FedEx has warned that rising cases of Omicron have led to staff shortages and delays in shipments transported via aircraft. The freight and parcel carrier said that staffing problems due to rising infections among ground personnel in its air network and pilots are behind the slower deliveries.
Making matters worse are the severe winter storms that have been striking around the nation, including one at its main air hub situated in Memphis, where snow and ice have been impacting operations. The company is making some adjustments and implementing contingency plans in hopes of keeping disruptions down. One way they are trying to minimize delays is by diverting shipments to their heavy truck network.
On January 10, FedEx was set to resume pick-ups for its International Priority Freight service, which had been paused, while International Economy Freight and Deferred and Premium Domestic FedEx Express Freight pick-up was scheduled to resume on January 13.
Although the pandemic has led to a rise in online shopping that has boosted shipment volumes for FedEx, it is straining its logistics networks and spurring delays that are only being exacerbated by employees contracting Omicron and weather-related delays.
The situation is slightly better at rival UPS, who reports that employees being unable to work due to Omicron are not affecting their services and that they have contingency plans in place. However, like FedEx, they have been impacted by recent weather events, with a UPS spokesperson identifying events in Philadelphia and Louisville as leading to some delivery delays.
Several passenger and cargo airlines have been forced to cancel flights so pilots and crew can quarantine. For example, Cathay Pacific has suspended most of its cargo flights for a week and will only be operating at roughly 20 percent of its pre-pandemic levels during the first quarter thanks to strict quarantine provisions in Hong Kong.
Postal service asks for relief from vaccine mandate due to inadequate staffing
Meanwhile, the U.S. Postal Service, which is one of the country’s biggest civilian employers, has asked for temporary relief for its 650,000 employees from Biden’s controversial vaccine mandate affecting large businesses as they struggle to deal with inadequate staffing and other issues.
Deputy Postmaster Doug Tulino sent a letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) asking to delay the deadline for the USPS to comply with the vaccine mandate by 120 days. The postal service cannot meet the current deadlines and is dealing with time-consuming legal requirements related to using and collecting medical information as well as collective bargaining requirements.
The postal service is also experiencing staffing shortages and said it will be necessary to train “tens of thousands of local supervisors and managers” to monitor employee compliance with the mandate. They would like to continue operating under their current COVID-19 mitigation policies in the meantime.
The letter stated: “We respectfully suggest that the nation cannot afford the additional potential substantial harm that would be engendered if the ability of the Postal Service to deliver mail and packages is significantly negatively impacted.”
Port backlogs persist
Cargo delays continue to affect shippers, with top container shipping firm AP Moller-Maersk warning customers that it is still struggling to get goods moved around the world. The problem is being blamed on shortages of container ships, logjams at ports, and very high consumer spending, all of which have led to hundreds of container vessels being forced to idle outside of ports.
The situation is particularly bad at the port of Long Beach, California, where Maersk reports its biggest waiting times for picking up cargo and discharging container vessels are between 38 and 45 days. However, the situation is easing somewhat in Northern Europe. The Belgian port of Antwerp, for example, is reducing its wait this week to around two days after experiencing a wait of 10 days last week.
Unfortunately, as long as senseless vaccine mandates continue to keep people out of the workforce, supply chain disruptions and delays are unlikely to ease any time soon.
Sources for this article include: