Federal Express Plane and Van

FedEx history

FedEx history

Today, FedEx is consistently recognized as one of the most admired brands in the world and one of the best places to work. But like many innovative companies, we started out as an idea championed by a determined person.

An idea to connect people and possibilities

In 1965, Yale University undergraduate Frederick W. Smith wrote a term paper that invented an industry and changed what’s possible. In the paper, he laid out the logistical challenges facing pioneering firms in the information technology industry. Most airfreight shippers relied on passenger route systems, but those didn’t make economic sense for urgent shipments, Smith wrote.

He proposed a system specifically designed to accommodate time-sensitive shipments such as medicine, computer parts, and electronics. Smith’s professor apparently didn’t see the revolutionary implications of his thesis, and the paper received just an average grade.

In August 1971, following a stint in the military, Smith bought controlling interest in Arkansas Aviation Sales, located in Little Rock, Arkansas. While operating his new firm, he saw firsthand how difficult it was to get packages and other airfreight delivered within one to two days. With his term paper in mind, Smith set out to find a better way. Thus the idea for Federal Express was born: A company that has revolutionized global business practices and that now defines speed and reliability.

Smith named the company Federal Express because he believed the patriotic meaning associated with the word “federal” suggested an interest in nationwide economic activity. He also hoped the name would resonate with the Federal Reserve Bank, a potential customer. Although the bank denied his proposal, Smith kept the name because he thought it was memorable and would help attract public attention.

Company headquarters later moved to Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis was chosen because of its central location within the U.S. and because Memphis International Airport was rarely closed due to bad weather. The airport was also willing to make the necessary improvements for the operation and additional hangar space was readily available.

Federal Express officially began operations on April 17, 1973, with 389 team members. That night, 14 small aircraft took off from Memphis and delivered 186 packages to 25 U.S. cities from Rochester, New York, to Miami, Florida. Though the company did not show a profit until July 1975, it soon became the premier carrier of high-priority goods in the marketplace and set the standard for the express shipping industry it established.

In the mid-1970s, Federal Express was a leader in lobbying for air cargo deregulation, which was legislated in 1977. These changes were important, because they allowed the company to use larger aircraft (Boeing 727s and McDonnell-Douglas DC-10s) and spurred its rapid growth. Today FedEx Express has the world’s largest all-cargo air fleet, including Boeing 777s, 767s, 757s, and MD-11s and Airbus A-300s and A-310s.

By the 1980s, Federal Express was well established. Its growth rate was compounding at about 40 percent annually, and competitors were trying to catch up. In fiscal year 1983, it reported $1 billion in revenues, making American business history as the first company to reach that financial hallmark inside 10 years of startup without mergers or acquisitions.

 

Going global

Following the first of several international acquisitions, intercontinental operations began in 1984 with service to Europe and Asia. The following year, Federal Express marked its first regular scheduled flight to Europe. In 1988, the company initiated direct-scheduled cargo service to Japan.

In another major move, Federal Express acquired Tiger International Inc. in February 1989. When it integrated the Flying Tigers network on August 7, 1989, Federal Express became the world’s largest full-service, all-cargo airline. The acquisition included routes to 21 countries, a fleet of Boeing 747s and 727s, facilities throughout the world, and Tigers’ expertise in international airfreight.

The company made another significant transition in 1994, adopting the name “FedEx” as its official brand. One year later, it was authorized to serve China through an acquisition from Evergreen International Airlines. Under this authority, it became the sole U.S.-based, all-cargo carrier with aviation rights to the world’s most populous nation. Its global reach has continued to expand into what is now an unsurpassed network, delivering to customers in more than 220 countries and territories.

Flying Tigers Ad

A portfolio of solutions

With an eye on the future, Federal Express built on its express delivery service to create a more diversified corporation of different but related businesses. Originally called FDX Corp., FedEx Corp. was formed in January 1998 when it acquired Caliber System Inc.

Through this and future purchases, the initial Caliber subsidiaries included:

  • RPS, a small-package ground service
  • Roberts Express, an expedited, exclusive-use shipping provider
  • Viking Freight, a regional LTL freight carrier serving the Western U.S.
  • Caribbean Transportation Services, a provider of airfreight forwarding between the U.S., Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Caribbean islands
  • Caliber Logistics and Caliber Technology, providers of integrated logistics and technology solutions.

 

In January 2000, FedEx unleashed the power of its global brand. In a move to further integrate the company’s portfolio of services, FDX Corp. was renamed FedEx Corp. In addition:

  • Federal Express became FedEx Express
  • RPS became FedEx Ground
  • Roberts Express became FedEx Custom Critical
  • Caliber Logistics and Caliber Technology were combined to create FedEx Global Logistics
  • American Freightways and Viking Freight became FedEx Freight in February 2001, when FedEx finalized the acquisition of American Freightways, a leading LTL freight carrier serving 40 states in the eastern two-thirds of the U.S.
 

To centralize sales, marketing, customer service, and information technology support for FedEx Express and FedEx Ground, the corporation formed a new subsidiary named FedEx Corporate Services, Inc. (a/k/a FedEx Services), which began operations in June 2000. The move started the process of transforming its technology and delivery services into a portfolio of shipping and business solutions.

In the next three years, FedEx expanded access to U.S. customers and bolstered its e-commerce solutions with additional acquisitions.

In February 2004, FedEx acquired privately held Kinko’s Inc., and rebranded it as FedEx Kinko’s (then rebranded it again as FedEx Office in 2008). The acquisition expanded retail access for FedEx® shipping services to all 1,200 Kinko’s stores in operation at that time, enhanced FedEx document management services, and broadened business reach to customers of all sizes. For Kinko’s, the move added the resources and expertise needed to continue expansion of its corporate document outsourcing business and international operations.

In September 2004, FedEx acquired Parcel Direct, a leading parcel consolidator that it later rebranded as FedEx SmartPost. The acquisition complemented a FedEx alliance with the U.S. Postal Service, providing customers in the e-commerce and catalog segments with a proven, cost-effective solution for low-weight, less time-sensitive residential shipments.

FedEx expands global footprint

With 95 percent of world consumers living outside U.S. borders, FedEx has worked to make international shipping as easy as possible for customers who want to connect with opportunity in global markets.

In February 2000, FedEx acquired TowerGroup International, a leader in international logistics and trade information technology. TowerGroup became the foundation of a new subsidiary, FedEx Trade Networks, which in turn acquired WorldTariff®, a premier customs duty and tax information company, one month later.

FedEx Trade Networks (rebranded FedEx Logistics in 2019) is now one of North America’s largest-volume customs entry filers and a leader in international ocean and air freight forwarding and trade facilitation.

With the value of global trade now at more than $18 trillion, FedEx has continued transforming its business to better align with projected worldwide population and economic growth. One key to that has been the acquisition of numerous transportation companies that allow us to directly serve specific markets and provide better service to our customers.

  • 2006 United Kingdom: FedEx acquired ANC Holdings Ltd, a U.K. domestic express transportation company, and rebranded it as FedEx UK.
  • 2007 China: FedEx acquired Tianjin Datian W. Group Co. Ltd.’s 50 percent share of the joint venture between FedEx and DTW International Priority Express, along with DTW Group’s domestic express network in China. FedEx then launched a domestic express service for the Chinese market.
  • 2007 Hungary: FedEx Express acquired Flying-Cargo Hungary Kft.
  • 2011 India: FedEx Express acquires Prakash Air Freight Pvt. Ltd. (PAFEX) and AFL Pvt. Ltd./Unifreight India Pvt. Ltd.
  • 2011 Mexico: FedEx Express acquired Servicios Nacionales Mupa, S.A. de C.V. (MultiPack).
  • 2012 Poland: FedEx Corporation acquired courier company Courier Opek Sp.z o.o. (Opek).
  • 2012 France: FedEx Corporation acquired express transportation company TATEX.
  • 2012 Brazil: FedEx Corporation acquired transportation and logistics provider Rapidão Cometa.
  • 2014 Africa: FedEx Express acquired Supaswift businesses in South Africa and six other countries; Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia.
  • 2014 North America: FedEx Corporation acquired Bongo International, a leader in cross-border enablement technologies and solutions, and rebranded it as FedEx Cross Border.
  • 2015 North America: FedEx Corporation acquired GENCO, one of North America’s largest third-party logistics providers, and rebranded it as FedEx Supply Chain.
  • 2016 Europe: FedEx Corporation acquired TNT Express, one of the world’s largest express delivery companies, which offers road and air delivery services in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific, and the Americas.

Evolving for a changing marketplace

As e-commerce expands and the world becomes more connected, businesses need new ways to navigate the ever-changing complexities of the marketplace.

To make it easier for customers to tap our deep industry expertise in specialty logistics, supply chain and e-commerce, FedEx brought together several of our companies and capabilities to form a new operating company. FedEx Logistics is a provider of comprehensive supply chain solutions, specialty transportation, cross border e-commerce technology services, customs brokerage, and trade management tools and data.

As the world we live in continues to change, so does FedEx. With that in mind, you can be sure the spirit of FedEx innovation is hard at work delivering a brighter, better future for the world.

Go to the FedEx Corporate Brochure to see how FedEx comes together to connect the world — serving our customers, our communities and our team members.


FedEx Express history

In 1965, Yale University undergraduate Frederick W. Smith wrote a term paper about the passenger route systems used by most airfreight shippers, which he viewed as economically inadequate. Smith explained the need for shippers to have a system designed specifically for airfreight that could accommodate time-sensitive shipments such as medicine, computer parts, and electronics.

A few years later, his term paper came to life when the company he started, Federal Express, incorporated in June 1971. It officially began operations on April 17, 1973, with the launch of 14 small aircraft from Memphis International Airport. On that night, they delivered 186 packages to 25 U.S. cities from Rochester, New York, to Miami, Florida.

For its headquarters, the company chose Memphis, Tennessee, thanks to the city’s central location. Another factor was the Memphis weather, which rarely caused closures at Memphis International Airport. The airport was also willing to make the necessary improvements for the operation and had additional hangar space readily available.

Though the company did not show a profit until July 1975, it soon became the marketplace’s premier carrier of high-priority goods and the standard-setter for the industry it established.

In the mid-1970s, Federal Express took a leading role in lobbying for air cargo deregulation. Those efforts came to fruition in 1977, allowing Federal Express to use larger aircraft such as Boeing 727s and McDonnell-Douglas DC-10s and spurring the company’s rapid growth. In a 24-hour period, the fleet travels nearly 500,000 miles, while its carriers log 2.5 million miles each day.

The company matured during the first half of the 1980s as its growth rate compounded at an annual clip of around 40 percent. In fiscal year 1983 Federal Express reported $1 billion in revenues, making American business history as the first company to reach that financial hallmark inside 10 years of startup without mergers or acquisitions.

Following the first of several international acquisitions, intercontinental operations began in 1984 with service to Europe and Asia. The following year, Federal Express began its first regularly scheduled flight to Europe. In 1988, the company initiated direct-scheduled cargo service to Japan and acquired Tiger International Inc. less than a year later. With the integration of the Flying Tigers network in August 1989, Federal Express became the world’s largest full-service, all-cargo airline. The acquisition included routes to 21 countries, a fleet of 747s and 727s, facilities throughout the world, and Tigers’ international airfreight expertise.

 

A 1995 acquisition from Evergreen International Airlines provided authority to serve China — and made the growing company the sole U.S.-based, all-cargo carrier with aviation rights to the world’s most populous nation.

The first evolution of the company’s corporate identity came in 1994 when Federal Express officially adopted “FedEx” as its primary brand, taking a cue from its customers, who frequently referred to the company by the shortened name.

The second evolution came in 2000 when the company was renamed FedEx Express to reflect its position in the overall FedEx Corp. portfolio of services. This also signified the expanding breadth of the service offerings specific to FedEx Express, as well as further positioning FedEx as an express carrier.

FedEx plane and trucks

 

FedEx Express has continued to evolve and expand over the course of the first decades of the 21st century. In 2008, it introduced fuel-efficient Boeing 757 freighters to its fleet and began using them on a new cargo service route between Memphis and Washington, D.C. The moves marked the opening of a new route for FedEx and a demonstration of the company’s commitment to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

It took a similar step in 2013 when it added Boeing 767-300F planes to its fleet. The 767s are 30 percent more fuel efficient and have 20 percent lower unit operating costs than the aircraft they replaced. In a similar vein, the company launched more than 30 initiatives to improve fuel efficiency and cut fuel emissions, including improvements to in-flight planning and boosting aircraft operation efficiencies.

In 2016, FedEx acquired TNT Express, the largest acquisition in FedEx history. TNT expands the FedEx portfolio by adding more than 50,000 team members and over 30,000 vehicles. It significantly enhances the FedEx Express road network in Europe, as well as the company’s presence in parts of the Middle East and Africa, Asia-Pacific, and the Americas.

Go to the FedEx Corporate Brochure to see how FedEx Express and other FedEx operating companies come together to connect the world — serving our customers, our communities and our team members.

 

FedEx and TNT Team Member
FedEx truck on a street

FedEx Services history

FedEx Services began operations in June 2000 to provide information technology, sales, and marketing support for FedEx Corp. subsidiaries FedEx Express and FedEx Ground. The same functions for FedEx Freight and FedEx Office were later aligned with FedEx Services.

In 2013, FedEx Services launched FedEx Delivery Manager®, an innovative option that provides U.S. customers with a range of flexible options to schedule dates, locations and times of delivery. Customers can also actively track and manage deliveries en route to or from their home, without a tracking number or even a FedEx account.

Today more than 16,000 FedEx Services team members coordinate sales, marketing, communications, information technology, and customer service support for the global FedEx brand.

Go to the FedEx Corporate Brochure to see how FedEx Services and other FedEx operating companies come together to connect the world — serving our customers, our communities and our team members.


FedEx Ground history

On March 11, 1985, a startup company called Roadway Package System (RPS) put a label with 33 precisely spaced black lines on the outside of a package. By doing so, it changed the direction of the small-package industry. The black lines were a bar code. In the hands and minds of RPS’ innovative employees, this emerging technology made it possible not only to track a package’s movement, but also to sort it using automation to get it to its destination more efficiently — and to bill it more accurately.

RPS was a division of Roadway Services, which became Caliber System Inc. in 1996. By creating competitive advantages in the form of an independent contractor pickup and delivery workforce, flexible pricing, package tracking that provided customers with relevant information about their packages, and many more “firsts,” the company quickly expanded and gained market share. In 1993, just nine years after its creation, RPS exceeded $1 billion in annual revenue — the fastest growth of any ground transportation company in history. By 1996, it offered 100 percent coverage of North America.

RPS was officially rebranded FedEx Ground in January 2000 following the acquisition of the Caliber companies by FDX Corp. in 1998. Later in 2000, the company launched FedEx Home Delivery®, the industry’s first dedicated business-to-consumer service designed to help catalog and online retailers meet the residential market’s needs with standard features such as evening and Saturday deliveries.

 

FedEx Ground Truck on a Bridge

 

In September 2004, Parcel Direct became a subsidiary of FedEx Ground after FedEx Corp. acquired the leading parcel consolidator. The service, later rebranded FedEx SmartPost®, was designed to  specialize in the delivery of low-weight packages from business to residential customers through a contract with the U.S. Postal Service.

In 2015, FedEx completed the acquisition of GENCO, one of the largest third-party logistics providers in North America. GENCO’s supply chain expertise brought new capabilities, including reverse logistics, greatly expanding the FedEx Ground portfolio of e-commerce and retail solutions. GENCO was rebranded as FedEx Supply Chain in 2017, and realigned in a new structure under FedEx Logistics  in 2019.

In 2019, FedEx Ground announced three transformational operational changes to enhance its competitive position in e-commerce: year-round, seven-day residential delivery, the integration of FedEx SmartPost volume into standard operations, and the addition of large package capabilities.

And the company continues to invest in new facilities and emerging technologies. The result is the industry’s most automated hub network and continual improvement in speed, efficiency, and reliability.

Go to the FedEx Corporate Brochure to see how FedEx Ground and other FedEx operating companies come together to connect the world — serving our customers, our communities and our team members.


FedEx Freight history

In 1966, Viking Freight opened its doors as a courier service within selected areas of California and rapidly grew to be the state’s leading intrastate trucking carrier. By 1986, Viking’s service area expanded to cover 10 Western states, including Alaska and Hawaii.

In 1988, Viking became a subsidiary of Caliber System Inc. Over the next 10 years, Viking solidified its position as the market leader in the West and periodically expanded beyond its regional territory. In January 1998, Federal Express Corp. acquired Caliber System and created FedEx Corp., a global provider of transportation, e-commerce, and supply chain management services.

Meanwhile, American Freightways (AF) was founded in 1982 in Arkansas. AF quickly became the nation’s fastest-growing independently owned, regional less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier. In 1989, AF became a publicly held corporation, and by 2001, it had developed a wide network of service centers that provided direct coverage to 40 contiguous U.S. states.

AF was acquired by FedEx Corp. in 2001. By combining Viking and AF, FedEx Corp. created FedEx Freight to offer convenient shipping for LTL customers who require top-quality, highly reliable freight service.

In 2006, FedEx Corp. acquired Florida-based Watkins Motor Lines, a leading provider of long-haul LTL services that got its start in 1937. Watkins was rebranded as FedEx National LTL and FedEx Freight Canada. In January 2011, FedEx National LTL merged with FedEx Freight and the company launched its two service offerings at all lengths of haul across its U.S. network: FedEx Freight® Priority and FedEx Freight® Economy. In 2019, FedEx Freight introduced FedEx Freight Direct, a service to meet the needs of the growing e-commerce market for delivery of heavy, bulky products to or through the door for residences and businesses.

 

FedEx Freight Driver Talking to a Customer

 

Today, FedEx Freight is an LTL shipping industry leader that serves the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. By making investments in technology, FedEx Freight is the first and only nationwide LTL carrier to offer handling-unit and pallet-level tracking and visibility for multi-piece and multi-pallet shipments, as well as domestic shipping without a paper Bill of Lading.*

Go to the FedEx Corporate Brochure to see how FedEx Freight and other FedEx operating companies come together to connect the world — serving our customers, our communities and our team members.

*Except for shipments containing hazardous materials


FedEx Office history

In September 1970, Kinko’s opened its first location in Santa Barbara, California. The facility measured only 100 square feet and featured a single copier, an offset press, film processing equipment, and a small selection of stationery and school supplies. Five years later, there were 24 Kinko’s stores. Four years after that, 72.

Up to that point, Kinko’s had focused purely on retail, small-business, and home-business customers with ad hoc sales efforts. It applied minimal use of technology. Its stores were also uniform in size, and its product offerings were limited. But as its business grew, the Kinko’s customer base shifted to a broad range of personal and business customers. In response, the company expanded its services and markets. By the mid-1990s, Kinko’s had grown dramatically to more than 800 stores through the formation of S-corporations.

Kinkos logo

Clayton, Dubilier & Rice invested in Kinko’s in 1996. More than 125 separate S-corporations were rolled into a single C-corporation. The company installed centralized budgeting and financial planning systems, procurement, real estate, and information services. Kinko’s also started building and investing in its technology infrastructure, including digitally connecting its stores.

Kinko’s customer base had continued to evolve and now included mobile professionals and commercial print buyers. The company realized it could not serve the needs of these customers or make a meaningful connection using a one-size-fits-all approach. In addition, Kinko’s had to find a way to better manage orders and workflow across its network.

FedEx acquired Kinko’s in February 2004 and rebranded it as FedEx Kinko’s Office and Print Services. In June 2008, the name was changed to FedEx Office to better reflect its service and product offerings.

Go to the FedEx Corporate Brochure to see how FedEx Office and other FedEx operating companies come together to connect the world — serving our customers, our communities and our team members. 

 

Customer shipping a package at FedEx Office
FedEx Office Store
FedEx Office team member printing a banner

FedEx Logistics history

FedEx Logistics traces its origins to 1913, when a customs broker named C. J. Tower & Sons began operations in Niagara Falls, New York. Following its purchase by McGraw-Hill Inc. in 1986, C. J. Tower & Sons became TowerGroup International Inc. Three years later, TowerGroup began a series of acquisitions that increased its presence across the U.S. and helped make it a leader in international logistics and trade information technology.

In 2000, FedEx Corp. acquired TowerGroup and World Tariff, Ltd., to create FedEx Trade Networks. In 2002, TowerGroup was rebranded as FedEx Trade Networks Transport & Brokerage, Inc. In 2008, the company kicked off an aggressive expansion, opening offices around the globe. The new market reach gave FedEx Trade Networks access to nearly all of the world’s GDP by providing international air and ocean freight forwarding, customs brokerage, distribution and warehousing, and other value-added services.

A second subsidiary, FedEx Trade Networks Trade Services, Inc., was also formed in 2002. This division incorporated the duty and tax data services of WorldTariff with Trade & Customs Advisory Services, which is designed to streamline, automate, and simplify the international shipping process, as well as provide comprehensive trade information. FedEx Trade Networks was the first company to provide a duty and tax application on its website.

In 2014, FedEx acquired Bongo International, a leader in cross border enablement technologies and solutions that help retailers and e-tailers reach international e-commerce consumers. Rebranded as FedEx Cross Border, its capabilities include duty and tax calculations, export compliance management, HS classification, currency conversions, shopping cart management, and protection against credit card fraud.

In 2018, FedEx announced the realignment of its specialty logistics and e-commerce solutions in a new structure under FedEx Trade Networks, creating an organization focused on serving the unique needs of this important growth driver. Renamed FedEx Logistics in 2019, the company provides a full suite of supply chain solutions, specialty transportation, customs brokerage, and trade management tools and data.

Go to the FedEx Corporate Brochure to see how FedEx Logistics and other FedEx operating companies come together to connect the world — serving our customers, our communities, and our team members.