Fast Shipping & Tired Drivers: What to Expect This Holiday Season

Online shopping has never been more popular. From groceries to electronics and even cars, you can buy just about anything on the Internet. About 80% of Americans shop online, and that figure will only grow as the years pass. Companies are making online shopping more attractive than ever with special online-only sales, holiday events like Cyber Monday, free shipping, and hassle-free returns. You can make purchases straight from your phone, your tablet, or your computer. It’s almost too easy.

As we approach the 2022 holiday season, we can expect to see yet another increase in online shopping. Retail sales across the U.S. will soar like they always do, and online shopping is on pace to break records—yet again.

In 2021, the United States saw its first $200 billion holiday season. During “Cyber 5” alone (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday), American consumers spent $33.9 billion online. Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping day of the year, topping out at $10.69 billion in sales. These figures are particularly impressive when you consider the record shortages retailers were dealing with at the time, caused by logistical slowdowns and broken supply chains.

When the tinsel settles on 2022, it’s estimated that holiday e-commerce in the U.S. will have reached $236 billion.

Looking at these jaw-dropping figures, we can’t help but wonder: how will retailers keep up?

More importantly, how will carriers make sure everything is delivered on time?

Holiday Delivery Accidents Are Impacted By Traffic, Weather & Driver Demand

Hundreds of billions of dollars spent on online shopping has a tremendous and positive impact on the economy. But this type of sudden growth, even when it’s anticipated, is bound to bottleneck somewhere. One of these places is our nation’s roads.

Retailers and carriers like UPS, USPS, FedEx, and DHL must keep up with the demand of online holiday shopping. USPS alone accepted and delivered more than 13.2 billion pieces of mail and packages during the 2021 holiday season. It’s estimated that the 2022 holiday season will bring 15 billion USPS deliveries, with packages accounting for about 800 million. Meanwhile, UPS, FedEx, and USPS have taken measures to expand their delivery capacity to more than 110 million holiday packages each day. UPS plans to hire more than 100,000 holiday workers to keep up with demand.

With all this online shopping, the increase in holiday traffic is two-fold: there are more vehicles handling the delivery of packages to households, and there are more tractor-trailers and large commercial vehicles handling the transportation of goods between manufacturing facilities to retailers, from larger shipping facilities to smaller distribution centers, and so on. Traffic increases by more than 30% over the winter holiday season, and deliveries account for a good portion of this.

Trucking companies and carriers like FedEx and UPS are hard-pressed to hire more drivers during the holidays, even with Amazon now delivering more than two-thirds of its own orders. Amazon ships more packages than UPS and FedEx and utilizes “flex” drivers (who create their own hours and schedules) and delivery service partners (a network of independent businesses that employs drivers) to accomplish this. The company relies on these independent drivers more than ever during the holiday season.

All of this is happening while there is already a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers—and this is estimated to reach 160,000 by 2030.

Now, carriers are facing two options:

  • Hire more drivers; or
  • Encourage their existing drivers to work more hours.

Both are risky.

Hiring new drivers means they would have less experience, which is a key factor when it comes to roadway safety and operating a large vehicle.

Operating a commercial delivery vehicle is not easy. It requires a special license as well as extensive training and experience to know how to safely maneuver a truck that could weigh up to 80,000 pounds or more. It takes a competent and confident driver to make deliveries in neighborhoods they are not familiar with, deal with holiday traffic, and drive safely in snow, rain, and other inclement weather. A new driver, no matter how well-intentioned, is more likely to cause an accident sheerly because of their inexperience. According to USPS collision statistics from 2019, nearly half involved new employees.

Getting existing drivers to work longer hours puts them at risk of driving while fatigued, which can be as dangerous as driving drunk. Even seasoned truckers will be compromised if they drive too many consecutive hours without sufficient breaks. They already tend to increase their hours and drive further than ever during the holidays. When faced with tight deadlines and demanding carriers, they may be pressured to push themselves beyond what is safe—and what is allowed according to Federal trucking regulations.

Reaction time, attention, and awareness are all affected by fatigue. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), driving after being awake for more than 20 hours is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol level of .08%: the legal limit to operate a vehicle in the United States. Drivers are three times more likely to be involved in traffic accidents if they are fatigued.

It’s That Time of Year…

The busiest time of year is upon us. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, we will all be dealing with family gatherings, work parties, vacations with loved ones, and—you guessed it—online shopping. We have to consider what impact all those holiday deliveries will have on our local roads and highways.

Driving hazards are heightened during the holidays. There are more drunk drivers on the road during the winter holiday season, and that means more fatal accidents. Driving during peak delivery season has its fair share of dangers, and being aware of these is the first step toward staying safe. We can also try to relieve stressors during the holidays by taking things off our plates that are too much to deal with. We can drink responsibly and encourage our loved ones to do the same. We can slow down in winter weather and make sure our vehicles are properly maintained. Most of all, we can drive with increased awareness of the influx of delivery trucks and the dangers they can pose.

Amid all of this, we must not forget that trucking companies carry the lion’s share of responsibility for collisions involving their vehicles and drivers—whether they are employees or independent contractors. They set the standard for safety within their organizations and must not only employ responsible hiring practices but must curate an environment where a safety-first mentality is encouraged and thrives. It’s essential if we are all to enjoy a truly wonderful holiday season.

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