December is by far the busiest time of year for the US Postal Service, with an estimated 2.3 billion pieces of mail, including greeting cards and packages, being processed and delivered last week alone.
Fox took an inside look at a USPS processing and distribution hub in Dulles, Virginia, as Americans rush to get last-minute gifts in the mail.
"Giddy-up and go, buddy. We’re running, we’re running, we’re moving. It’s constant motion," said Amos Hewitt a mail handler at the Dulles facility.
USPS says they process and deliver more packages to homes than any other shipper during the holidays. Hewitt says the rush doesn't end at the holidays, because lots of people buy and return items after the new year.
"So we’re still busy in January, February as well as March," Hewitt said.
The Dulles hub is one of the Postal Service’s larger facilities in the nation. It usually handles about 100,000 packages a day, but during the holidays that increases by about 30 percent.
"We do all the regular Christmas cards and letters and bills and all that stuff keep moving, your first class mail. But the big surge this time of year really is the packages," said USPS spokesperson Steve Doherty.
The company says 2020’s holidays season was bumpy, as Covid caused online shopping to become even more essential, causing an unprecedented spike in shipments.
USPS spent this year upgrading mail sorting machines nationwide, allowing them to process mail up to 12 times faster this holiday season.
"With the new machines in, 112 around the country, we’ve actually increased our capacity by about 13 million pieces per day that we can process," Doherty said.
The company also recently expanded its ground and air shipping capacity compared to last holiday season. But USPS says it’s feeling the effects of the nationwide truck driver shortage.
"As a company that drives 47,000 trucks per day, we are impacted by the current driver shortage. However, we've been expecting this shortage and put plans in place early this year to adapt," Doherty said.
USPS says it’s adapting by adding 1.6 million square feet and over 300 dock doors to their Surface Transfer Center network, as well as expanding their air capacity compared to last holiday season.
The company says no shipping delays are expected for people shipping items in the last few days leading up to Christmas.
"At this point, we’re down to the crunch. So for the procrastinators, it might end up costing you a little more," Doherty said.
It might cost a little more because, at this point, the only shipping option you have left is Priority Express Mail shipping if you want something to arrive before Christmas. USPS’s deadline is December 23 if you want something to arrive before Christmas.