Parcel carriers shone during peak delivery period, firm’s data shows

Santa couldn’t have been more reliable (Photo: FreightWaves/Jim Allen)

Santa couldn’t have been more reliable (Photo: FreightWaves/Jim Allen)

The nation’s three major parcel delivery carriers posted stellar peak-season performances, aided by perhaps the strongest collaborative effort from their customers since e-commerce became a staple of holiday shopping and shipping, according to data from ShipMatrix, a unit of consultancy SJ Consulting.

UPS Inc. (NYSE:UPS) showed the strongest year-over-year improvement, with on-time deliveries for the six-week period rising to 98.5 percent from 95.3 percent, according to ShipMatrix data. Given that UPS had projected a record average of 31 million daily deliveries, a 3 percentage point gain to near-flawless levels was “huge” and “took a lot of effort,” said Satish Jindel, head of SJ and Ship Matrix. “It is much easier to go from, say, 82 to 85 percent than from 95 to 98 percent,” Jindel said in an e-mail late Friday.

FedEx Corp. (NYSE:FDX) showed a relatively slight on-time delivery improvement to 97.6 percent from 97.4 percent, based on ShipMatrix data. However, FedEx delivered 30 percent of its traffic a day earlier than the original commitment day, Jindel said, indicating its peak-season network was as synchronized as never before. The U.S. Postal Service delivered 98.8 percent of its shipments on time, up from 98.2 percent in 2017, ShipMatrix data. This came despite USPS handling more higher-cube parcels that could have presented handling problems, and the potential disruption to its network as a result of the Dec. 5 off-day to mark the funeral service of former President George H.W. Bush, Jindel added.

The final tallies cap off what has been a strong performance by all three carriers from the start of peak, which Jindel pegged at Nov. 18. Actual volume data from the carriers is not yet available.

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As online ordering has dramatically increased the carriers’ volume and their delivery challenges, they have worked with customers to build digital tools to allow both to get ahead of ordering trends and still meet their delivery commitments. Such efforts paid off handsomely during the peak, Jindel said. The effect may have been most profound at UPS, he added.

“The shippers role was most noticeable with helping UPS do better predictive analytics on where the deliveries would occur so that it could allocate additional delivery resources to those specific zip codes or service stations,” he said in Friday’s e-mail.

During Christmas week, UPS posted a 99.5 percent on-time delivery performance, FedEx came in at 99.3 percent, and USPS at 98.4 percent, according to ShipMatrix data. During the prior week, USPS came in at 99 percent, FedEx at 98.9 percent, and UPS at 98.5 percent, the data showed.