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Behind the scenes at a USPS distribution center during the busiest week of the year

Posted: 11:36 AM, Dec 19, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-19 12:36:43-05
KCMO USPS/postal service distribution center

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Letter carriers for the United States Postal Service will deliver more than three billion pieces of mail this week. The days leading up to Christmas are typically the busiest of the entire year for the service.

Forklifts were buzzing, conveyor belts were churning and boxes were moving through the distribution and processing center in Kansas City, Missouri, on Wednesday.

Jeff Drake, senior plant manager, said postal employees work overnight to sort the mail. This time of year, the center sorts about three times the amount it does compared to a typical weekday in the summer. For example, the center sorted 1.2 million letters overnight, when it typically sees between 400,000 and 500,000 daily. Drake said greeting cards account for most of the uptick.

To better handle the increased load, Drake hired about 110 seasonal employees at the center, and the Postal Service is using an extra warehouse to process mail.

Deadlines to ensure a card or package arrives via the post office within the contiguous United States are quickly approaching. Thursday is the deadline for the cheapest rate, first class mail, for cards and packages weighing less than one pound.

Larger packages will ship at a higher rate via priority mail, but will still arrive by Christmas if mailed by Thursday.

The even more expensive rate of priority mail express is the only option for cards or packages mailed Friday and Saturday to guarantee delivery before Christmas. Most post office locations are closed on Sunday, and Christmas Eve is too late to mail anything.

Across the United States, the Postal Service expected to deliver about 10 percent more pieces of mail than last year’s holiday season.