DAYTON, Ohio -- The nation's largest delivery companies say they are better prepared for this year's crush of holiday packages, and their performance over the Thanksgiving/Black Friday period suggests they'll do a better job of delivering presents on time than they did last year.
Major retailers miscalculated the volume they expected to sell late in the 2013 holiday shopping season, and some over-promised on their ability to deliver packages by Dec. 25. As a result, the major package-delivery companies were swamped with more packages than they could handle.
By one estimate from logistics software developer ShipMatrix Inc. and the Wall Street Journal, as many as 2 million express packages due to be delivered Christmas Eve last year didn't make it to their destinations by Christmas morning.
This year, delivery companies say they anticipate even more volume than last year -- but they insist they're ready for it. So far, they seem to be living up to their promises.
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ShipMatrix analyzed the on-time delivery rates of FedEx and UPS during Thanksgiving week, and each improved its performance over last year. FedEx scored a 91 percent on-time delivery rate, up from 83 percent in the same week last year, while UPS had a 95 percent on-time rate, up from 89 percent a year ago.
UPS has said it expects to handle 585 million packages this December, an 11 percent increase over last year. The company has hired an estimated 90,000 to 95,000 seasonal workers to help with extra shipments.
And UPS officials this week
announced an expansion of its Hebron, Ky., campus near the Greater Cincinnati Airport, as part of a series of expansions at four of UPS locations in North America. It is the second addition to the Hebron campus of 2014. The facility's footprint grew by 151,000 square feet in April, then added another 274,000 square feet with the most recent investment, boosting its total to 1.25 million square feet.
UPS officials predicted its peak day will be Monday, Dec. 22, when it expects to deliver 34 million packages. Company officials are forecasting that six days during this year's holiday season are likely to surpass last year's single-day delivery record of 31 million packages. On an average day, UPS delivers about 17 million packages.
Alan Gershenhorn, UPS executive vice president and chief commercial officer, said in a statement that consumer acceptance of purchasing gifts online is growing steadily. But Gershenhorn said he expects the expansions of the company's capacity and the addition of two additional operational days -- one provided by the calendar, the other by a company decision to make the Friday after Thanksgiving a full operations day -- will "smooth out what is expected to be record volume."
FedEx officials said they expected Monday was the busiest day in company history, with a projected 22.6 million packages delivered. Overall, FedEx expects to deliver 290 million packages between Black Friday and Christmas Eve, an 8.8 percent increase over last year.
The company has hired 50,000 seasonal package handlers, helpers, drivers and other support personnel.
Monday also marked the U.S. Postal Service's busiest mailing day of the year with more than 640 million cards, letters and packages expected to be processed, according to postal service officials. Last year, 607 million pieces of mail were processed on the postal service's busiest day.
In total, the U.S. Postal Service expects to deliver 15.1 billion cards, letters and parcels this holiday season. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said the postal service was "ready for the rush and ready to deliver. This isn't just our busiest time of year -- it's our season."
The postal service said this Saturday, Dec. 20, is the deadline to send greeting cards, packages and letters first-class to ensure delivery in time for Christmas. For procrastinators, Dec. 23 is the deadline for sending packages using Priority Mail Express, postal service officials said.