FedEx, UPS Tackle Record Volume of Holiday Shipments While Facing Stormy Weather

The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and packages are being shipped worldwide in larger volumes than ever before, FedEX and UPS report. With a major storm ongoing in the Northeast, the companies are trying to make sure deliveries stay on schedule.

Both UPS and FedEx have in-house meteorology teams working closely to monitor weather conditions worldwide year-round and help circumvent impactful storms that could lead to ground or air delays.

Wintry weather also made an impact last year when a mid-December snowstorm threatened air and ground deliveries from St. Louis to Boston with less than two weeks to go before Christmas.

While there have already been a couple of winter storms the last few weeks, including one on the day before Thanksgiving, UPS and FedEx reported no issues due to weather.

"We've had smooth sailing this year," said Paul Tronsor, director of global operations control for FedEx.

However, it's now "peak season" and the busiest delivery days are still ahead. On Dec. 22, UPS anticipates delivering 34 million packages, an all-time record and double the volume for a typical day, Mike Mangeot, a spokesperson with UPS Airlines, said in an email.

FedEx reports that Monday, Dec. 15, will be its busiest day, with 22.6 million shipments, more than double its average daily volume of 10.5 million. In addition, this week, Dec. 7-13, is the company's busiest with a projected 85 million packages being delivered.

FedEx expects to move 290 million packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas, an 8.8 percent increase from 2013, while UPS said it will ship 585 million packages worldwide in December.

Tronsor said they are prepared for the winter weather this week as the continue to adjust their network to flex and absorb the potential delays.

"We have made a few adjustments on the ground that allow us to depart aircraft from the markets impacted by the weather in time to safely de-ice the aircraft," he said.

With numerous facilities throughout the country, there is flexibility for UPS and FedEx to adjust travel plans quickly to keep their schedules on time and meet the high customer demand.

"We've got a number of large hub facilities throughout the U.S. that we're able to adjust and move shipments through," Tronsor said. "We do adjust pick up and drop off locations for our jets to mitigate those circumstances like a snowstorm that would otherwise have impacted us."

In 2012, a snowstorm forced UPS' regional air hub in Rockford, Illinois, to close on the projected busiest day of the year. Their meteorology team anticipated the blizzard, and UPS was able to re-route 29 flights from Rockford to Worldport, the main air hub in Louisville, Kentucky, Mangeot said.

"This allowed thousands of customers to receive their holiday shipments on time," he said.

The situation for couriers on the ground is different than air delivery for FedEx. Tronsor said it's highly dependent on the local authorities' ability to clear the roadways and allow for safe driving.

"The overall pattern across the U.S. will indeed be a stormy one over the next two weeks with a series of Pacific storms crossing the country," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said. "Arctic air will basically be a no-show during the period as the strong west to east flow of Pacific air across the country keeps the very cold air trapped up across northern Canada."

Anderson noted that he thinks the biggest trouble spots for winter weather, including snow and ice, in the week leading up to Christmas will be in the Rockies and across the Upper Midwest.

"When it comes to winter weather, we are on the streets delivering as long as safety allows," Mangeot said. "If a storm does interrupt service, we'll get back on the streets as soon as it's safe to do so."

"Our customers need their shipments, especially this time of year."