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elbanditoroso's avatar

Is there any rational thinking behind UPS package routing?

Asked by elbanditoroso (33229points) July 1st, 2018

I bought something mail order from a company in Texas. I live in Georgia. UPS is doing the shipping.

Dallas to Atlanta is roughly 800 miles and takes about 11 hours to drive.

UPS decided to route my package through Chicago (Rockford) Illinois (about 1000 miles northeast of Dallas) and then back down to Atlanta (about 800 miles SSW of Rockford).

Why would UPS do this sort of routing? Did they lose their membership in the Hypotenuse Club?

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13 Answers

LadyMarissa's avatar

Your problem probably is the level of service the seller chose to use or the amount of extra money you were willing to pay to get it to you. Unless you’re willing to pay a lot of extra to receive your package fast, the seller often ships ground service which can take 5–7 days to get it to you & is the cheapest way to get it there. With this service, UPS, Fedex & even the Post Office will have it sent through their system with NO rush. With my local PO, IF my package arrives too fast, they will ship it out to the nearest town “by accident” in order to delay delivery. That will give them the extra 1–2 days needed to have it delivered with the level of service paid for. UPS & Fedex do a similar thing.

This logic makes NO sense to me because it seems like it would cost MORE money in employee pay & increased chance of loss of package; but, obviously they don’t agree.
I ordered an item that cost me $2.49 from Amazon that wasn’t available for Prime. Shipping was free but it would take 8 days to receive it. However, IF I was willing to pay an additional $15.00, they would ship it so I could have it the very next day. I decided that the item wasn’t important enough to pay the additional $15. I tracked the package & it made it to my PO in 5 days. The next day it was “accidentally” misrouted to a town 20 miles away. They only have in/out service once a day. so it sat there all day before they could send it back to my PO. Next day same thing, different PO. This time by the time it returned to my PO it was finally day 8 & they delivered it.

I have tracked packages that simply disappear from the system until the scheduled delivery date & suddenly it shows up in my mailbox. They are trying to groom us to pay excessive amounts to receive our items fast!!!

Patty_Melt's avatar

It is about where the hubs are, and if a hub is overburdened, they reroute to a different hub. When it leaves a departure point, it is not a taxi ride right to your house. Hubs are located by areas with greatest shipping traffic, not by zip codes. There may be a hub or two within a more direct line with you and Texas, but if they get overburdened, they will be taken off route until they catch up.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Fastest not the shortest distance.

zenvelo's avatar

All FedEx, for example, routes through Memphis. If I overnight a package from San Francisco to Los Angeles, it routes through Memphis.

UPS has a major hub in Rockford. They collect all the packages from all over that will route through Atlanta Hartsfield, and send it in a single plane. That is a lot more efficient and cheaper than sending a van with your package from Houston to Atlanta.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

My computer science professor told the class that logistics takes a very powerful computer to run a sorting program. Basically their is not yet a powerful enough computer that can take the best solution to your UPS problem. Anymore than 4 destinations then the modern computers seize up and your package is not to go the shortest route. The best approach is to do It manually, and that would cost time and treasure to accomplish.

johnpowell's avatar

Do not listen to RedDeer. Perhaps true in 1883. But not now.

I spend a lot of time on Hacker News and a lot of those guys got their teeth wet working for UPS and FedEx. Trust me, they optimize the shit out of everything since fuel and people touching packages are expensive.

Mainly chalk it up to if a plane is only half full you might as well fill it up since the cargo is barely a blip in the cost of the flight.

Sometimes it is best to think people making buckets of cash know more about routing packages than you do.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@johnpowell It was 1999 when my prof told that story to the class. Pentiums were all the rage back then. Sorry for the outdated advice. I’m sure that computers are better now.

johnpowell's avatar

Oh totally dude. I was taking computer science classes back then too. I bet half of my notes from that class would be proven wrong too. And they have probably been teaching for 20 years and behind the curve.

LadyMarissa's avatar

Amazon seems to have broken the code!!! Their screw ups are few & far between at least in my neck of the woods

RocketGuy's avatar

UPS even optimizes their truck routes based on: which packages are dropped off when, expected traffic at the expected time the truck is supposed to be at a certain location, number of stop lights on the route, and the number of left and right turns.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@johnpowell I actually think @RedDeerGuy1 is sort of correct. Routing optimization is an NP hard problem.

Getting the optimal route so all packages and all vehicles travel the shortest distance is so difficult as to be not actually worth the effort of working out and even if they did by the time they had they’d have new packages to worry about and they’d have to start again. What shipping companies actually aim for is getting all packages to their destination in a time frame that isn’t going to lose them customers and doesn’t cost too much. So they end up doing seemingly crazy shit because it gets the job done at a cost that’s sustainable.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I’m the OP.

Despite my worries about the package having taken a long jaunt to Rockford, Illinois, it did arrive on time at my home as expected, about a half hour ago.

LadyMarissa's avatar

CONGRATULATIONS @elbanditoroso I’ve noticed that most shippers quote delivery time as the day the delivery company says they will deliver PLUS one additional day…just in case. I’ve never heard anybody complain that their package arrived a day early…but a day late is outrageous!!!

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