Big 3 Carriers Performed Well to Kick Off Peak Holiday Season

UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service got virtually all packages delivered on time for the start of the peak holiday season, according to an annual analysis conducted by ShipMatrix based on its shipper data, achieving the highest overall marks since 2013.

UPS had 98.3% on-time delivery for the week ending Nov. 24, almost 10 percentage points higher than the same period in 2017, with only slight variation across its Express, Deferred and Ground services, according to Shipmatrix.

FedEx’s on-time performance was 98.9%, while the USPS achieved 97.9% percent on time delivery during the period.

Satish Jindel, president of ShipMatrix, said the strong numbers were the result of major capital investments by all three carriers, including automation to handle the huge holiday spikes as well as the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to position delivery personnel in various markets based on expected demand.

UPS in particular raised its performance this year through a combination of adding automated facilities, temporary hiring and leveraging predictive analytics, Jindel said. The company has increased its daily peak volume capacity by 350,000 parcels vs. 2017, thanks to new automation facilities coming online. Jindel also credited UPS COO Jim Barber, who took over that role early this year after serving as president of UPS International.

“I’ve known him for some time,” Jindel said. “He brought whole new perspective on how to plan for and execute peak season.”

UPS is projecting it will deliver 800 million packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or an average of more than 31 million each delivery day, almost double its average daily volume, according to spokesman Matthew O’Connor. That is up from more than 762 million packages during last year’s peak period.

The USPS plans to deliver 900 million packages in the same period, up from 850 million in 2017; this includes last-mile deliveries for both FedEx and UPS via its Parcel Select service. FedEx did not provide a total figure but expects a record-breaking peak season, with some days more than doubling its average daily volume of 14 million packages, said spokesman Jonathan Lyons.

Jindel said the USPS doesn’t face the same challenges as UPS and FedEx as it’s primarily a last-mile carrier where the bulk of packages are inducted at the local DDU level. As for FedEx, he said its decentralized structure, with independent contractors instead of employees, is a better model for flexing volume up and down.

Shipmatrix’s performance report for the start of peak holiday season is based on data analysis on millions of parcels shipped from over 90,000 locations across the country.