How Overnight Shipping Works

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of logistics that happens every single night. It may not be cheap, but you can get a package
shipped from Miami, Florida on a Monday night to Anchorage, Alaska, by 8:30 AM on
Tuesday. In fact, you can even ship a package, for
example, from Edinburgh, Scotland on a Tuesday and have the package arrive in Anchorage,
Alaska by 9am on Wednesday. The speed and efficiency of these worldwide
delivery networks is mind-blowing and it all happens while we sleep. The three major consumer courier companies
are FedEx, DHL, and UPS and each is as impressive as the last. FedEx has more planes than Emirates, Etihad,
and Qatar Airways combined; DHL delivers to every country in
the world including North Korea; and UPS flies to
more than double as many destinations as the largest passenger airline. Each has a global
network that allows for lightning fast shipping at relatively low prices. Behind all this speed are
enormous air networks that connect the entire world daily. Each of these three operates hundreds
of flights nightly, but FedEx is the best example since their operations make them the
largest cargo airline in the world. They have 650 planes flying to 400 destinations
carrying 6 million packages every single day and the vast majority
of these flights operate to or from one of their
hub airports. FedEx’s hub airports are spread out all
across the world and serve as sorting points where
packages are transferred from one plane to another. They has hubs in Singapore, Guangzhou,
Shanghai, Seoul, Osaka, Anchorage, Oakland, Dallas, Indianapolis, Greensboro, Miami, Newark,
Toronto, Paris, Cologne, Milan, and Dubai, but the most important hub of all is the one
in Memphis, Tennessee because that’s their
SuperHub. Memphis is not a huge city—only about 650,000
people live there—but the reason FedEx centers their worldwide operations in this
city is because of it’s location. Memphis is not actually
in the geographic center of the US as might make sense, but it is central. You see, only about 200
miles away in Wright County, Missouri is the mean population center of the US. This is the
average location of every resident in the US meaning that the FedEx SuperHub in Memphis
is the best location to reach the most people
in the shortest amount of time. For similar reasons,
UPS has their equivalent global hub, Worldport, nearby in Louisville, Kentucky. The scale of
FedEx and UPS’ operations in these relatively small cities is staggering. This is the size of the
commercial terminal at Memphis Airport while this is the size of FedEx’s Superhub. The
difference at Louisville airport is even more pronounced where this is the commercial terminal
and this is UPS’ worldport. You can’t even fly to the west coast non-stop
on a commercial airline from Louisville and yet UPS flies from this
small city to five different continents. FedEx’s
operations in Memphis, meanwhile, make this airport the second busiest cargo airport in
the world above those of enormous cities like
Tokyo, Paris, Dubai, Shanghai, and falling short only
to Hong Kong. How the FedEx superhub really works is that
every night, about 150 planes fly in from all
around the world between the hours of 10pm and 1am. Immediately upon arrival, the planes are
unloaded and their packages are put into the hub’s automated sorting system. Within only 15
minutes, each package arrives at a staging area for its next flight where it’s loaded
into containers. Planes therefore can start taking off again
at 2am and continue to until 4am which means that everywhere in the US can have a
FedEx plane arriving by 6am, but there are some
destinations that don’t ship enough packages to need a non-stop flight to Memphis. To get to
small towns fast, FedEx runs flights in small propeller aircraft from the destinations of
their larger jets. Presque Isle, Maine, for example, is far too
small of a town at about 10,000 residents to fill a full-size plane so, every morning,
once the larger planes from Memphis arrive in
Manchester, New Hampshire and Portland, Maine, packages bound for Presque Isle are sorted
into smaller prop planes that continue north. With this system, even small towns like Presque
Isle get their packages by 9am as every spoke in
the system essentially functions as a mini-hub. Packages are transferred from planes, to smaller
planes, to trucks to reach their destination as fast
as possible. Now, it’s important to note that not every
FedEx package runs through Memphis. That
would be incredibly inefficient if a customer wanted to, for example, ship a package from
Phoenix, Arizona to Seattle, Washington. While only 1,100 miles separate Seattle from
Phoenix, a routing through Memphis would total over
3,000 miles and six hours in flight. The package
would still make it overnight, but FedEx would be wasting fuel carrying that package an extra
1,900 miles, so that’s why they have secondary hubs. In this case, FedEx’s Oakland hub has
flights to both Phoenix and Seattle so the package would take a relatively efficient
1,300 mile routing. Memphis essentially serves as the backup hub
in case there’s not a more efficient routing. The secondary hubs, such as Oakland, in general
have flights to destinations that are already served by flights to Memphis, but
the destinations from Oakland are high demand destinations that will ship enough packages
solely to the west coast to fill entire planes to
Oakland. Some destinations, such as Albuquerque, New
Mexico, ship enough packages to fill entire planes to Memphis, but not enough to
fill flights to Oakland with west coast bound packages so a package shipped from here to
the west coast would likely take a rather inefficient
routing backtracking to Memphis. But FedEx’s most ingenious hub is here in
Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage, with fewer
than 300,000 residents, is home to the forth busiest cargo airport in the world. This is, once
again, thanks to geography. If you draw a straight line from FedEx’s
Memphis hub to the one in Osaka, taking into account earth’s curvature,
it goes directly over Anchorage, Alaska. This
airport is just the perfect stop-over point for flights from the US to Asia. Now, dozens of cargo
airlines operate in Anchorage but most of them just use the airport as a refueling and
crew swap spot. Modern airplanes can fly non-stop from the
contiguous United States to Asia, but doing so
requires taking more fuel which requires taking less cargo. It’s just cheaper to stop in Anchorage,
but FedEx and UPS use the stop for something else—sorting. If FedEx wanted to maintain
current shipping times without the Anchorage hub, they would likely have to run non-stop
flights from each of their Asian hubs to each of their
American hubs, but they just don’t have the
demand to fill this many planes. Instead, they run flights from their Asian
hubs to Anchorage then flights from Anchorage many of their
American hubs. While stopped in Anchorage,
packages from Asia are processed through customs and sorted to be put on the plane bound
closest to their destination. This helps cuts down on shipping time and
cost. Shipping is an incredibly price-sensitive
business. These courier companies rely on
enormous contracts with retailers and, when some of these retailers are shipping millions
of packages per day, every cent matters. In a lot of ways, however, the express shipping
model is inherently expensive largely because of how
couriers use their most expensive assets—planes. So much is centered around those few sorting
hours at the big hubs so FedEx’s planes all have to
wait around to arrive at the exact right moment. Some FedEx hubs, such as Memphis, do sort
packages during the day, but the overwhelming majority of their business happens overnight. FedEx’s flight from Memphis to Oklahoma
City, for example, leaves at 4am and arrives at
5:20am, but then the plane waits around until 10:10pm to fly back to Memphis. That’s over 17
hours sitting in Oklahoma City and, on that route, the plane is only flying for about
two hours per day. Meanwhile, commercial airlines regularly fly
their planes for more than 12 hours per day meaning they have six times higher aircraft
utilization. FedEx would never be profitable if they
bought all new multi-hundred million dollar aircraft to use for mere hours per day, so
they don’t. Overwhelmingly, FedEx and other cargo airlines
use old aircraft at the end of their lives. You’ll
almost never see Airbus a300’s flying for passenger airlines anymore, yet FedEx, UPS,
and DHL collectively own hundreds of them because
they’re cheap. They didn’t spend much purchasing
these aircraft, so they don’t have to worry about using them enough to offset their cost. UPS does
have some brand new 747-800 aircraft, which are highly efficient, but they specifically
schedule these planes on their longest routes so that
they can recuperate their high purchase price through
lower fuel costs. With older aircraft, fuel costs might be higher
since the planes are less efficient, but overall it’s worth it since it allows
FedEx to profitably leave their planes sitting for all but a
few hours each day. Some passenger airlines, such as Allegiant
Airlines in the US, uses the same strategy purchasing cheaper planes to allow
them to fly fewer hours per day profitably and its
now a tested and proven business strategy. Express shipping is one of those businesses
that requires enormous networks to make work which is why you don’t see small shipping
companies. It’s almost impossible to get started
in this business unless, of course, you can make your own demand. Amazon, which ships more
than a million packages per day, is getting into the delivery business. They’ve established a fleet
of 32 aircraft and are building out their logistics network. When shipping so many packages,
Amazon is operating at a scale where they can profit by taking the shipping companies
out of the equation. FedEx, UPS, and DHL, meanwhile, are continuously
focusing on further increasing the efficiency of their networks since in this
business more than any, time is money. As you may have noticed, Wendover Productions
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100 thoughts on “How Overnight Shipping Works

  1. Hey I hope you enjoy this new video (and the new logo!) As always, this video wouldn't exist without Squarespace's support so make sure to check them out!

  2. Great video but there is a incorrect fact or two. The FedEx and UPS fleets are not that old. In fact, the only airplanes in the UPS fleet that were used and not new build for UPS are a handful of 747-400BCF’s and MD11’s. The 757, 767 and A300 fleets are completely new build deliveries at UPS. The same can be said of the FedEx 767, A300, A310 and 777 fleet as well as half of the MD11 fleet. The only fleets that were delivered completely second hand are the 757 and MD10 fleets at FedEx. In the early years you would be correct however. Since 2004 both carriers have spent the bulk of their acquisition dollars on new build delivery from Boeing mainly.

  3. Most people don't notice but there's a white arrow in the FedEx Logo; once you notice it you can't unsee it.

    Don't see it?

    It's in-between the e and x.

  4. Solid video. I found one major flaw at around 6:12 when you mention "earths curvature" which is completely false cause the earth is flat. #goTTuM

  5. I dont get it, Countrys can ship packages within anohter fucing continent and be at your doorstep in less then 48 hours..
    Meanwhile France it takes 4-5 FUKCING days for your package to arrive in a domestic order…

  6. Because of its use as a Fedex hub, Memphis airport was able to accommodate the volume of flights that were forced to land on 9/11 after American airspace was shut down.

  7. So, Prime Air doesn't have very many planes. Yay, they use one on Sacramento International Airport to ship packages to all 2.7m of us

  8. This was informative about hubs and their importance, but I thought it would be more well-rounded and go into detail following a package from beginning to end with information on sorting and ground delivery.

  9. A small detail you might be interested in also : In Anchorage Alaska the most common causes of death are cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including lung cancer, due to air pollution.

  10. meanwhile in Brazil the correios delays my package bought in the same state taking around one week to delivery or even more

  11. I don't think UPS is very impressive at all. Literally every single package I've had shipped with them that had overnight shipping took at least 2 or more business days to arrive. Every… single… one. Then they don't even give an explanation as to why they were late nor offer you a refund for your shipping. There was even one particular time where I ordered a computer part that I really needed, and I chose overnight shipping. (I also placed my order in the morning, not at night the previous day.) Anyway, the nearest UPS hub to me is about an hour away, so I sat home waiting all day for this package to arrive, checking the truck location, etc, and the UPS truck got within .5 miles of my house before saying that there were severe weather conditions and turning around. The part that really annoys me is that there were no severe weather conditions; we had maybe 2mm of snow on the ground that day, with no ice, it wasn't currently snowing, and even USPS and FedEx were able to deliver, so why not UPS? It also didn't seem like it was a problem with the truck because they drove that thing all the way back to the hub, which is an hour away, like I said. Actually, while they were still .5 miles away, I tried to call UPS support to see if they could get in contact with the driver so I could drive down the road and pick up my package, but all she said to me was that there were severe weather conditions at hand and they couldn't get in contact with the driver. (Really? As if I couldn't read that exact same thing on my screen; that was literally the whole reason I called. Also, how can a huge shipping company not be able to contact their drivers?) I think it all just happened to be laziness. The driver probably got tired of delivering, even though it is his job, and just turned around. But the fact that I paid extra for a service that wasn't even delivered, with no compensation whatsoever, is just bad for business in my book. Now I use UPS as little as possible after this and many similar occurrences happened.

  12. I'm a trucker. When I delivered a trailer at ups in memphis at 4 am near the airport, there were people there working just like daytime, it was extremely busy, people constantly moving around, I have 10 seconds to dock otherwise I'm holding up traffic.

  13. I live in anchorage… No wonder every 3 minutes there is a 747 flying overhead…… (Anchorage doesn't have commercial 747 flights)

  14. Hate to break it to you buddy but I live in Anchorage Alaska and I have NEVER gotten anything I ordered "over night" Amazon prime gets it here in 7 days if I'm lucky. USPS Express mail is 2 days and is crazy expensive

  15. I always ride by the usps and fedex in Oakland. Literally minutes away. Tracking says out for delivery. Arrival for 6:00pm but it is only 9:00am 💀

  16. "The most important one of all, is the one in Memphis"

    Ayyy, shoutouts from the 901

    Edit: In the Memphis city overview, I can actually see my street lmao

  17. Worked at the Memphis Hub for awhile.. I worked specifically in Heavy Weight, anything over 150 lbs was handled in my area, the size of 4 football fields, ran by over 2000 forklifts. The Memphis world hub is absolutely mind blowing. Planes come in every less 2 minutes on a normal day, spread throughout the sky by 3 miles and run like clockwork. It's amazing to see

  18. I'd like to explain how overnight, or actually anything, DOESN'T WORK in own circumstances. Thanks for fucking nothing, FEDEX.

    This is….now: I ordered an item via ebay; due Monday via FedEx. Which after three days of tracking, magically morphed from Monday….sometime, to Tuesday…sometime. Why is this an issue?

    It's a long contorted story, but here goes: Because somehow, my 44-unit apt. bldg., built in 1959, and 100% residential is usage, no commercial use….was redlined by FedEx as being "commercial or industrial use", and I couldn't reroute the package. My address….didn't qualify for the service. The RESIDENTIAL address I've had for more than 22 years.

    So then I go to the FedEx Office/Shipping Center, two blocks away. Despite having multiple forms of ID, my tracking#, proof of purchase, ETC- the staff there wouldn't allow me- nor were they allowed to- re-route the incoming package to THEIR address, for mke to pick up later.

    Why is this important? Because my building has an intercom system on the exterior, hardwired to LANDline telephones. Which works great if you have a landline. And I haven't for more than ten years. Like most folks.

    So the driver, upon delivery, has no way to alert/buzz, contact me. Even with an exterior note to a driver….they WILL NOT even attempt to call the provided phone number for you to scamper down and pick it up. Fucking nope… get a stickie announcing how they used their ass and tried to deliver it.

    Excuse the snark….but now I have to waste all fucking day on Tuesday bird-dogging a FedEx truck for a delivery, that will happen "something that day". Oh- this isn't in my cushy unit- this is on the street.

    Even fucking Comcast gives you a better idea as to when they're going to deliver, the window. And even a pizza place has more integrity as to actually delivering.

    Now all the shit I rearranged last Friday, for this Monday's stakeout- has now been cancelled and pushed to the following day, Tuesday. Thanks FedEx, you've been fucking swell to work with!

    FedEx= It's like living in a Third Word country dealing with them. Meanwhile, the Post Office?; they deliver to my Apt FRONT door. I even get a knock.

    The bigger knock should be on all the other services who don't make an effort. Here's a concept: REQUIRE a receiver's Phone#, just like a fucking delivery address is required. Duh. Then upon delivery NOTIFY the recipients. Because see, that info is already embedded by the shipper for use by the driver. Just like an address is! Double duh.

    Fuck, peeps….this is 101 stuff.

  19. Worked for FedEx. Actually, the Memphis Hub is called the World Hub, but does actually have the Super Hub in it like the video mentioned…and a Mega Hub…and an Ultra Hub…and an Auto Hub…and an Old Hub…and a Green Hub…and mini restaurants like Subways…and a gas station…and shuttle buses to get around inside because just that one hub is that huge…no joke. And we shipped everything. Animals, human remains, a crap ton of computers and gaming monitors, gold and silver, celebrity's stuff, (saw John Legend's tour equipment, so I knew about the tour a week before it was announced) one of the Super Bowl trophies once, some pandas once, but mostly it's other corps using FedEx's logistics to get stuff to their customers, like Dell, or Volvo, or the US postal service.

  20. Speed and efficiency?!
    How do you mess up an overnight delivery from Arkadelphia, Arkansas to Texarkana, Arkansas? Somehow they managed to and one day later it still sits in Monroe, Louisiana. And don't get me started on their customer service…..
    Speed and efficiency????
    Try again…

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