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SHERIDAN — The weeks before Christmas are prime time for parcel carriers in Sheridan, who focus on the logistical side of holiday celebrations. While many business operations tend to move forward at a slower-than-normal pace, the workers of the shipping industry kick into high gear.
While technological advances are drastically reducing nationwide demand for old-fashioned letter carrying, email can’t replace the function of merchandise delivery to stores and gift delivery to people.
Spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service David Rupert said postal workers anticipate the seasonal influx, and when it arrives, they’re mentally prepared.
“It’s obviously our time to shine,” Rupert said. “It’s an opportunity where a lot of people turn to us, and we embrace it.”
Rupert said mail carriers tackle the extra workload without additional help, which sometimes results in extra time on the job.
USPS Letter Carrier Ardale O’Connell has delivered mail more than 20 years in Sheridan. While he’s worked several routes over time, his current daily course starts at 606 S. Thurmond St. and covers 640 stops in the area around Meadowlark Elementary School.
“This is an extra fun time to do what I do,” O’Connell said, indicating that in addition to his increased workload, he is sometimes presented with unique seasonal situations.
Aside from bundling up in extra layers and strapping chains on the tires of his mail truck, O’Connell sports a blue santa hat with the USPS logo with a row of lights as a headband. He said the extra equipment is a tangible reminder of the reason for the extra workload.
“People really depend on you to bring the mail safely. I feel like a responsible person in the neighborhood,” he said. “And, kids get really excited when they see you bringing a package.”
Rupert said the USPS averages 14.7 billion pieces of mail nationwide. The peak delivery day is Dec. 16, when they’re expecting to distribute 585 million items.
Last week, the Sheridan Post Office delivered about 2,000 parcels a day, a number that’s triple the normal amount. Initial estimates for this week were that Sheridan’s Post Office could move as many as 3,000 items of mail. Monday’s deliveries entailed 42,000 pieces of mail, and 750 of those were boxes.
Sheridan UPS Store Manager Nickole Schlauch said her staff is also on overdrive to take care of two missions.
“What keeps us busy is the pack and ship guarantee,” Schlauch said. “So, not only the shipping, but the packing as well.”
Schlauch said she’s routinely charged with packing oddly shaped items for safe arrival.
“People who don’t ship often ship over the holidays,” she explained.
“We get a variety of things — a wreath, a wood sculpture, an antler lamp — it’s very diverse,” Schlauch said, adding that insulating odd-shaped items often entails a plethora of bubble wrap, styrofoam wedges and peanuts.
Like the delivery personnel, Schlauch said she notices a distinct optimism in the senders.
“They’re really joyous about it,” she said. “They come in in a good mood.”
UPS Spokesperson Jennifer Scrace said there are 14 delivery trucks in the area, an increase from the usual 10. In addition to extra drivers employed to handle the workload, they’ve hired seven driver helpers to expedite the distribution process.
Scrace said daily parcel shipments have doubled.
“They generally have 2,000 packages go through the facility,” she said. “That has more than doubled. They’re moving more than 4,000 now.”
Scrace said UPS estimates its busiest day nationally will be Tuesday, Dec. 17, when the company will deliver 29 million packages.
“That would be like delivering 300 packages every second,” Scrace said, indicating the number represents a 5.5 percent increase from last year.
Federal Express shipments are also up from last year, by 11 percent, but their peak delivery day has already come and gone. Dec. 2, which is also Cyber Monday, was the busiest day in the 40-year history of the company.
A press release from FedEx attributes the early influx of business to the growing power of eCommerce.
Domestic shipments can usually reach their destinations by Christmas Eve if they’re shipped by Dec. 19. Items shipped later can still make it if given a priority designation.
While the post office and UPS will be conducting deliveries Christmas Eve, both entities will be closed Christmas Day. Federal Express will be delivering on the holiday.