- Associated Press - Saturday, December 23, 2017

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) - There are many under-appreciated backstories to those working throughout the holiday season.

Whether it is the retail workers pulling extra shifts, or the law enforcement officers sacrificing time with their families, certain occupations bear the brunt of the madness that can be the holidays.

But one occupation often goes unnoticed.

With the rise of online shopping, delivery drivers are seeing increased hours and volume. And this year in particular, it has taken many of them by surprise.

“Two weeks ago, it kind of caught us off guard,” Branden Holverson, a driver for UPS said. “We had a lot of volume that we were taken aback by.”

With drivers sometimes working their maximum 13 hour shifts, regulated by UPS and local authorities, the job can become unnerving at times.

“It’s definitely a bit more stressful, because it’s adding on the fact that you have a bit more stuff to do,” Holverson said. “You have more packages to deliver, so that means you have to take more time. It’s just one of those things. You’re putting more pressure on everybody.”

Within the past decade, holiday season online sales have been on a steady rise. According to a Nov. 24 CNBC article, online spending has risen 18-percent compared to last year.

Thanks to online retailers such as Amazon and eBay, holiday shopping has swiftly shifted from fighting the masses on Black Friday to knocking out your Christmas list over a lunch break on Cyber Monday.

And the unsung heroes of this change have become the men and women working for the carrier services.

“During the normal time of the year, I would average between 120 to 160 (deliveries daily),” Holverson said. “During the holidays, I’m averaging between 180 to 260.”

Holverson is a 10-year employee of UPS, starting out as a pre-loader and eventually taking on the role of driver six years ago.

Within those six years, Holverson has acclimated to the increased cargo UPS drivers will transport throughout the holiday season.

“I’ve been a driver long enough now that I’ve become accustomed to it all,” he said. “It’s kind of like one of those things where it’s a shock when it’s new. I don’t want to say intense, but it definitely catches you off guard. You expect it to go a certain way, but once you get out there it’s totally different than what you think.”

Amazon Worldwide Consumer CEO Jeff Wilke said in a news release that the recent Cyber Monday shopping day was the company’s biggest to date, with sales increasing more than 50-percent worldwide from the previous year.

Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer, accounting for nearly $100 billion in online sales in 2016.

UPS is the primary carrier for Amazon, transporting many of its shipments. This helps to explain part of the increased load Holverson sees as Christmas nears.

“There have been way, way more deliveries (this year) than in previous years,” he said. “My first couple of years (online shopping) was starting to get big, but nothing like it is now.”

“You can definitely tell online shopping is blowing up.”

UPS is not the only carrier service experiencing increased traffic. The USPS is also undertaking an increased load that is breaking previous holiday records.

According to a Dec. 13 United States Postal Service news release, Idaho postal carriers have seen a 10 percent increase in shipments from 2016. USPS spokeswoman Margaret Putnam said the volume of shipments it has been receiving has been unprecedented.

And the cause of this rise continues to be the increase of online shopping.

“It has changed our industry tremendously, the online revolution,” Putnam said. “In the last three or four years, we’ve really seen the solidification of online shopping. Before that, people would try it and didn’t know if they liked it, but now it’s the way to go for most people. So our package industry has really increased.”

But even with the added convenience for customers, the increase in online shopping has put a lot more on their plates of shipping company employees during the holiday season.

“UPS doesn’t have enough cars, and there are not enough people right now,” Holverson said. “I’ve heard of centers so behind that they’re making people work six or seven days a week, depending on where they’re at and how bad it is.”

Holverson added that the Idaho Falls UPS location had to add three mobile shipping containers in order to help store the packages it was receiving.

“Our center has gotten so much volume that there aren’t enough places to even park trucks,” he said.

The Postal Service added approximately 300 new employees in the Salt Lake District, covering eastern Idaho and Utah, to assist with the added load workload.

“Our employees do work longer hours, so you might see someone delivering packages earlier in the morning than you normally see,” Putnam said. “And during the evening, when it’s dark out, our letter carriers are still out delivering parcels and mail.”

And with the future of online shopping looking bright, the need for those in the carrier industry is not looking to dim.

“People are starting to shop online all the time,” Holverson said. “You can tell that there’s something going on.”

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Information from: Post Register, http://www.postregister.com


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