Couriers and Messengers: From Pony Express to Future Drones

by Lynn Wallis

November 8, 2018

Couriers pick up and deliver messages, documents, packages, and other items between offices, departments, or to other businesses. They carry out their jobs by traveling by foot, bicycle, motorized vehicle, or public transportation. Courier services can be distinguished from regular mail services by swift delivery times, advanced security, tracking options, and individualization of express services. Couriers are usually more expensive than standard mail services so their use is usually limited to packages where this customized service warrants the extra cost.

Industries of Employment

The courier industry has held an important place in United States commerce since the westward migration and the gold rush era. Wells Fargo was founded in 1852 and soon became the main package delivery business in the country via stagecoach. A few years later, the Pony Express was established to move packages quicker than the stagecoach. The demand for timely deliveries continued to evolve with the railroads, automobiles, and interstate highways which has emerged into today’s courier industry.

About one-fourth of couriers work for courier and messenger services and another 26 percent for transportation and warehousing industries. There were over 323 courier service establishments in Oregon during 2017, which include big names like Federal Express, FedEx Ground, and United Parcel Service.
Wages and Skills Needed

In 2018, the hourly wages for couriers varied from a starting wage of $11.58 to $22.93 at the higher end. The average hourly wage for couriers was $16.39, which was lower than the average wage for all occupations at $25.18.

The typical entry-level education for couriers is a high school diploma or GED. No training provider programs are available for this occupation in Oregon. The typical training for this occupational is short-term on-the-job training. Couriers need to have knowledge of their geographical area, state driving laws and procedures, and basic math skills.
Demand for Jobs

According to the Oregon Employment Department’s occupational projections, the number of couriers is expected to grow by 13.6 percent in Oregon from 2017 to 2027 adding an average of 19 new and 134 replacement jobs annually.

Courier Services Into the Future

With growing technologies, courier delivery services are expected to improve drastically with the increasing ability to monitor traffic and provide accurate arrival times. Even today, many customers can follow the progress of their parcel from dispatch to arrival through smartphones and tracking apps. Advancements in global positioning systems (GPS) helps couriers find the quickest route to get to the delivery address and allows the company to give their client an up-to-date GPS tracking code, allowing them to log in using this number and track their parcel at any point during the delivery process.
As advancements in drone technology continue to grow, using them for making deliveries will continue to increase. According to Signal, the Santa Clarita Valley newspaper, with programs such as Amazon Prime Air beginning operation, there is already a surge in the number of delivery services that could potentially be using drones in the future. This has the potential for making the delivery process faster and reduces human error, which could lead to the wrong parcel being delivered or packages arriving damaged.


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