What does final mile mean?

In transportation, supply chain, manufacturing and retailing, the term “final mile” is an idiom used to describe the delivery of products (and passengers) the last leg of transportation. The terms final mile and last mile are really synonymous. Neither is a mode of transportation. They most closely represent the term delivery but, depending upon the cargo, the type of delivery vehicle, and any associated accessorial services, variations in the meaning of the terms will apply. Most FreightWaves clients move products (as opposed to people) and define the final mile in ways relevant to their own business, the delivery experience expectations of their customers, and the evolving impacts and service demands for goods sold and delivered via e-commerce.

Final mile delivery categories

  • Light Goods – products that fit within the size and weight limitations of the U.S. Postal Service, parcel carriers like DHL, FedEx, UPS and other express and courier-based providers. Product shipments in this category generally weigh less than 150 pounds.  
  • Heavy Goods – products of more substantial weight and size that require handling with larger vehicles by carriers with specialized skills and equipment that arrange and install (or uninstall) products like furniture, fitness equipment, healthcare equipment, office imagining, appliances, doors and windows, cabinets, televisions and other larger than parcel products. Household goods movers and their agents, local cartage carriers, full truckload (TL) and less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers, and other third-party logistics (3PLs) firms handle products in this category under a wide variety of brands. 

Final mile service levels

  • Ring & Run For the most part, light goods delivery is unattended, and a scheduled appointment within a delivery window is not required. Parcel and package carriers leave shipments at the front desk or on the front stoop, ring the doorbell, and run on to the next stop. This level of service occurs less frequently for heavy goods. That isn’t to say that light goods shipments cannot be scheduled, attended or delivered inside of a premise but, when that happens, the added “accessorial” service is more commonly referred to as a “white glove”.
  • White Glove – White glove services include inside pickup or delivery by a scheduled appointment attended by a shipper or consignee, at a home (B2C) or business (B2B) with any combination of the following services: packing or unpacking; storage-in-transit; merge-in-transit; disassembly or installation; debris removal; consumer orientation to products; like-kind exchange; haul-away of used products; and merchandise returns.