Courier companies are usually ranked based on customer feedback. However, it is very interesting to see the top companies in the different categories like the number of vehicles or the size of the fleet of transport aircraft. Indirectly these factors are reflected in the market position and quality of services offered.
First of all, you have to keep in mind that there can only be one leader. The top company did not get everything handed to them on a plate. It did not acquire its market share thanks to some trick or as a result of a dishonest deal: it developed its position and managed to maintain it thanks to ingenuity, innovation and the ability to adapt to changing market requirements. So credit where credit is due.
The oldest and largest courier company
The story of the hundred dollar bill, which allowed the establishment of the American Messenger Company in 1907, i.e. today’s UPS (United Parcel Service), has already been presented. This company started with less than ten teenagers who, on foot and using bicycles, delivered the first shipments within the area of one city. Today, the company operates in 220 countries and employs an army of half a million employees.
It may happen that one day UPS loses its leading position in terms of the number of employees, and even may cease to be the oldest existing courier company. Theoretically, if UPS went bankrupt in 2020, and DHL or FedEx remained in good shape for the next 60 plus years, then one of them could become the longest operating courier company in the market. However, UPS will never lose its title of the first courier company ever.
The longest-lived and acting president
James E. Casey was 19 years old when he started his business. He managed it for the next 55 years. When he died in 1983, he was 95 years old. In this way, the founder of UPS broke all records – in terms of longevity and of being in the courier business. The only one who got close to him in terms of life span was Adrian Dalsey, the initial of whose name became the first letter of DHL. He was 80 years old, when he died in 1994. Currently, there is another candidate for a record holder – Frederick W. Smith, the founder of FedEx, who in 2024 will have the chance to celebrate his 80th birthday.
The first use of aircraft for non-military courier shipments
In 1929, UPS was the first courier to ship packages by air. The service was innovative, but it was too far ahead of its time and as a result it was discontinued in 1931. It took more than 20 years for the company to come back to the idea of air transport. In 1953 a service known as Blue Label Air was launched.
The largest wheeled vehicles fleet in the world
In this category UPS also has beaten off its competition: it has a fleet of about 100,000 land vehicles, i.e. different types and sizes of courier cars and vans. Soon UPS may also become the owner of the largest air fleet. But it will not be composed of classic aircraft, but squadrons of quiet and ecological drones. If this happens, then once again Jim Casey’s idea to introduce something that no one has ever done before, will be made reality:
The largest air fleet in the world
In 1965, Yale University student Frederick W. Smith wrote a term paper in which he argued that air shipments using passenger planes does not work in situations where urgent medical supplies or computer parts are needed. He suggested that a special fleet of transport aircraft should be used for this purpose. The work received a low mark. Six years later, Smith founded FedEx (Federal Express). Currently, the company has the world’s largest courier air fleet. FedEx also made history as the first courier company to use jets to transport courier parcels.
The most valuable courier company
There were moments in history when DHL recorded the largest increases in the courier industry, and it even happened that the company generated the largest annual revenue. However, as in most of the above categories, there is one main player: UPS. The company has also been the highest-valued brand in the courier industry for years.