Originally created 08/12/97

City copes with UPS strike



Bart Shelton might be luckier than most shippers during the United Parcel Service strike because his company had already developed a plan to use independent delivery services.

As the UPS strike begins its second week, many shippers have had to scramble to find alternatives to the Atlanta-based fleet of brown trucks that normally moves 80 percent of the country's parcels.

Mr. Shelton, branch manager for W.W. Grainger in Augusta, said, "It hasn't stopped us. There are other carriers."

Chuck Field is president of one alterative shipping company, Augusta Delivery Service. Though he specializes in rush shipments rather than the lower-priced two-day market UPS dominates, he said he has been swamped by customers willing to pay three-times the UPS rate.

"A lot of these shipments literally have UPS stickers on them that somebody has marked through and gone through somebody else," he said.

Most express companies have stopped worrying about delivery deadlines, Mr. Field said. "The ones that can't get delivered just get pushed back to the next day," he said. "We do what we can, and we do it as soon as we can."

Business executives report using creativity to cope. At Richmond Industrial Machine, workers are making some of the parts they haven't been able to receive by shipment, according to Connie Johnson, office manager.

Augusta Delivery Service has hired temporary workers and even commandeered employee vehicles for deliveries, Mr. Field said.

But none of the Augusta-area branches of the U.S. Postal Service has added staff to cope with the 10 percent increase in volume, according to Carol Klein, customer relations coordinator. "So far, it's not as great as our Christmas volume," she said Monday.

The post office limits walk-in customers to four parcels. Bigger orders, with postage already attached, can be dropped off by calling the Macon office at (912) 752-8443 for an appointment to the main Augusta office at 525 Eighth St.

Mail Central, an Augusta mailing service, has relied heavily on the Postal Service during the strike, according to its manager, Mike Pace. He has even found some cases where the Postal Service's Priority Mail costs less than UPS.

Volume at Mail Central actually dropped since the strike began, from 20 packages a day to five, Mr. Pace said. People have postponed shipments out of fear of the strike, he said.

"It's getting out one way or another. I don't see why people are complaining about the strike," he said. "It's not been really that big of a deal."