere there's a road, but all have their advantages. Trains can haul much heavier loads than trucks, but unless you and your clients have sidings along the railway, those loads will eventually have to reach their destination by truck. Barges and cargo ships can carry even larger and heavier loads but only along the nation's coasts and inland waterways. As with trains, most of those loads eventually end up on trucks for final delivery.
- U.S. Postal Service: Mail & Shipping Services
- UPS: Domestic Shipping Services
- American Trucking Associations: Reports, Trends & Statistics
- Value Line: Industry Overview: Trucking
- U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration: Freight Rail Overview
- U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration: US-Flag Waterborne Domestic Trade and Related Programs