Ralph Arcuri doesn't have a white beard, a red suit or a belly that jiggles like a bowl full of jelly. And there's no sleigh in his garage either, but he does have a big white FedEx delivery truck and that sort of makes him one of Santa's helpers at this time of year.
Right on through Christmas Eve, he and thousands of other delivery drivers throughout the country will be assisting Santa Claus to make sure all the good little boys and girls – and their parents – get the gifts they asked the Jolly Old Elf for.
Our main goal for Monday is making sure everybody gets their Christmas gifts. That's our priority, Arcuri, 55, of South Abington Township, said. And as much as he enjoys the imagery of being one of Santa's helpers, he said elf hats are not in his wardrobe. Just the blue and green FedEx outfit, including a blue ballcap emblazoned with the company's logo that he's required to wear on the job.
Arcuri has worked as a contracted driver for FedEx for 17 years in both Pennsylvania and Florida. The past three years his route has run through portions of Wilkes-Barre and he's seen signs the economy is strengthening. The increased number of boxes neatly stacked in the rear of his aluminum box vehicle serves as proof.
I think we're on the upside based on what we deliver, said Arcuri in between two of the 125 stops he'll make per day at this time of year. The weeks following Thanksgiving are by far his busiest time of year and this past week — the one leading up to Christmas — was the busiest of them all.
From the first stop to his last stop his day is a non-stop ballet of turning off his truck, grabbing packages, exiting the truck, closing the door, delivering the package, opening his door, turning on the truck and driving off to his next stop, which is typically less than two minutes away. The entire routine takes a minute or less most of the time but Arcuri is always trying to find ways to save time.
He'll leave the passenger side door open while he drives, he memorizes his route and which typical businesses aren't on the delivery list for that day and he eats on the road. There is no radio playing songs or talk radio blaring in his truck. Those are distractions that he can't afford to have. Bad weather and construction are his two enemies and he's enjoyed the lack of the first one the past two winters.
In the summer temperatures can reach 135 degrees inside his truck, turning it into an aluminum oven. In the winter, with the door open constantly, it can get downright frigid turning the truck into an ice box. But Arcuri doesn't complain.
He admits the job isn't for everyone but it is what he loves and he enjoys doing it.
At stop after stop those who sign for the packages know him by name. He doesn't always know what's inside each box he hands over but at this time of year with senders such as Shari's Berries, Sugar Plum, Harry and David and Murray's Cheese, he knows those on his route will be eating well.
FedEx acquired the contracts to Walmart and Amazon.com recently meaning a huge addition to what was already a growing enterprise. As more shoppers have turned to the Internet to shop for the mundane to the essentials, delivery companies such as UPS, FedEx and DHL and the U.S. Postal Service have reaped the rewards.
FedEx predicted it moved 19 million shipments on Monday, double its usual package volume and 10 percent more than last year, when the company moved 17.2 million packages on its busiest day, which also happened to be the annual free shipping holiday many retailers participate in.
For the holiday season – Thanksgiving to Christmas Day – FedEx Ground Public Relations Director Erin Truxal said more than 280 million shipments will move through the global FedEx networks. This, she added, would be a year-over-year volume increase of more than 13 percent compared to 2011 when 247 million shipments moved through our networks.
Arcuri said over the years there has been a huge shift in FedEx customers, which used to be business-oriented. Today, thanks to the online orders, residential customers are also a huge part of the daily deliveries. Even though Arcuri deals primarily with businesses, in the coming days he will assist the residential route drivers to make sure all the last minute Christmas gifts are delivered in time to be placed under the tree with care.