Shippers Prepare for Busiest Season

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A possible strike by Federal Express pilots notwithstanding, major shippers are gearing up for a strong holiday mailing season.

United Parcel Service, Atlanta, is bracing for what officials say will be its biggest holiday season ever. The shipper expects to send 295 million packages by ground and air during the peak four-week period between Thanksgiving and Christmas -- an increase of 19 million packages over last year.

After tracking its customers' peak season deliveries last year, UPS concluded "our customers are doing more purchasing on the Internet, and we can assume that it will grow our business this season. Internet shopping is becoming a real force, something you can actually recognize having an effect," said spokesman Norman Black.

Another reason UPS expects a busier season is because Christmas falls on a Friday this year.

"That has an impact on flow because, human nature being what it is, you are going to have a lot of people doing their shopping the weekend before, knowing that they are still going to have to ship," Black said. "In fact, we are projecting that Monday, Dec. 21st [will be] the biggest day in history for our airline, because we expect people are going to be giving us a huge amount of next-day, second-day and three-day packages."

He said UPS will add 90,000 seasonal, temporary workers -- including 13,000 additional drivers -- during the holiday period to meet its customers' needs.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Postal Service is projecting a 10 percent increase in its Priority Mail and Parcel Post package delivery volume from Nov. 27 to Dec. 31. Last year, 126 million packages were shipped during that period, and it's projecting that 138 million packages will be shipped this year.

The USPS will add planes to handle the extra Express Mail volume, additional temporary processing facilities, dozens of trains, 22 million more sacks and trays and 40,000 temporary holiday employees -- most of which will help in its Priority Mail and Parcel Post network.

In addition, the 10-plant Priority Mail Processing Network on the Eastern Seaboard "will be used heavily during this period, because they handle everything coming into and from the East Coast," said Dave Shinnebarger, manager of marketing and strategy for the expedited/package services business unit at the USPS.

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