The Great International Package Delivery Race, 2004

The Idea

How do packages actually get from sender to consignee? Each carrier has its own freight network through which a package travels and the experience of each package depends on the construction of the network.

For fun, each year we race and track packages from The Logistics Institute, Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA (USA) to sites around the world via different international parcel carriers (UPS, Fedex, DHL). In 2004 we sent packages to:

The start

We phoned each of the carriers at 1100h on 05 April and asked them to come pick up packages:

Fedex pickup
Fedex pickup: 05 April 1345h
DHL pickup
DHL pickup: 05 April 1540h
UPS pickup
UPS pickup: 05 April 1600h

All shipments required airbills and commercial invoices describing the contents.

The results

Fedex clearly won and DHL came in second. UPS finished far behind - in fact, as of 12 April none of their packages had been delivered. Their representative declined to take one package and both of their other packages were delayed by processing errors, rerouting, and flight delays. The package to Lome was finally delivered on 22 June after crossing the Atlantic Ocean 9 times!

Destination Carrier Cost Delivery Route Comments
Lome, Togo DHL USD169.07 08 April 0806h Atlanta, Cincinnati, New York, Brussels, Lagos, Lome (details)
  Fedex USD162.91 09 April 1056h Atlanta, Indianapolis, Paris, Abidjan, Lome (details) Fewer stops than DHL, but slower
  UPS ??? 22 June 1705h Atlanta, Louisville, Philadelphia, Koeln (Cologne), Paris, Johannesburg,... (details) Finally delivered after crossing the Atlantic Ocean 9 times. Apparently a UPS "keying error" sent the package repeatedly to South Africa.
Haifa, Israel Fedex USD90.17 07 April 1540h Atlanta, Memphis, Peta Tiqwa, Haifa (details) Fewest stops; direct flight from US to Israel
  DHL USD134.44 08 April 1408h Atlanta, Cincinnati, New York, Tel Aviv, Haifa (details) Direct flight from US to Israel
  UPS ??? 13 April 1153h Atlanta, Louisville, Philadelphia, Koeln (Cologne), Tel Aviv, Koeln, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Haifa - note misshipment! (details) Many stops even if handled correctly
Bangalore, India Fedex USD94.01 09 April 1215h Atlanta, Memphis, Paris, Mumbai (Bombay), Bangalore (details)
  DHL ??? 12 April 1230h Atlanta, Cincinnati, London, Delhi, Bangalore (details) Delayed because the local office closed for the Christian holiday "Good Friday" (09 April)
  UPS ??? NA NA Declined to take package

The UPS prices were not immediately available. We expect to post more details of the deliveries, possibly including photos, soon.

The routes

The routes by which DHL sent our packages from Atlanta to Lome, Haifa, and Bangalore

Figure 1: The DHL routes from Atlanta to Lome, Haifa, and Bangalore.

Each package went through a sortation facility in the midwestern US: UPS uses Louisville, KY; Fedex uses Indianapolis, IN or Memphis, TN; DHL uses Cincinnati, OH.

Past races

You can read about previous races here:

Next event

We welcome suggestions for subsequent competitions, where we will be sending a set of GT baseball caps, t-shirts, etc. somewhere in the world. Send us an address, preferably with accompanying telephone number and email address, and we will race the hats by vying package couriers to your parents, nephews, nieces, etc. All that we need is sufficient address and a promise to document the delivery.


Thanks to Jennifer Harris, Anita Race, and Cheryl Wilkerson for sending off the packages; and thanks to the recipients for documenting their arrival!

Copyright © John J. BARTHOLDI, III. All Rights Reserved.
Last modified: Sat Feb 18 16:03:11 EST 2006