What Causes Shipping Slowdowns Around the Holidays?


The holiday season causes people to order more items than usual online, increasing the volume of packages that shipping companies like UPS and FedEx have to carry. This can cause some major slowdowns around the busiest shopping season in the U.S. 

But is there more to it than just volume? Could other factors contribute to the packaging slowdown this time of year? Let’s take a closer look at the shipping industry to get to the bottom of these slowdowns.


Many shipping companies are short-staffed, especially around the holidays. The increase in volume isn’t often accompanied by an increase in pay for sorters and couriers, who instead just rely on holiday bonuses to help them shop for their own Christmas presents. This can lead to many couriers simply quitting their jobs before the holiday season is over, which compounds the increase in volume and results in longer delays. 

From the moment a package is placed on a delivery truck, it has to make it through numerous stops–and each of these compounds the time it takes to get your package in the mail. The fewer trucks running through with packages, the longer it takes to get your mail.

Supply Chain

For most items, it’s more than just a truck ride around town to get from where they start to the person that ordered them. Often, packages need to travel by plane, train, or boat before even reaching the distribution center to make it to a truck. 

Because of this, the volume of packages can compound in other weird ways. For instance, if a cargo boat becomes too full, it could be days or weeks before another one comes around to pick up extra items. If you’ve ever had an international item take weeks to arrive, it was probably due to issues at a port or with customs.

Volume Compounds

And, like with all things, there are numerous ways for volume to compound. Maybe a supply train gets too full to accept more packages. Maybe there aren’t enough porters at the dock to help move containers off of ships and onto dry land. 

It’s best to shop locally around this time of year because there’s almost no way to avoid lengthy shipping delays. At the very least, try to shop for things that can ship from nearby, to avoid things like cargo vessels. That way, you can get your presents under the tree in time for Christmas!