Delivery companies are facing two heavy lifts at once this year: unprecedented demand for holiday shipping + complex logistics for coronavirus vaccine distribution, transportation correspondent Joann Muller writes from Detroit.

  • FedEx’s regional president of the Americas, Richard W. Smith, tells Axios via email that delivering the vaccine is “among the most important work in the history of our company.”

So far, on-time deliveries are running well ahead of last year’s snowy holiday season, per ShipMatrix.

  • For the two weeks of Nov. 22 through Dec. 5, including Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, UPS achieved 96% on-time delivery, FedEx was at 95% and the Postal Service was at roughly 93%.
  • UPS imposed shipping limits on big retailers like Macy’s and Gap to prevent them from overloading the network.

What’s next: It all gets more complicated as soon as vaccines are ready for shipping. Through Operation Warp Speed, UPS is providing logistics support for eight of the 10 leading vaccines currently in clinical trials.

  • UPS added new technology like proprietary sensor tags that track and monitor the status — including temperature — of every package in its network.

UPS will deliver vaccines in the eastern half of the U.S. and FedEx will handle the West.

  • UPS created a vast “freezer farm” for -80°C storage at its logistics hub in Louisville, where it will also produce more than 24,000 pounds of dry ice per day.
  • Each day, UPS will deliver a 40-pound box of dry ice to all Pfizer dosing sites that lack their own freezer capacity.