Monday, Dec. 10 marks the busiest shipping day of the year for FedEx. The couriers and drivers who deliver packages to individuals and businesses around the country will be responsible for 19 million packages on Monday — a nearly 11% increase from 2011. The company's central processing plant in Memphis, Tenn., will pump 200 packages out per second on 42 miles of conveyor belt.
The Daily Ticker visited FedEx's 48th Street shipping hub in midtown Manhattan to get a firsthand look at how millions of online orders arrive at customers' doorsteps.
FedEx couriers in this facility start loading their trucks as early as 7 a.m. after their daily stretch and exercise routine. Packages of all shapes and sizes tumble down the conveyor belt for over an hour and are quickly sorted by neighborhood and street address. The men and women who drive the trucks will not return to the hub until every one of their packages has been signed for and delivered. John Scott, a 15-year veteran of the company, says he loads about 200 to 250 packages into his truck on an average day. During the holidays: 350 to 400 packages.
FedEx has become an unofficial barometer of the U.S. economy. If people are shopping and spending, then FedEx trucks will be a regular presence on the roads and highways. FedEx did experience a shift in volume during the financial crisis, says managing director Nan Malebranche. Some customers switched to a lower-cost FedEx service in 2008 and 2009, but the company, much like the economy, has rebounded. The budget crisis in Washington may be leading the news coverage, but it hasn't had a material effect on consumer buying, at least from FedEx's perspective.
"We're busier than normal right now," Malebranche tells The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task. "I would probably say anywhere from 5 to 8 percent."
Malebranche, who oversees 1,300 employees in the New York City region, says volume has increased significantly in the past week because of Cyber Monday orders. FedEx has hired an additional 20,000 workers to help manage the holiday rush. Some of these positions will lead to full-time work.
With Christmas a little more than two weeks away, FedEx's 90,000 vehicles and 660 aircraft will be omnipresent in 220 countries. The company's 400,000 employees and 15 on-staff meteorologists will be working hard to make sure your packages arrive at their intended destination on time.