How Overnight Shipping Works?

 Overnight shipping is an absolute masterpiec of logistics that happens every single night. It may not be cheap, but you can get a packag shipped from Miami, Florida on a Monday night to Anchorage, Alaska, by 8:30 AM o Tuesday. In fact, you can even ship a package, fo 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 worldwid delivery networks is mind-blowing and it all happens while we sleep. The three major consumer courier companie 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 I the world including North Korea; and UPS flies t more than double as many destinations as the largest passenger airline. Each has a globa network that allows for lightning fast shipping at relatively low prices. Behind all this speed ar enormous air networks that connect the entire world daily. Each of these three operates hundred of flights nightly, but FedEx is the best example since their operations make them th largest cargo airline in the world. 

They have 650 planes flying to 400 destination carrying 6 million packages every single day and the vast majorit of these flights operate to or from one of thei hub airports. FedEx’s hub airports are spread out al across the world and serve as sorting points wher 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 on in Memphis, Tennessee because that’s thei SuperHub. Memphis is not a huge city—only about 650,00 people live there—but the reason FedEx centers their worldwide operations in thi city is because of it’s location. Memphis is not actuall  the geographic center of the US as might make sense, but it is central. You see, only about 20 miles away in Wright County, Missouri is the mean population center of the US. This is th average location of every resident in the US meaning that the FedEx SuperHub in Memphi is the best location to reach the most peopl in the shortest amount of time. For similar reasons UPS has their equivalent global hub, Worldport, nearby in Louisville, Kentucky. The scale o FedEx and UPS’ operations in these relatively small cities is staggering. This is the size of th commercial terminal at Memphis Airport while this is the size of FedEx’s Superhub. Th difference at Louisville airport is even more pronounced where this is the commercial termina and this is UPS’ worldport. You can’t even fly to the west coast non-sto on a commercial airline from Louisville and yet UPS flies from th small city to five different continents. FedEx’s operations in Memphis, meanwhile, make this airport the second busiest cargo airport I the world above those of enormous cities lik Tokyo, Paris, Dubai, Shanghai, and falling short onl to Hong Kong. How the FedEx superhub really works is tha every night, about 150 planes fly in from al around the world between the hours of 10pm and 1am. Immediately upon arrival, the planes ar unloaded and their packages are put into the hub’s automated sorting system.

 Within only 1 minutes, each package arrives at a staging area for its next flight where it’s loade into containers. Planes therefore can start taking off agai at 2am and continue to until 4am which means that everywhere in the US can have  FedEx plane arriving by 6am, but there are som destinations that don’t ship enough packages to need a non-stop flight to Memphis. To get t small towns fast, FedEx runs flights in small propeller aircraft from the destinations o their larger jets. Presque Isle, Maine, for example, is far to 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 I Manchester, New Hampshire and Portland, Maine, packages bound for Presque Isle are sorte into smaller prop planes that continue north. With this system, even small towns like Presqu Isle get their packages by 9am as every spoke I the system essentially functions as a mini-hub. Packages are transferred from planes, to smalle planes, to trucks to reach their destination as fas as possible. Now, it’s important to note that not ever FedEx package runs through Memphis. Tha would be incredibly inefficient if a customer wanted to, for example, ship a package fro Phoenix, Arizona to Seattle, Washington.

 While only 1,100 miles separate Seattle fro Phoenix, a routing through Memphis would total ove 3,000 miles and six hours in flight. The packag would still make it overnight, but FedEx would be wasting fuel carrying that package an extr 1,900 miles, so that’s why they have secondar hubs. In this case, FedEx’s Oakland hub ha flights to both Phoenix and Seattle so the package would take a relatively efficien 1,300 mile routing. Memphis essentially serves as the backup hu in case there’s not a more efficient routing. The secondary hubs, such as Oakland, in genera have flights to destinations that are already served by flights to Memphis, bu the destinations from Oakland are high demand destinations that will ship enough package solely to the west coast to fill entire planes t Oakland. Some destinations, such as Albuquerque, Ne Mexico, ship enough packages to fill entire planes to Memphis, but not enough t fill flights to Oakland with west coast bound packages so a package shipped from here t the west coast would likely take a rather inefficient routing backtracking to Memphis. But FedEx’s most ingenious hub is here I Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage, with fewe than 300,000 residents, is home to the forth busiest cargo airport in the world. This is, onc again, thanks to geography.

 If you draw a straight line from FedEx’ Memphis hub to the one in Osaka, taking into account earth’s curvature it goes directly over Anchorage, Alaska. Thi airport is just the perfect stop-over point for flights from the US to Asia. Now, dozens of carg airlines operate in Anchorage but most of them just use the airport as a refueling an crew swap spot. Modern airplanes can fly non-stop from th contiguous United States to Asia, but doing s 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 maintai current shipping times without the Anchorage hub, they would likely have to run non-sto flights from each of their Asian hubs to each of thei American hubs, but they just don’t have th demand to fill this many planes. Instead, they run flights from their Asia hubs to Anchorage then flights from Anchorage many of thei American hubs. While stopped in Anchorage packages from Asia are processed through customs and sorted to be put on the plane boun closest to their destination. This helps cuts down on shipping time an cost. Shipping is an incredibly price-sensitiv business. These courier companies rely o enormous contracts with retailers and, when some of these retailers are shipping million of packages per day, every cent matters. In a lot of ways, however, the express shippin model is inherently expensive largely because of ho couriers use their most expensive assets—planes.

 So much is centered around those few sortin hours at the big hubs so FedEx’s planes all have t wait around to arrive at the exact right moment. Some FedEx hubs, such as Memphis, do sor packages during the day, but the overwhelming majority of their business happens overnight. FedEx’s flight from Memphis to Oklahom City, for example, leaves at 4am and arrives a 5:20am, but then the plane waits around until 10:10pm to fly back to Memphis. That’s over 1 hours sitting in Oklahoma City and, on that route, the plane is only flying for abou two hours per day Meanwhile, commercial airlines regularly fl their planes for more than 12 hours per day meaning they have six times higher aircraf utilization FedEx would never be profitable if the bought all new multi-hundred million dollar aircraft to use for mere hours per day, s they don’t. Overwhelmingly, FedEx and other cargo airline use old aircraft at the end of their lives. You’l almost never see Airbus a300’s flyin for passenger airlines anymore, yet FedEx, UPS and DHL collectively own hundreds of them because they’re cheap. They didn’t spend much purchasin these aircraft, so they don’t have to worry about using them enough to offset their cost. UPS doe have some brand new 747-800 aircraft, which are highly efficient, but they specificall schedule these planes on their longest routes so tha they can recuperate their high purchase price throug lower fuel costs. With older aircraft, fuel costs might be highe since the planes are less efficient, but overall it’s worth it since it allow FedEx to profitably leave their planes sitting for all but  few hours each day.

 Some passenger airlines, such as Allegiant Airlines in the US, uses the same strategy purchasing cheaper planes to allo them to fly fewer hours per day profitably and it now a tested and proven business strategy. Express shipping is one of those businesse that requires enormous networks to mak work which is why you don’t see small shippin companies. It’s almost impossible to get starte in this business unless, of course, you can make your own demand. Amazon, which ships mor than a million packages per day, is getting into the delivery business. They’ve established a flee 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 continuousl focusing on further increasing the efficiency of their networks since in thi business more than any, time is money. As you may have noticed, Wendover Production has a new logo and with that I’ve redesigned the website with Squarespace.

 To be honest, I hadn’t used the websit builder in a while but this process reminded me of wh I’m such a fan of Squarespace. It was super simple to  completely overhaul the site and, in my opinion, it looks great. I didn’t have any issues, but I you ever do they have award winning 24/7 customer support that I have used in the past and ca vouch for. If you run a business, a youtube channel a podcast, or anything else, you want to have a professional web presence like I do wit my site since that’s how people find you, and you ca get started building your website with Squarespace for 10% off at Squarespace is a great supporter of the sho so make sure to show them your appreciation by a least checking them out at And just one more thing, if you’re lik me and the first reaction you had to seeing this new logo is wanting a t-shirt of it you’re in luck because they’re now available for pre-orde at DFTBA. The link is in the description.

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