FedEx brought in nearly all of its 185 employees at its Linthicum station early Monday to handle the crush of packages needing delivery around Baltimore on what was expected to be the parcel service's busiest day of the year.
"We started earlier just because of the expected volume," said Sam Stepanovich, a FedEx senior manager in Linthicum. "We have an all-hands-on-deck approach."
The station near BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport was on track to deliver more than 12,000 packages, up from a typical daily volume of 8,500, Stepanovich said. The hub handles pickups and deliveries in Baltimore and Baltimore County and parts of Anne Arundel and Howard counties.
Both FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service expected shipments to peak Monday because of online holiday sales, while rival UPS is looking for record-breaking business the Monday before Christmas.
Monday was expected to be the busiest day in company history for FedEx Corp., which moved an estimated 22.6 million shipments globally. The company projects a nearly 9 percent jump in business compared with last year between Black Friday and Christmas Eve, with 290 million shipments.
The Postal Service expected its busiest mailing day of the year as well on Monday, processing more than 640 million cards, letters and packages, a 5 percent increase over last year's busiest day. Thursday is expected to be its busiest package delivery day.
Monday's peak had a lot to do with a push by online retailers touting special deals and next-day shipping, Stepanovich said.
"The online business really is driving these records," he said.
At UPS, where more than 450 temporary workers were hired in Baltimore during the holiday season, the peak day is expected to be Dec. 22. Some 34 million packages are predicted to be delivered.
For the month, volume is expected to climb 11 percent to a global record of more than 585 million packages, the shipping company said. UPS expects to surpass last year's single-day delivery record of 31 million packages on six days this year.
To handle demand, the company said it expanded capacity through 47 new and expanded facilities and by adding sorting shifts in hubs and delivery centers.
"Major retailers have chosen UPS to deliver strong e-commerce growth during 2014, as consumer acceptance for online purchases continues to grow steadily," said Alan Gershenhorn, UPS executive vice president and chief commercial officer, in a statement.
Last year, a surge in last-minute online buying overwhelmed retailers and carriers and caused delivery delays for more than 2 million consumers.
Despite such problems, 43 percent of consumers in a survey released Monday "completely trust" that parcel carriers and e-commerce companies will deliver gifts on time this year. The survey by RetailMeNot found that 90 percent of Americans have shopped online this holiday season, and 41 percent of consumers would not pay for guaranteed shipping on inexpensive last-minute items.
"We were watching this closely last year and ... expected this year consumers would be very concerned and proceed with caution," said Trae Bodge, senior lifestyle editor for RetailMeNot. "I'm surprised to see so many people still not done with holiday shopping because of this issue and … trusting that their packages will arrive on time."
Carriers this year appear to be better prepared, taking steps such as boosting seasonal hiring, she said.
"And a number of retailers are again pushing for consumers to order last minute," or as late as Dec. 22, she said. "The retailers are putting trust in the shipping companies as well."
The postal service plans to deliver seven days a week in some cities and high volume areas, including on Christmas. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, the postal service expects to deliver 12.7 billion cards, letters and packages.
Consumers should send cards, packages and letters no later than Dec. 20 to ensure delivery by Christmas, the postal service said. Dec. 23 is the deadline to send packages using Priority Mail Express.