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Logistics ensures Santa isn’t late

Craig Thompson

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that Federal Express soon would be there

How many of us have had to answer the question, “How does Santa do all of that in one night?” This will be the first Christmas that my 9-year-old son Joe will not be pondering that mind-blowing question as he tries to get himself to fall asleep on Dec 24. There is undoubtedly something a bit sad as you watch the wheels turn while your son processes this revelation.

There is something magical, however, when you think about the sheer volume and impact that our tradition of gift giving has on people’s lives … and not only on those giving and receiving. Thousands of people will be drawing paychecks while working to ensure that St. Nicholas soon will be there. And while it may not occur all in one night, there certainly is a tremendous amount that needs to occur in a very short window of time.

This holiday season will be no different. It is all hands on deck for Santa’s little helpers. FedEx predicted Cyber Monday would be the busiest day in its shipping history.

In fact, between UPS and FedEx expected to pick up more than 50 million packages picked up on Cyber Monday and more than 70,000 people hired to handle the holiday volume.

“The late Thanksgiving creates a compressed peak season, which presents some operating challenges,” UPS CFO Kurt Kuehn explains. “Nonetheless, we are confident in UPS ability to successfully deliver the holidays.”

Employees at Amazon won’t be settling in for a long winter’s nap anytime soon either.

Speaking of Amazon, next year there will be over 1,000 Wisconsinites helping to ensure that stockings will be filled. Employees at the new Kenosha fulfillment center will pick, pack and ship small items like books, electronics and consumer goods. Kenosha was chosen, by the way, in part to its easy access to major transportation routes.

If you think that all of this cyber activity means that none of us will be making the trek to the mall anymore you would be wrong.

According to Maureen Bausch, executive vice president of business development at Mall of America, “most people make three trips to the mall over the holiday season.” That average by the way, is clearly skewed higher by my wife who makes that many trips by midweek. (I hope that didn’t sound bitter).

Technology won’t be keeping us at home this holiday season either. It appears that Skyping just doesn’t cut it when it comes to presenting gifts. About one in four, or more than 90 million of us will jump in the car, on a bus or in a plane to share the season with loved ones this year.

Lest we take all of this magic for granted, Bill Logue, president and chief executive officer of FedEx Freight, is playing the role of the Ghost of Christmas Future. In a November article from Forbes titled FedEx Freight Chief Says Transportation System Is Headed for Gridlock, Logue said the U.S. transportation infrastructure isn’t even sufficient to handle today’s needs, let alone those of the future. “We must begin to address aging infrastructure across every mode of transportation,” he said.

It is not my intention to play Scrooge here and talk about all of the work that needs to be done. So, I will leave you with a link to the 6th installment of TDA’s Big Ten Transportation Truths where we answer the question, “Why Transportation Matters,” with the answer “Because Santa Can’t Be Late.” 

If you are traveling during the Season, be safe and I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday and a happy New Year.

Craig Thompson is executive director for the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin.