What is a Courier?

Also known as: Mail Courier, Delivery Person, Messenger.

A courier is someone who transports documents and packages for individuals, businesses, institutions, and government agencies. Couriers usually travel by foot, bicycle, motorcycle, automobile, delivery truck, or public transportation. While most couriers and messengers work full time during regular business hours, evening and weekend hours are common.

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What does a Courier do?

A courier provides door-to-door delivery service for a variety of clients, including law offices, banks, and hospitals. Most workers specialize in local deliveries, often in large urban areas. They offer same-day or one-hour delivery services. Packages delivered may include important legal or financial documents, passports, and medical samples that senders are unwilling to entrust to other types of delivery. A courier will also:

  • Pick up and deliver items to their final destination
  • Verify delivery information, such as names, addresses, and telephone numbers
  • Load items onto delivery vehicles
  • Plan and follow the most efficient routes for delivery
  • Collect necessary payments and signatures from clients
  • Record delivery information, such as time of delivery and recipient’s name

Couriers receive their instructions either in person or by cell phone or two-way radio. With this information, they plan the most efficient route and delivery schedule. Some couriers carry items only for specific clients, such as law firms, financial institutions, or medical laboratories.

How to become a Courier

Although there are no educational requirements for entering the occupation, employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates. Almost all couriers and messengers are required to have a valid driver’s license and a good driving record.

Couriers typically train informally on the job. They usually work alongside an experienced courier or messenger for one to two weeks and help with tasks such as loading and unloading packages and collecting signatures or payments. Once trainees understand the collection and delivery process, they are generally expected to work on their own. Many courier and delivery contractors specialize in delivering sensitive items, such as medical specimens or donated organs. In these cases, employers generally provide specific training that may last from several hours to a few days, depending on the item.

Accurate record keeping is necessary for tracking deliveries, payments, signatures, and other important information. This is especially true for self-employed couriers. Because couriers frequently interact with clients, they must be courteous, polite, and ready to answer customers’ questions regarding deliveries, payments, and other issues.

Couriers spend a considerable amount of time travelling to make deliveries. Therefore, they must be familiar with delivery routes and areas and have a good sense of direction. They must often make deliveries on tight time schedules. As a result, they must be able to plan their day and make deliveries efficiently so items do not arrive late.

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