Be Prepared for Holiday Transportation Delays

Leigh Joseph, alphabroder’s Director of Strategic Accounts, shared an update on transportation and shipping  conditions that may have a direct impact on Universal Unilink members ordering from alphabroder / Primeline as well as other suppliers. Now is a good time to educate and inform your customers as you plan 4th quater projects.

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Transportation

Although carriers have remained operational during the pandemic, excessive volume caused by an unprecedented spike in online shopping coupled with the implementation of health and safety guidelines to protect workers, have made it a challenge for carriers to keep pace and maintain delivery commitments.

While carriers have done their best to meet these challenges and minimize the disruption to supply chains, as the pandemic has continued, so too has the probability that shipments will experience delays.

The probability for shipment delays will remain for as long as the pandemic does, and will only get worse during the quickly approaching holiday shopping season. Extreme weather events such as wildfires, hurricanes, and the winter weather season will only make matters worse.

Below is how the pandemic is impacting the different modes of transportation that our shipments typically travel through:

Small Parcel

  • Since the start of the pandemic, small parcel carriers like UPS and FedEx have experienced record volumes surpassing what they normally would see during the holiday shopping season in November and December.
  • The carriers are handling these record volumes while implementing health and safety guidelines that limit the speed at which they can process packages. As an example, due to social distancing guidelines, only one employee at a time can load or unload a truck, a task that was previously completed by several employees at a time.
  • Small parcel carriers are advising shippers to expect at least a one day delay on the delivery of packages.


  • Many LTL carriers expected to see a sharp decline in volumes during the pandemic, but most have seen the opposite. Some carriers are handling over 20,000 shipments more per day now than pre-COVID.
  • Like small parcel carriers, the LTL carriers are handling this increased volume while implementing health and safety guidelines that limit the speed at which they can process shipments. As employees have become infected with the virus, carriers have been forced to shut down terminals to conduct a deep cleaning sanitization process.
  • It is now becoming the norm for shipments to experience a one to three day delay, with some shipments taking as much as an additional week to deliver if it must travel through a terminal that was forced to close for cleaning or has a backlog of volume. Some carriers are no longer accepting guaranteed shipments due to these backlogs.


  • The truckload industry, already struggling due to a shortage of drivers, has seen an increasing tightening of capacity as the pandemic has continued. As volume has increased, carriers have focused on restocking essential supply chains, such as grocery stores and supermarkets, and delivering PPE and essential medical supplies to hospitals and front line workers.
  • In some areas of the country, an estimated 35% of truckload shipments cannot be picked up each day due to the excessive volume and driver shortage. In CA, it is estimated that there is currently only one driver for every 73 shipments that are available for pickup.
  • With more shipments than drivers, pickup and delivery delays are to be expected and freight costs will continue to increase.

While the pandemic continues, it is extremely difficult to promise or guarantee a specific delivery date for any order, and the transit times listed in FDM4 should be viewed as a best case scenario, not a certainty. If an order requires a specific delivery date, please contact the Traffic Team before shipment to see if there are any options available to meet the deadline.