If you drive the city streets, highways and back roads of Clatsop County, you will assuredly see a FedEx, UPS or a U.S. Postal Service delivery van, or two. We are a mirror of America, in which these three services compete for supremacy. In this two-part series, we examine the delivery volume of these transportation giants and it depicts the people and the machines that make it all work.

Part 2 of 2

About once a week, Robin Knoll says someone is shipping crab or some type of seafood in a cooler wrapped in duct tape to family or friends across the country.

At the FedEx ShipCenter he runs in Gearhart, Knoll also has 12 to 16 boxes of blackberries that go out every week to insect zoos.

A package can be dropped off for the Express division and be delivered in Miami, Fla., the next morning. It just might cost close to $100.

“It depends on how much you want to pay and how fast you want it,” said Knoll.

Knoll operates the ShipCenter for FedEx as a franchisee. Every day, seven FedEx vehicles deliver and pick up packages in Clatsop County. Delivery drivers own their routes and service Astoria, Warrenton and Seaside.

FedEx is the second largest package delivery company in the world after the United Parcel Service. While UPS has a facility in Warrenton it uses to sort packages for Clatsop County, FedEx operates a northwest hub in Troutdale.

The elaborate spiderweb of conveyor belts at the 447,000-square-foot facility sorts packages from all around the country for delivery in Oregon, Washington and parts of California and Idaho.

The hub has about 200 load and unload doors and 10 scan tunnels directing packages to certain loading areas.

“It’s finding out where the package is from. It’s finding out where it’s going. It’s taking the dimensions; You name it, it’s doing a lot,” said Robert Brigham, senior hub manager.

“There are two human interactions with every package in this building,” said Ron Cazares, a senior manager. The facility can process up to 22,500 packages an hour depending on volume, day of the week and time of the year

Cazares, who has worked for the company for 16 years and started out as a package handler, said a lot of the bulk deliveries coming to Astoria go to Costco in Warrenton. “It’s keeping him busy,” said Cazares of the contracted driver.

Trailers come in to the hub from around the country, as far away as New Jersey and Connecticut in the northeast and Florida and the southeastern states. And the company can ship just about anything, although there are some weight limitations.

There are about 30 hubs in the FedEx Ground network. Most ground deliveries are business-to-business shipping. Home delivery packages are processed and taken to another facility in Portland to be picked up.

While all the ground packages headed for Clatsop County go through its Northwest hub, the company offers Express delivery to its customers as well.

The costs depend on the weight and size of the package. “Most of the Express is paperwork that needs to get some place,” said Knoll, for example, title work, visa applications or loan papers.

Knoll is a drop-off point for people, but he also gets a cut of the shipping costs. The Express, or overnight packages, get picked up at 1:45 p.m., are brought to Astoria where they are put on trucks to be taken to Portland.

“That’s what FedEx is famous for – their overnight service,” Knoll said.

The biggest package Knoll can send is 165 square inches. A Smartpost goes through FedEx but is delivered ultimately by the Post Office, which contracts with FedEx to transport.

For international shipping, Knoll says FedEx Express has better tracking systems than the Postal Service.

Knoll ships eBay items out of the adjoining space and had been doing it through UPS before getting the ShipCenter, which he vied for with five other contenders.

“Within two months after having the FedEx in here and comparing rates, I just dropped UPS totally,” Knoll said.



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