PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – The last holiday season was far from the best time of the year for the US Postal Service, with sick and quarantined workers, a flood of parcels from shoppers unwilling to enter stores, and a last-minute dump. packages from overloaded private shippers.
Postal workers who recall the packages and letters piled up at distribution centers are better prepared this time as they prepare for yet another pandemic crisis. But low inventories, port and supply chain disruptions are creating new uncertainty around gift delivery.
Workers are already seeing a surge in vacation packages that began a few weeks ago.
“Many workers say, ‘Oh no. Here we are again, ”said Scott Adams, local president of the American Postal Workers Union in Portland.
The US Postal Service and private shippers UPS and FedEx are increasing their workforce by hiring about 230,000 temporary workers and taking other measures to avoid overloading their packages.
About 3.4 billion parcels are expected to be shipped across the country this holiday season, about 400 million more than last year, said Satish Jindel of ShipMatrix, PA, which analyzes parcel delivery data.
Including the cards and letters, the US Postal Service said it would deliver over 12 billion items.
“The pandemic is still here. The supply chain is an issue that will affect how people shop and how goods move, ”said Mark Dimondstine, president of the American Postal Workers Union, which represents over 200,000 postal workers.
Despite the volatile environment, the Postal Service, UPS and FedEx are in better shape to cope with peak volumes, and several trends could work in their favor, Jindel said.
More people are shopping in stores compared to last year, Jindel said, and people have placed online orders earlier because they are well aware of supply chain issues. As workers return to offices, he said fewer office supplies are sent home.
Most importantly, he said, shippers are adjusting after last year’s difficulties.
U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who faced harsh criticism last year but reported timely improvements and cut operating losses this month, says the service is ready for a crisis.
“We’re ready, so send us your packages and mail,” he said.
A year ago, by Christmas, more than a third of the Postal Service’s first class mail was late.
Tractor trailers filled with mail were idling outside some of the postal sorting points. Packages and letters accumulated in distribution centers. In many cases, delays increased by days and then by weeks.
Two things were painfully obvious. More workers and more space were required – and both of these issues are being addressed.
To keep up with the volume, the Postal Service is redeploying more than 30,000 lay employees to the career line for the peak season, hiring 40,000 seasonal employees and leasing additional space at more than 100 locations to guarantee room for parcels. …
The Postal Service has installed over 100 new bag sorting machines as of early November, part of a planned $ 40 billion investment over 10 years. In addition, more than 50 package systems capable of sorting large packages are expected to be deployed by December. Collectively, they increase throughput by an additional 4.5 million packs a day, officials said.
UPS, for its part, employs over 100,000 seasonal employees nationwide and continues to add aircraft and automation. By the end of the year, almost 90% of its packages are expected to pass through automated facilities.
Meanwhile, FedEx is adding 90,000 people nationwide to its operating companies. Most of these new hires are expected to remain after the holidays, the company said.
Despite all of these additional workers, shippers agree that this is not the year that buyers are putting off things for later.
“Complete your holiday shopping as soon as possible,” said Jim Mayer, a UPS spokesman.