We are living in the golden age of home delivery.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for the Lakes Region Weekly, lives in Windham.

This time of year especially, delivery trucks are frequent visitors to our neighborhoods, delivering those Christmas shopping deals for online buyers. These modern-day Santa’s helpers include perennial delivery stalwarts: Big Brown, as the United Parcel Service is affectionately called, FedEx and the granddaddy of all delivery outfits, the United States Postal Service.

Who needs Mr. Claus and his reindeer when you’ve got delivery guys and gals by the thousands ready to deliver whatever, whenever and wherever.

Home delivery, around for about 100 years now, is a wonder of modern living and modern logistics. If you’ve ever visited a UPS or FedEx facility you’ve seen the dozens of trucks and trailers in the yard, the long conveyor belts connecting the incoming and outgoing sections of the building and the many, many people it takes to make it all possible.

Home delivery is booming, too. UPS reported $71.8 billion in total revenue for fiscal year 2019 and had 481,000 employees. FedEx reported $69.7 billion, and the USPS grossed $71.15 billion in fiscal year ’19. Compare that with a mere four years ago when UPS did $59.2 billion worth of business and FedEx did $50 billion.

These are gigantic increases, mainly fueled by the popularity of online shopping.

The Big Three – UPS, USPS and FedEx – aren’t the only ones in the delivery business. Google parent Alphabet and Amazon are getting in the game as well.

Since 2013, Amazon has been talking about delivering its packages via flying drones. Known as Prime Air, Amazon released footage this summer of a delivery drone capable of hauling 5-pound packages in its fuselage to customer locations up to 15 miles away in 30 minutes or less. Packages weighing 5 pounds or less make up 75-90% of the company’s sales.

The drones have many safety features including fully covered rotor blades and guidance systems that can identify obstacles.

“From paragliders, power lines, to the corgi in your backyard, this drone has safety covered,” boasted Amazon CEO Jeff Wilke.

Alphabet subsidiary Wing has been pursuing drone technology just as hard as Amazon. According to its website, “Project Wing is an autonomous delivery drone service aiming to increase access to goods, reduce traffic congestion in cities and help ease the CO2 emissions attributable to the transportation of goods.”

While UPS, USPS and FedEx use diesel and gasoline and some electric vehicles to power their fleets, drones operate solely on battery power. Wing reports that worldwide transportation of goods comprises 27% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is why it’s trying to find alternative methods.

All the talk of drones, however, makes one realize today is the golden age of delivery. Drones may revolutionize the industry but they won’t make it better.

Gone will be the delivery person who delivers your package with a smile. Gone will be many high-paying jobs for workers lacking a higher education. (I’ve talked to UPS drivers who earn more than $100,000 a year. But they work long and hard every day to do it.)

And gone, for the drivers (myself included), will be an interesting job that allows independent-minded, responsible workers a chance to get out from behind a computer and into the hustle and bustle of the real world.

So, this Christmas shopping season, take note of all the delivery vehicles, drivers and helpers in your neighborhood. Thank them for their hard work by plowing your driveway, shoveling your walkway and leashing your dogs. For they make possible the modern ease of home delivery.

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