UPS and FedEx have both hired tens of thousands of seasonal employees to help handle the record-setting 2016 holiday shopping season.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Americans are expected to ship more than 1 billion packages.
This means it's peak season for the shipping giants UPS and FedEx.
Both companies take extraordinary measures each year to make sure they are equipped to handle the additional holiday traffic, and there's always a last-minute scramble to get packages delivered on time.
UPS is expecting to ship a record volume of more than 700 million packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas — an increase of more than 70 million over 2015's record total. At the same time, FedEx is projecting a 10% increase over the more than 325 million packages it shipped last holiday season.
Both companies experienced delays last year because of an unexpected surge in online shopping. Here's a look at what UPS and FedEx are doing to try to prevent a holiday shipping disaster.
Bracing for the rush
In preparation for the peak shipping season, UPS has added — like last year — 95,000 seasonal employees along with fleets of leased aircrafts, trucks, and trailers. (UPS declined to comment on how many aircraft and trucks it planned to add this year.) In addition, UPS has boosted its package-processing capacity with temporary mobile delivery centers and more UPS Access Point locations, a company representative told Business Insider in an email.
UPS also has a team of five meteorologists on staff at the company's Louisville, Kentucky, Worldport international air-cargo hub keeping tabs on weather around the world.
Since last year's peak season, FedEx has added an additional 12 million square feet of sorting space including four new major distribution hubs in Tracy, California; Ocala, Florida; Metuchen, New Jersey; and Toronto.
FedEx has also hired 50,000 seasonal employees — down 5,000 from last year — to help cope with the increased volume. The company's vaunted air-freight operation has acquired 30 additional jets since last year's peak season.
Plans can still go awry, however, even with this kind of preparation.
Last year, UPS resorted to renting hundreds of U-Haul moving vans to bolster its delivery fleets when shipping volumes pushed the capacity of its trucks to the limit. Some people reportedly called the police after spotting U-Haul trucks driving through their neighborhoods.
Some packages in New Jersey and California even ended up in trucks parked outside FedEx and UPS warehouses for days just waiting to be sorted.
The two shipping giants are turning to technology this year to help them get through the onslaught of packages and avoid these kinds of past mishaps.
Big bets on new tech
UPS is banking on its new navigation, dispatch, and routing software called Orion, or On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation, to speed up delivery times and reduce the number of miles driven.
According to UPS, Orion's algorithm considers more than 200,000 ways to conduct a single route before settling on the most efficient course of action.
The system has taken more than a decade to develop and fully integrate into the Atlanta-based company's 55,000 North American delivery routes.
FedEx, on the other hand, has installed Enhanced Vision systems on 270 of its fleet of nearly 400 cargo planes. The infrared night-vision system "will greatly improve pilots' ability to land in low visibility conditions and mitigate potential weather delays," a FedEx representative told Business Insider in an email.
Despite all their efforts, though, both companies are sticking to their policy of suspending delivery guarantees in the final weeks leading up to Christmas.
FedEx plans to suspend its money-back delivery guarantee for FedEx Ground from November 28 through December 24. At FedEx Express, there will be no guarantee this Wednesday and from December 19 through December 24.
For UPS, there will be no ground delivery guarantees from November 27 through December 3 and from December 18 through December 24.