Do UPS packages make weekend progress?
October 9, 2011 10:53 AM   Subscribe

UPS Ground question: where do the packages go on the weekend? If a package is going cross-country (4-5 business days, say from Thursday to the following Wednesday), what happens at "quitting time" on Friday? Does the semi go to the nearest depot and wait til Monday AM? Just curious how the whole thing works.
posted by ga4ry to Shopping (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Just my experience from following tracking..

but it seems like packages still move overnight and on saturday. Even if they're not going to be delivered during those times.

From what I can tell, most packages don't move on sunday at all. Instead the tracking usually marks sometime on saturday when it reached it's next storage/processing center, where they keep it until monday. Then movement of the package resumes.

Packages aren't in constant movement, instead they move from storage center to storage center. Once it gets to your local storage/processing center, it goes out for distribution.

(I've watched far too many packages make their trek from the west coast to the east coast)
posted by royalsong at 11:01 AM on October 9, 2011

UPS works round the clock--there's shifts at all hours.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:04 AM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to work at UPS, though it was a while ago. They're often still moving packages on the weekends, they're just not doing deliveries. You can sort of watch this if you have a tracking number for a package. It will go from one place, stop there for a day or two, then go to another place, sit, then go to the closest hub to your location and then be "out for delivery" on the day your package is supposed to be delivered. This article doesn't exactly talk about the weekends, but it does tell you how the package gets from door to door. Apparently people no longer need to memorize zip codes which was the toughest part of the job when I worked there.

So on weekends, stuff is getting loaded on to trucks to be delivered first thing Monday morning, most likely.
posted by jessamyn at 11:05 AM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've seen many, many UPS tractor trailer rigs rolling on the weekends. These trucks are moving stuff between distribution centers or between big customers and hubs.
posted by birdherder at 11:07 AM on October 9, 2011

Many parts of the system are 24/7 -- just not the delivery end. Many of the packages keep moving. Someone told me that our fairly small airport local airport has a 24-hour tower because FedEx and USPS planes (but not UPS flights here) land all 24 hours and they pay less to land overnight when the commercial flights are thin ... the planes with packages come in around the clock and go to 24-hour sort locations. (It came up because someone was wondering why we were paying for a 24-hour tower when the commercial airport was only open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. or so.) Many post offices have overnight shifts too. A friend of mine is a postmaster and every so often she has to go supervise the overnight shifts to ensure it's all working properly. Her post office does regional sorting for about a county-sized area so they do the regional sort overnight and drive it out to the local post offices for delivery sorting at 5 a.m. or so.

UPS is pretty good at estimating how long delivery routes will take so that the truck is empty at the end of the day. Their optimizing of delivery routes gets a lot of articles written about it, particularly whenever they make changes, because they do it so well; I remember when they got rid of most left turns and it not only made news in tons of major outlets but the Mythbusters tried it too.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:15 AM on October 9, 2011

Here's an article that gives an overview of the system for UPS. Here's an article about UPS getting rid of left turns. Here's a pretty good "How Stuff Works" about UPS.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:20 AM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

UPS trailers definitely move on Weekends. The operators are called "Feeder drivers" in UPS parlance and you can probably get an exact answer from a crowd of them if you register at one of the unofficial UPS employee forums,

UPS is a 24 hour operation. Most people only come in contact with the brown trucks that are on the road making deliveries and pickups from roughly 8am to 8pm. Those trucks are generally loaded during the "Sunrise" shift, roughly 3-9am. The "Twilight" shift runs about 5-10pm and deals with sorting all of the day's pickups as they are unloaded from the brown trucks. And then the Night shift, roughy 10pm-3am, deals mostly with unloading, sorting, and reloading packages going from one major hub to another. Some large distribution hubs even have a day shift of sorters in addition to the day shift of drivers. Not all hubs have all shifts, and they frequently consolidate work as much as possible to cut down on labor and transportation costs.

All this is built on an incredibly strict system of deadlines. If your package is ever delayed, you typically get a very detailed explanation such as "Mechanical train failure" or "Bird strike on aircraft". Never "Trailer left in yard, not unloaded".
posted by reeddavid at 1:27 PM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

FYI, if you want to see a UPS driver make a left turn, just sit on my front porch between 4 and 6ish (sometimes even after 8, though!) most any weekday afternoon. I've never seen much activity on Sundays even with overnight (weekend) packages. Usually in that case the package sits in Louisville until around 3AM Monday morning, ends up here at around 6ish and put on a truck shortly thereafter.
posted by wierdo at 3:52 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

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