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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at noon, Tuesday, December 18, 2001

It's crunch time for express delivery services

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

A convoy of United Parcel Service trucks make its way up Lagoon Drive today during rounds of deliveries. This is a stressful time of year for UPS drivers, some of whom have been working 12-hour days.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

The trucks rolled at 8 a.m. with a convoy of Christmas elves dressed in brown shorts, roaring down Lagoon Drive with a load of gifts.

It's crunch week at United Parcel Service, the week that commercial express carriers live and die by, the one that tests them. Nobody wants a gift the day after Christmas.

"It's very stressful and tiring," said Mitchell Murata, who has been a UPS delivery driver for 10 years.

He said tomorrow will be the busiest day, but yesterday left him exhausted. He worked 12 hours.

"I had 180 stops," he said, getting ready for his 'Ewa Beach route. "It's going to get worse."

Most Hawai'i residents opt for two-day service. But that's two business days, so the deadline is Thursday. Like Santa, UPS carriers will be on the road Christmas Eve, but only until 11:59 p.m., said Mike Sasaki, sales manager for UPS in Honolulu.

"We put our entire work force out there," he said. "I did it last year. I started in Pearl City and ended up in Kane'ohe and I went around through Hale'iwa."

He was expecting a surge of packages this week. He figures people are procrastinating.

Driver Jeremy Smith said this holiday season started slow. During the holidays, Smith delivers packages, usually one per customer, throughout East Honolulu.

"Now, we're getting the last-minute shoppers," he said.

But drivers like this, he said.

"Some drivers look at this as a money-making time of year," Smith said. "Morale is higher at Christmas. People are willing to work harder. It's crunch time for us. Everybody has to be in top shape, on their game."

Luther Williams, who supervises drivers, said deliveries made on time — before Christmas — are the kind that customers will remember. That's why he made a late one the other night on his way home.

"I spend 11 months developing and training and I call this the Super Bowl," said Williams, a no-nonsense former Marine. "So everyone has to step up."

Reach Mike Gordon at mgordon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8012.