US Delivery Metrics Improve Despite Job Cuts Amid Economic Challenges

US Delivery Metrics Improve Despite Job Cuts Amid Economic Challenges

The US logistics industry experienced a notable improvement in delivery metrics in 2023, marked by significant enhancements in issue ratios, on-time deliveries, and transit times. However, this positive trend comes amidst a backdrop of financial strain and workforce reductions, as exemplified by UPS's recent announcement to cut 12,000 jobs due to weakened parcel demand and economic pressures. This dichotomy paints a complex picture of the logistics sector, where operational efficiencies coexist with economic challenges.

Notable Improvement in Delivery Metrics

According to the USA E-Commerce Logistics Market Report and package tracking platforms, the US delivery sector saw a substantial improvement in key performance metrics in 2023. The issue ratio, which indicates the percentage of delivery problems, fell by 3.6 percent year on year (YoY) to 6.4 percent. This reduction highlights the sector's enhanced ability to manage and resolve delivery issues effectively.

On-time delivery ratios remained impressively stable at 98 percent, reflecting the industry's commitment to punctuality. Perhaps most notably, the first-attempt delivery success rate improved by a remarkable 12.2 percent YoY, reaching 97 percent. This metric is crucial as it directly impacts customer satisfaction and operational efficiency, reducing the need for redelivery attempts.

Additionally, average domestic transit times fell by 24 percent YoY to 2.56 days, showcasing the sector's ability to expedite deliveries. This trend continued into the first quarter (Q1) of 2024, with average transit times further improving to 2.32 days. These improvements can be attributed to various factors, including optimized delivery routes, infrastructure upgrades, and advanced package tracking technologies.

Leading logistics carriers such as FedEx and UPS have been at the forefront of these operational enhancements. In Q1 2024, FedEx and UPS reported improvements in their average transit times to 2.08 days and 2.22 days, respectively. These advancements underline the sector's capability to adapt and innovate in response to growing e-commerce demands.

Economic Challenges and Workforce Reductions at UPS

Despite the positive delivery metrics, the logistics sector faces significant economic challenges, with UPS's recent announcement serving as a stark reminder. UPS plans to cut 12,000 jobs in an effort to save $1 billion, just months after agreeing to a costly pay deal with the Teamsters union. This decision comes as weak demand for delivery services underpins a softer annual revenue outlook.

The job cuts will target UPS's 85,000 management employees and some contractors, with three-quarters of the layoffs expected to occur in the first half of the year. This reduction reflects UPS's strategic shift towards a "new way of working," as described by CEO Carol Tomé. The company is also returning to a policy of having employees in the office five days a week, reversing more flexible working arrangements introduced during the pandemic.

The pay deal with the Teamsters union, which represents 340,000 of UPS's employees, resulted in a 12.1 percent increase in union wage rates. While this agreement helped avert a potential strike that could have disrupted over a quarter of all parcels in the US, it also led to higher operational costs. UPS has since cut its financial guidance multiple times and warned that the new contract would impact its revenue and margins.

UPS reported that its revenue for 2023 was $91 billion, a 9.3 percent drop from 2022. The company now expects revenues between $92 billion and $94.5 billion in 2024, below Wall Street forecasts of $95.6 billion. This downward revision highlights the ongoing financial strain within the company, exacerbated by both macroeconomic conditions and internal cost pressures.

Mixed Fortunes in the Logistics Sector

UPS's financial struggles underscore the mixed fortunes in the logistics sector. While operational improvements have led to better delivery metrics, economic challenges and fluctuating demand continue to pose significant hurdles. Brian Newman, UPS's Chief Financial Officer, noted that although the macroeconomic environment showed improvement in the fourth quarter, the transportation and logistics sector remains under pressure due to soft demand and overcapacity.

UPS has observed a shift in customer behavior in its largest market, the US, with clients opting for more economical ground deliveries instead of air services. Additionally, while small package volumes in the profitable China-to-US lane increased towards the end of 2023, the company remains cautious about the overall outlook, particularly in European countries experiencing recessions, where demand for express services has fallen.

The broader logistics industry has also seen efforts to adapt to changing conditions. FedEx, for instance, has made significant strides in improving its delivery times and operational efficiency. The company reported a reduction in average transit times to 2.08 days in Q1 2024, reflecting its commitment to enhancing service quality amid rising e-commerce demands.

Strategic Shifts and Future Outlook

UPS's announcement to cut 12,000 jobs and explore "strategic alternatives" for its acquisition of Coyote, a truckload brokerage business, indicates a broader strategic realignment within the company. Coyote accounted for 38 percent of the revenue decline in UPS's supply chain solutions business during 2023. By reassessing its portfolio, UPS aims to streamline operations and focus on core competencies.

In addition to workforce reductions and strategic realignments, logistics companies are increasingly turning to technology to enhance efficiency. Evri, a UK parcel delivery company, has announced a £1 million investment in its AI strategy to transform its operations. This AI strategy focuses on improving customer service, enhancing parcel security, and optimizing workforce planning. The initial implementations have already resulted in improved outputs and optimized operations, demonstrating the transformative power of AI.

Evri's Chief Technology Officer, Marcus Hunter, emphasized the significant benefits achieved through Intelligent Process Automation and other AI technologies, which have laid the foundation for future advancements. By leveraging AI, Evri aims to deliver a best-in-class experience and position itself as a tech-forward business, attracting new talent and setting ambitious goals for global leadership in parcel delivery.


The US logistics sector is experiencing a paradoxical phase of operational efficiency coupled with economic strain. While delivery metrics have improved significantly, driven by technological advancements and optimized processes, companies like UPS are grappling with financial pressures and workforce reductions. This dual narrative highlights the complex landscape of the logistics industry, where advancements in service quality must be balanced with sustainable economic strategies.

The ongoing investments in AI by carriers such as Evri underscore the industry's commitment to leveraging technology for operational excellence. Evri's AI strategy, aimed at enhancing customer service, parcel security, and workforce planning, exemplifies the innovative approaches being adopted to navigate the sector's challenges. These efforts demonstrate the potential for AI to not only improve efficiency but also to transform the logistics landscape.

As the industry navigates these challenges, the ability to adapt and innovate will be crucial in maintaining operational excellence while addressing economic realities. The ongoing efforts by major players to enhance delivery performance and restructure strategically underscore the dynamic nature of the logistics sector in an increasingly digital and demanding marketplace.

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