FAQs on carrier service impacts from Covid-19

Key insights for mindful mailing and shipping

‘Business as usual’ no longer exists for many organizations dealing with the profound impact of COVID-19. Operations such as sending and receiving mail and packages are business-critical but staying ahead of service changes is challenging and time-consuming. Will your mail be subject to delays and disruption? Is it safe to touch? Will carriers still accept your shipments to certain countries? Here we answer five of the most frequently asked questions around mail and parcel shipping, to give you clarity.

My business is closed. What will happen to all my incoming mail & packages if they can’t be delivered?

With most organizations working remotely at the moment, businesses are understandably concerned about what happens to their incoming mail if there’s no-one at their premises to receive it. The key carriers have clear guidance in place on their websites. In cases where the USPS isn’t able to deliver to a business – if a company is closed for an extended period for example - the mail will be returned to the delivery post office. It will be held there for pick up until at least May 30th, and there will be a 15-day grace period before held items are returned to sender. You can request a temporary hold for your mail for up to 30 days, or you can arrange temporary alternative delivery options.

FedEx Express and FedEx Ground will follow their current operating procedures to attempt to complete delivery at a later time. If you, or the business you’re sending to, cannot receive a package at your usual business address, FedEx’s ‘Hold at Location’ option is available at 14,000 locations. UPS also have options to redirect your packages, which you can find on their website.

I’m still sending mail and packages - will my mailings be delayed?

Carriers are doing all they can to deliver continued operations, but it’s a good idea to check individual carrier websites for details. The USPS is publishing alerts on postal facility disruptions that may impact deliveries in certain areas on its Industry Alerts and USPS Service Alerts webpage. Effective April 17, 2020 Priority Mail’s two and three day service commitments now will be extended to three and four days respectively. Customers will continue to receive end-to-end visibility and improved product tracking, as well as up to $50 in free insurance. First-Class Package Service two and three day service commitments will also be extended to three and four days respectively. The Postal Service’s flagship Priority Mail Express service, which guarantees overnight service, will not change and service commitments for local 1-day Priority Mail will not change. Global Express Guaranteed Services also have been altered. For a full list of international and domestic updates, refer to usps.com.

More than 100 countries have asked postal operators including the USPS to stop dispatching mail and packages to their countries. Until further notice, the USPS stopped accepting items sent to the affected countries, as well as a good number of US Diplomatic post office destinations. Items already in transit will be returned to sender, and you can request a refund for the postage and fees, or in some cases re-mail the item when service resumes. You can find further information here. Additionally, air and sea transportation availability or widespread cancellations and restrictions are leading to the USPS suspending service to some countries.

FedEx posts specific destination impact details on its website. UPS have suspended their Service Guarantee in light of overall Coronavirus uncertainties but remain committed to providing a timely and reliable service. Changes to UPS Next Day Air Saver and UPS 2nd Day Air A.M. services scheduled for delivery on or after March 30, 2020 will be extended to end of day until further notice. UPS will update information as necessary on website.

Is the USPS concerned about spreading the Coronavirus through the mail or the mail transport equipment like mail trays or containers?

The Postal Service has communicated that the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as the Surgeon General continue to indicate that there is no evidence the virus is spreading through the mail. According to WHO, the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low, and the risk of catching the virus from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperatures is also low. This guidance remains true for mail transport equipment. UPS and FedEx’s guidance is consistent with this.

Have the carriers changed any of the services they offer, like Certified or Signature services or availability of retail locations in response to the Coronavirus?

The USPS has temporarily modified its procedures for obtaining signatures for delivery items that previously requested Signature Services. Postal employees maintain a safe, appropriate distance and input customer details on an electronic screen or hard copy. They also request the customer steps back a safe distance or closes a screen or door, so they can leave the item with no direct contact. FedEx has suspended Signature Required for most shipments. UPS’ Signature Required guidelines are temporarily being adjusted such that consignees will no longer need to sign for UPS Signature Required deliveries. Despite this adjusted process the driver will still need to make contact with the consignee. The consignee must, at the time of delivery, acknowledge that UPS is making a delivery and, if applicable, show government issued photo ID.

With regards to retail locations, some local postal locations around the country have suspended retail operations as employee staffing challenges have arisen. Alternate locations are suggested in some cases, while lobbies remain open in others to allow for retrieval of PO Box mail. A number of regional processing centers were temporarily closed with some re-opening. Contingency plans were initiated to redirect the mail and ensure operational continuity, but no major service disruptions have been announced. The latest state-by-state listing of service disruptions can be found here.

FedEx has updated store hours and available services for FedEx Office and other retail locations. You can visit fedex.com to check locations in your area.

Many of UPS’s pickup and drop off locations, including The UPS Store®, are still operating. Some businesses that serve as UPS Access Point® locations are closing or adjusting their operations due to the coronavirus.

What about the service guarantees offered by the carriers?

The USPS has suspended the guarantee on Priority Mail Express International Service to a number of destinations including France, Great Britain, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, China and Hong Kong.

Domestically, the guarantee on Priority Mail Express service to many Alaska zip codes has been changed to “Loss Only”. The loss of regular air service to the area has led USPS to suspend the offer of guarantee on delivery timeframe. It will still offer a guarantee against loss of the item.

FedEx has suspended its money-back guarantee for all FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight and FedEx Office services effective immediately until further notice. The UPS Service Guarantee is suspended for all shipments from any origin to any destination. Commit times for some services have also changed.

Back to The Way Forward for Small Business content