UPS Inc.'s hopes of a totally seamless holiday delivery season hit a seam pretty quickly.
Confronting an unexpected spike in volumes from online orders on "Cyber Monday," the marketing name for the online ordering bonanza the Monday after Thanksgiving, the Atlanta-based transport and logistics giant added one to two days of additional transit times to an unspecified number of deliveries, it said today.
UPS called the volume during the so-called Cyber Week "unprecedented," especially at the start of the week. That would have encompassed Cyber Monday, when U.S. online sales this year hit a record $6.59 billion, according to a website called Fundivo that tracks such activity.
The company also sent "ready teams," managers experienced in addressing operational bottlenecks, to Atlanta, Kansas City, Denver, and Oakland, Steve Gaut, a UPS spokesman, said in an email. However, Gaut added that those cities might not necessarily be experiencing unusual delivery delays. The manner in which package volumes flow through UPS' vast domestic system makes it impossible to pinpoint specific markets where problems might have occurred, Gaut said.
UPS expects to deliver 750 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, or a rough average of 30 million per delivery day. That would be a 5 percent increase over last year's holiday totals. In addition, UPS expects to be inundated with holiday returns during the first 10 days or so of 2018.
On Friday, UPS notified the Teamsters union, which represents 230,000 UPS employees, most of whom package car and over-the-road drivers, that UPS' package car drivers may be directed to bump up their peak-season work cycles from the typical 60 hours over 7 days to 70 hours over 8 days in order to cope with the higher volumes. Package car driver hours would return to normal on January 14, UPS said.
UPS is allowed under Department of Transportation (DOT) rules to unilaterally take such an action, although it will leave the decision-making to regional and local managers who will determine if volumes justify the change. The Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), a dissident Teamster group, warned the change will tax already-exhausted package car drivers who are making dozens, if not hundreds, of stops each holiday delivery day.