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Are Fragile Parcels Truly Handled With Care?

When you have a fragile item that you are shipping across the country, or across the world you may take precautions to help ensure its safe arrival. This could be anything from placing “fragile” or “this side up” stickers on the box, writing fragile on the box, packing with extra care, and paying more for shipping. However you may be wondering if the package you ship will truly be treated any differently if there is fragile identification on the box? Below is a closer look at the shipping industry, and if the exterior instructions on your box really make a difference.

Are Fragile Parcels Truly Handled With Care?

The Statistics

A study done by Popular Mechanics tested the three most frequently used shipping and delivery providers in the United States—USPS, FedEx, and UPS. The packages they shipped in the study were able to record how many times a box was flipped over onto a different side, how many drastic spikes in acceleration during delivery, and if the box was kept in a temperature controlled environment. While the vast majority of all of the packages they shipped from all three providers arrived internally undamaged, UPS lead the pack by a landslide for having the gentlest touch, the fewest spikes in acceleration, and the most consistent temperature control. While UPS often costs more to pack and ship your packages, the results of the study suggest that delicate and fragile items that need to be handled with care, that UPS does a more consistent job meeting consumer expectations.

Volume and Human Error

While the statistics found by Popular Mechanics may be disappointing, another factor to be taken into consideration is volume and human error. The fact of the matter is that many shipping companies handle multiple millions of packages per day. When your fragile box is one of millions, it easily gets lost in the mix with other standard mail items. Depending on the destination of your package it may have to be transferred to multiple vehicles and airplanes, before ending up on a delivery driver’s truck. The sheer volume, combined with human error can lead to handling procedures that are less than ideal.

Delivery Drivers Caught On Tape

Beyond the volume and human error there is blatant and careless behavior that has been caught on tape multiple times over the years. These indiscretions are often of delivery drivers who are quickly and carelessly loading, unloading, and delivering their packages. While many delivery drivers have been caught on tape doing their job in a careless manner, there are many drivers who take great pride in their job, and deliver their packages with utmost care. When packages arrive with external damaged or with their internal contents broken, it can be nearly impossible to tell if the damage occurred while in the delivery drivers care, or while in transportation prior to arriving on the driver’s truck.

To reduce the likelihood of your packages arriving damage invest in proper packing materials. This includes items like a sturdy box, foam, packing peanuts, packing bubbles, and a secure seal with tape or glue. You can pack extremely fragile items in a double box. The first box would have the fragile item wrapped and carefully packed. The second box would have a layer of padding on all four sides, and be securely sealed. If your item is of extreme value invest in insurance to safeguard your investment.


Darren Christiansen, a freelance writer based in Albuquerque, focuses his efforts on shipping, air travel, transportation, trucking, sea travel, unloading and cross docking services, delivery services and other related topics.

Image credit goes to adotmanda.

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