Deeper dive into UPS shipping delays brought on by COVID-19

Coronavirus gave shippers such as UPS zero time to ramp up for the package tsunami that has led to major delivery delays. Now the company is swimming against the tide. 

At the UPS customer service center near Oakland Airport, lines have become common as people try to track or retrieve tardy packages.

Customer Maya Palmer and her mom waited on Tuesday to pick-up a replacement package after UPS apparently lost the original one weeks ago. But Palmer soon learned that her replacement package had also been delayed. 

"UPS has not delivered my package and it been more than a week and it's been at this facility and it was at this facility the whole time," Palmer said. 

Her mom was not pleased. "This is telling me to make sure before I order, who's going to deliver it because I do not want to go through this again," said Deborah Hubbard. 

"If they're overwhelmed, they should be honest with their shippers," Palmer said. 

A union rep showed up to apologize on behalf of his blameless members. 

"They have not had anybody out there to walk around to explain to the customers the reasons for delays. There have been several calls to the Oakland Police Department to come out here to squash things and get them under control down," said Marty Frates, secretary and treasurer for Teamsters Union Local 70.

UPS told investors that by the end of March, home deliveries rose to 70% of its total shipments, compared to 54% in 2019.

Experts say UPS and other shippers make a lot more profit on business to business deliveries with higher volumes going fewer miles to fewer stops. But with a lot more home deliveries UPS trucks travel 10 percent more miles and 15% more stops.

In fairness, to understand the scale of this, according to Adobe Analytics, April and May online sales were 7% higher than Christmas sales in November and December. 

Year over year, online sales for the month of May were more than $82 billion, almost 80% more than May 2019. 

"What the company has done, in violation of the contract, they have hired personal vehicle drivers. Those are people with no UPS ID, no nothing, in their personal vehicles, delivering packages to peoples' homes at night," Frates said. 

The shipping company makes 11 billion shipments a year. Independent analysts said its May on-time delivery rate was 95%. Still, almost 50 million UPS packages were late in May and UPS performed better than FedEx.