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FedEx sets March 31 deadline to prioritize UPS volumes in event of Teamsters strike

FedEx warns UPS shippers to act now before it’s too late

FedEx calls on UPS shippers to get on board. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

FedEx Corp. has told rival UPS Inc.’s customers that any business from UPS that FedEx onboards by March 31 will receive priority treatment from FedEx regardless of whether the Teamsters union strikes UPS or not.

In a letter to various UPS shippers, FedEx (NYSE: FDX) said parcels tendered by the end of the month can be assured of receiving high-priority service levels. FedEx urged UPS (NYSE: UPS) customers to take advantage of the near 30-day window to ensure they have committed capacity in the event of a labor disruption.

“Don’t wait until it’s too late,” the letter said.

The message from the email is that FedEx cannot guarantee it can prioritize volumes for UPS shippers unless the business is received by March 31. In a presentation accompanying the email, FedEx said shipments from UPS customers received after March 31 will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis.

This is not FedEx’s typical engagement style. Generally, the company treats issues like this in a low-key manner. However, according to Nate Skiver, head of consultancy LPF Spend Management LLC, FedEx’s pitch isn’t shocking. 

FedEx needs volume and revenue, Skiver said in a LinkedIn post Friday. In addition, it’s a rare chance for the company to publicly exploit a UPS weakness, namely concerns about 350,000 UPS Teamsters members walking off their jobs by Aug. 1, the day after the current five-year contract expires, according to Skiver.

As of Friday, few UPS shippers are in anything but “watch-and-wait” mode, Skiver said. However, should the spring and early summer pass without a deal, he believes that shippers will start to panic.

Not every regional parcel carrier has space available, though the largest, LaserShip/OnTrac, is expected to have capacity to sell. The U.S. Postal Service is also expected to marshal large amounts of alternative capacity as the agency begins to ramp up for a possible tilt in volumes.

Regional carrier executives have said they have no plans to be stopgaps for UPS shippers. They will be loath to accept new business if it isn’t part of a long-term deal to keep the business there if and when a strike ends or if one is averted.

Much has been made of the upcoming negotiations, which are expected to start later than usual and be loaded with vitriol. UPS executives are confident a deal can be reached long before the end of July. Just in case, however, UPS managers will not be allowed to take paid time off in July and August in case they are needed to move packages.

UPS shippers are generally very loyal, and most would be unwilling to break away large volumes as a contingency. If nothing else, the FedEx ploy may convince some “low hanging fruit” to make a change, according to industry experts.

In a statement, UPS said it is “normal and expected that our competitors try to scare our customers, especially during our contract negotiation years.” UPS remains aligned with the Teamsters on many contract issues, the company said.


  1. Cmoore Bootsy

    FedEx is not the company it used to be. The new hires are bringing down the company by not being held accountable like the well established and veteran couriers. Until this change as well as, customers first then profit, the company will eventually evaporate or will be brought out by the likes of Amazon

  2. Ryan McGinnis

    Packages picked up by FedEx by March 31st might get delivered by August 1st if you’re lucky. FedEx can’t even offer a decent service now, how are they going to take on more volume?

  3. Chuckie

    Fedex nor usps would not be able to handle the volume that would evolve from a strike at ups. Think back to 1997 package carriers and LtL carriers were overwhelmed with volume. FedEx is using a tactic of contract expiration to win over customers.

  4. Artemis

    I worked for both companies. FedEx NEEDS this strike from UPS because they are horrid at business, people, and customer relations. They are really trying to scare customers into their lousy service? Sad. Customers take heed: UPS cares what happens with your stuff. FedEx does not. (Few good eggs notwithstanding.)

  5. Faye Mitchell

    I switch to FedEx during the last strike and never looked back. Receive deliveries from UPS only. The guys is nice enough but whines.

  6. Allan

    I was not aware of the situation going on with FedEx. It just so happens that I prefer UPS for their service and better rates. Now that I know how they operate I’ll have even more reasons not to use them.

Comments are closed.

Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.