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FedEx vs UPS: What Package Delivery Service Should You Work For?

Zach Blank


December 25, 2020

Delivery services have never been more in-demand than in 2020. Restrictions on public interaction resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of Americans to work and shop for goods from home. The impact has led to carriers constantly expanding their supply chains to fulfill the needs of consumers. This shift in the industry has provided new opportunities for those laid off during the pandemic as well as those looking to earn extra income.

If you fall into either of these categories, a delivery job with a major carrier may intrigue you. Once you have decided to work in the industry, the next step will be deciding which courier service to join.

Which delivery service should I sign up to drive for? FedEx or UPS?

With so many package delivery jobs available, it can be difficult to figure out which courier service to apply for. A good place to start would be with FedEx or UPS, as they are the two biggest carriers in the industry. Which one should you go with? We are here to help answer this important question.

The similarities between FedEx and UPS

The application

The process of becoming a driver for FedEx or UPS is very similar. Both companies require you to visit their website and fill out an application. The beginning of the application will consist of the basic vital information: your name, contact information, permanent address, education level, employment history, and uploading your resume. Additionally, FedEx sometimes requires behavioral aptitude and personality tests in the hiring process.

Once the main portion is complete, you will then be asked to sign forms disclosing your personal background. These forms often include your status of work eligibility in the United States, whether you have a disability, are a military veteran, and if you are related to a current employee of the company.

The interview

When you finish the application, the human resources department will screen your application to determine if you qualify for an interview. If chosen, you can expect to participate in a one-on-one interview, a panel interview, or as part of a group interview for part-time or seasonal jobs. For drivers, interview questions may involve your ability to understand directions, navigational skills, and your ability to lift packages weighing 50lbs or more.

The background checks

To work for FedEx or UPS, you will have to submit your consent for a criminal background check. This check is usually done after the interview, but prior to the job being offered. Having a criminal record will not automatically exclude you from a job at either FedEx or UPS. While both companies have a history of hiring previous felons, the circumstances for consideration vary. Some factors include, but are not limited to: 

  • The type of felony conviction
  • Whether you have a single or multiple felonies
  • Length of time since sentence completion

In addition to your background history, UPS and FedEx closely examine your driving record for courier positions. This portion of the background check will search for:

  • Any history of DUIs
  • Accidents or driving-related convictions
  • Speeding or parking tickets

The drug tests

After completing all interviews and passing a background check, drivers can expect to take a pre-employment drug test. FedEx and UPS screen drivers for drug and alcohol abuse to ensure safety and reliability on the road. Both companies also randomly test drivers after hiring and following any accidents on the job.

Starting as a “seasonal” driver

During the holiday “peak” season (the period between Halloween and Christmas in the United States), new drivers will work as seasonal employees. This means drivers work for the company on a temporary contract and not as a permanent employee. Seasonal workers (as well as part-time drivers) do not receive medical insurance or retirement benefits.

While some drivers may seek more stable employment, this arrangement is ideal for individuals wanting income to supplement their current jobs. Working as a seasonal driver also gives you the opportunity to try out the position before committing permanently.

The differences between FedEx and UPS

FedEx and UPS are very similar in their operations, but there are some differences drivers should be aware of—especially starting out as a part-time or seasonal courier.

The vehicles

For starters, unless you already have a commercial driver’s license to haul freight in a big rig truck, you will most likely begin driving as a “casual courier” for FedEx or a “personal vehicle driver” for UPS. The difference is FedEx provides you a company delivery truck or van while UPS will require you to drive your own vehicle.

The hours

Another distinction between FedEx and UPS are the number of hours a new driver can work. All FedEx couriers start off part-time, with a cap of twenty-four hours a week. The shifts are usually broken up into three, eight-hour days Monday through Friday or six, four-hour days Monday through Saturday.

In contrast, UPS allows personal vehicle drivers to work full-time hours. A driver can work up to eight-hour shifts Monday through Friday. Depending on the time of year, Saturday and holiday work may be available or even required for new drivers.

The pay

According to Glassdoor in December 2020, FedEx part-time couriers can expect to earn approximately $18 an hour on average. As for UPS, part-time personal vehicle drivers earn an average wage of approximately $21 an hour.

Though UPS drivers earn more, they also perform deliveries in personal vehicles and cover their own fuel and maintenance costs. If your vehicle is a gas-guzzler or not reliable, you may net more profit driving for FedEx due to reduced maintenance costs.

The route planner

Route optimization is a critical component of courier services. A delivery route planner optimizes your route to make the drive as quick and efficient as possible, saving you time, fuel, and money. For this task, FedEx has a route planner called DRO (Dynamic Route Optimization) and UPS uses a system called ORION (On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation).

DRO is designed to optimize routes by placing GPS anchors in designated areas to map the ideal route for multiple stops. This feature helps new drivers navigate routes they are not familiar with by creating an easy-to-follow delivery loop.

ORION has a different philosophy. Instead of optimizing a route to be the fastest, ORION optimizes the route so that drivers (almost) never make a left turn. According to UPS, left turns increase idling at traffic lights and go against traffic. By avoiding left turns, UPS claims ORION makes routes safer, faster, and saves fuel.

While DRO and ORION are the proprietary delivery route planners for FedEx and UPS respectively, they are not the favorite options for drivers. In online message boards such as BrownCafe and Reddit where anonymity is protected, there have been multiple complaints about the inefficiencies of DRO and ORION. Many couriers find third-party app Straightaway to be the superior delivery route planner.

Straightaway allows drivers to optimize their delivery routes with the snap of a photo of the shipping manifest. Unlike DRO, Straightaway does not use an anchor system, but rather optimizes the route based on the order the stops appear to the driver leaving the warehouse. As for the left turns ORION tries to avoid, Straightaway uses its industry-leading algorithm to schedule the fastest route possible, regardless of turn direction.

Straightaway’s ease of use paired with its fast route optimization software make it the #1 route planner app for drivers across UPS and FedEx.

Employee satisfaction

If you are going to put time and energy into a new job, you want to like the new company you represent. According to comparisons by workplace transparency sites Glassdoor and Comparably, both FedEx and UPS trend favorably when rated anonymously by their own employees. 

On Glassdoor, FedEx made the list for “Best Places to Work” several times in the last decade. In the head to head comparison with UPS, FedEx was rated higher in Work-life while UPS was rated higher in Compensation & Benefits. Here is a breakdown of the key comparative categories:

Comparably reached similar conclusions when conducting a “Culture Showdown” of FedEx and UPS. When rating the two companies anonymously, employees gave FedEx a higher rating for Overall Culture while UPS rated more favorably in Compensation. Here is the breakdown from that comparison:

For those who regard work-life balance as an important factor when job hunting, FedEx was recently honored by Comparably as a “Best Company for Work-Life Balance” in 2020.

Conclusion: Balance vs Pay

At the end of the day, choosing to deliver for FedEx or UPS comes down to your personal needs and preferences. Are you looking for full-time pay or just additional income?  FedEx only offers part-time hours while UPS offers full-time. Do you have your own car or need a company vehicle? UPS requires you to drive your own car; FedEx provides the vehicle. Which do you value more, work-life balance or higher pay? FedEx excels in work-life balance while UPS offers more compensation for your labor. These are the questions you need to ask yourself when assessing which carrier is best for you.

With consumer habits shifting towards ecommerce, the demand for courier services has never been greater. Whether FedEx or UPS, get Straightaway and deliver yourself the new opportunity and success you deserve in 2021.

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Zach Blank

Zach is the co-founder and CEO of Straightaway.

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