May 25, 2023

Good time to rework UPS contracts, consultant says


Despite the concern triggered by the possibility of a Teamsters strike against UPS Inc., many UPS shippers may find this to be the best time to renegotiate their contracts, a parcel consultant said Thursday.

Josh Dunham, co-founder and CEO of Reveel Group, a multicarrier sourcing platform, said that UPS (NYSE: UPS) in recent weeks has begun to price more aggressively against rival FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX). FedEx was ahead of UPS in part to try to attract shippers concerned about a possible work stoppage. 

“UPS is a lot more willing to roll out aggressive pricing,” Dunham said in an interview.

UPS’ stance is a far cry from a couple of years ago, when with demand soaring the carrier had little incentive to work with its shippers on pricing. Carrier reps would balk at any contract changes and in some cases push contracts on customers with a take-it-or-leave-it posture, Dunham said.

The current five-year national UPS-Teamsters contract expires July 31, and union leaders have warned that the 340,000 or so UPS members will walk off their jobs on Aug. 1 without an agreement. Talks are underway in Washington to hammer out a new agreement.

“There’s obviously a lot of fear out there,” said Dunham, referring in part to Reveel’s 700 shipper customers. “They are hoping a deal gets reached by the end of June.”

Still, there isn’t a wholesale rush to find contingency services, said Dunham, who pointed out some traffic has migrated to FedEx, while the U.S. Postal Service has been identified as a possible source.

“The answer is no as far as whether the response contains direct action,” Dunham said. “It is more about what is going on at the planning stage,” he said.

UPS and the Teamsters, meanwhile, need to be concerned about the state of the economy that brackets their negotiations. In a Reveel analysis of package count from the first quarter of 2022 throughthe first quarter of 2023, volumes had dropped 10.1% year on year. That is far higher than Dunham had expected. Reveel’s clients represent a variety of parcel spend levels.

Another factor is the increasing comfort that shippers have with using multicarrier platforms, with which alternatives are available at the click of a mouse. “Before the pandemic, you had two choices: FedEx and UPS. That’s changed,” Dunham said. 

Today, shippers view these platforms almost as necessities, he added.

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