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Last-minute shipping woes not a problem this year

Thousands of holiday packages delivered late last year; this year, a day ahead

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Last-minute shoppers might have found themselves in line at the U.S. Postal Service Wednesday, attempting to get Christmas gifts out the door and under a tree.

Last year, FedEx and UPS under-estimated the amount of last-minute online shoppers, and because of bad weather, thousands of gifts didn't get delivered in time for Christmas.

This year, workers at a local FedEx shipping center said FedEx and UPS are a day ahead of schedule. But that could be thanks in part to the U.S. Postal Service.

"FedEx ground has done a great job this year," said Beth Fine, who works at a FedEx shipping center in St. Augustine. "We've just run our numbers -- we track all our packages here and we just ran our report, and in a lot of instances FedEx ground has gotten there one day earlier than their advertised guarantee."

Last year, last-minute online shoppers and bad weather threw UPS and FedEx for a loop.

"UPS did have a burden last year, all those packages, and online shopping, it's a variable," Fine said. "They don't know how many packages are going to enter the system. It's all based on the economy. They were bundled with stuff."

This year, UPS hired twice the number of seasonal workers and spent half a billion dollars on infrastructure to make sure the estimated 34 million packages move smoothly.

FedEx has a 15-person meteorological team keeping an eye on bad weather so it can respond to closed shipping routes before the snow even falls.

"They hire experienced drivers, so they're aware of the conditions, and so they're going to make the best effort to get those packages out," Fine said. "And they'll be delivering until at least 8 o'clock this evening if not later if they can."

Fine said another burden taken off the backs of UPS and FedEx -- the U.S. Postal Service is now shipping Amazon Prime.

Fine said the best advice she can give: Call UPS or FedEx and have your tracking number handy so they can tell you if your package is out for delivery or in transit. And remember the USPS will be delivering Priority Express Mail on Christmas Day.