By: Megan Ray Nichols
As each year’s expected holiday shipping rate increases, postal companies such as UPS, FedEx, and USPS go to great lengths to up their delivery game. Procedural enhancement, a nod to modern technology and the willingness to incorporate a new market all characterize this year’s postal plan to get the job done.
Prepare For The Big Rush
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Americans will ship over one billion packages. UPS anticipates delivery of approximately 750 million, a 7% increase over 2016. The US Postal Service expects to handle a whopping 15 billion pieces of mail including greeting cards and parcels, while FedEx anticipates at least a 10% increase in volume over last year — most of which will hit the floor in the final two weeks before Christmas.
Preparations began in earnest well before Thanksgiving with marked seasonal hiring. UPS reports acquiring 95,000 temporary workers and estimates that roughly 35% will continue on to become permanent employees. The company also has under lease a veritable squadron of additional trucks, trailers and aircraft, temporary mobile delivery centers and vacant buildings to increase sorting capacity.
At UPS’s headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, staff meteorologists continuously monitor weather conditions both here and abroad.
FedEx reports hiring 50,000 seasonal employees and purchase of 30 additional jets for its fleet, while USPS announces expanded Sunday delivery service and even Christmas Day delivery in select areas.
Turn To Technology
Plans to utilize technological advances in both navigation and visual enhancement may level the playing field.
UPS’s ORION — On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation — uses complex algorithms to identify the most advantageous delivery routes based on up-to-the-minute weather and road conditions. Initial results show that ORION saves the company 100 million miles per year which amounts to a reduction of 10 million gallons of fuel.
FedEx’s Enhanced Vision technology is installed on almost two-thirds of its cargo planes with plans to continue in the new year. Using infrared automation, this system allows for secure landing in inclement weather and conditions of low visibility.
This is the first holiday season in which online shopping is expected to surpass in-store. Long lines, crowded parking lots and inefficient check-out are all cited as reasons shoppers prefer to spend their money from home. Deloitte’s annual holiday survey reports 55% of respondents will shop online for seasonal gifts, while those that earn $100,000 or more per year will be spending approximately 57% of their gifting budget in cyberspace.
This surge in online shopping presents untoward resistance to shipping companies’ best efforts to deliver. Multiple package drop-offs create storage and pick-up problems in apartment buildings and multi-family homes. Boxes left at houses when occupants aren’t home are increasingly reported stolen. On-line retail delivery estimates don’t always match up to real-time shipping capability, creating dissatisfaction and frustration on all ends.
To keep things running smoothly both businesses and consumers can become team players. Consider the following helpful tips.
- Prepare packages by choosing a shipping box that is sturdy and large enough to assure space for cushioning. Surround items completely with protective wrap. You should be able to shake your package without hearing anything shift.
- Getting packages to their intended destination is vital. With the increased traffic it’s easier for packages to get jostled around. Reinforce all seams with hot melt adhesive or packing tape to keep things secured.
- Print address labels clearly using a dark marker. If you are shipping food items, mark the package perishable. If you are sending anything that’s fragile, make a note of this on all sides of the box.
- Follow up-dated shipping calendars to assure timely delivery.
- For package receipt, leave a note for your carriers with specific information regarding safe drop-off procedure if you do not plan to be home during the day.
- Above all, please be patient with delivery vehicles on the road and in parking lots.
After all, you’re on the same team!