Shipping companies say they’ll overcome bad weather

12/16/2013 5:35 PM

12/16/2013 6:04 PM

As a grandmother of seven, Kim Pewitt-Jones wasn’t too stressed about finding perfect gifts for her crew, ages 9 months to 14 years old. If she couldn’t find what she was looking for in stores, she shopped online.

But now, the Arlington resident is beginning to worry that the gifts for her grandkids won’t arrive in time for Christmas because of shipping delays due to bad weather.

“I’m not too stressed yet, but yeah, there could be that,” said Pewitt-Jones, a full-time journalism instructor at the University of Texas at Arlington who purchased items on Amazon and Think Geek. “Those things that I have ordered, I can’t find anywhere else. All the other stores have been out of them, and so I had to pay a little more [online].

“But that’s what the grandkids want, and dang-gummit, I’m getting it for them.”

Over the last several days, many Tarrant County residents have received apologetic emails from the world’s biggest shipping and e-commerce companies, expressing regret for delays in service. Some with Amazon Prime accounts, which promises delivery in two days, had not received packages by Monday that should have arrived last Wednesday or Thursday. And that raised worries that gifts won’t reach cross-country destinations by Christmas.

But the shipping companies said they have beefed up resources to make up for problems caused by the recent spate of ice and snow, and officials say it appears that toys and other goodies will arrive in time for the holidays.

“FedEx weathered the storm very well,’’ said Joe Stephens, managing director of operations for FedEx Express for Texas and Oklahoma. “We are back somewhat into normal operations, and the weather forecast this week is only going to prove more beneficial as we get into the 60s and 70s.”

United Parcel Service is preparing for its “peak week” by deploying tens of thousands more package cars, vans, tractors, motorcycles and alternative fuel vehicles. On Dec. 17, UPS, for example, anticipates a delivery of 300 packages a second.

While some delays continue, Susan Rosenberg, public relations director for UPS, said additional staffing was marshaled through the weekend to process trailers that had been delayed with ground shipments.

“Expanded sorts are underway this week at our hubs in Fort Worth, Dallas and Mesquite,” Rosenberg said in an email to the Star-Telegram. “We feel good about progress to complete those deliveries this week and are sensitive to frustration by consumers and businesses awaiting deliveries that were part of the backlog.”

Both UPS and FedEx depend on their own team of meteorologists to track weather conditions, including snowstorms. The comprehensive effort to analyze such data “make contingency planning much easier,’’ said UPS spokeswoman Emily Libman Phelps in an email.

Stephens, who is based at Alliance Airport in north Fort Worth, where FedEx has a hub operation, said that much of its ground transportation between Oklahoma and Texas was shifted to air cargo after the storm shut down roads and highways.

“Whenever we have events like this … we were very well-versed in recovering due to the simple fact that we have experience with it around the world,” Stephens said.

Packages are scanned as trailers are processed, so new information appears on when individual packages are tracked. That is still the best location for updates, said Rosenberg.

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