Los Angeles — 'Tis the season of giving, which also means it's the season of shipping. Nearly 60% of Americans will buy their holiday gifts online this year, according to the National Retail Federation.
FedEx alone expects to ship 100 million more packages this holiday season. Each day, 240,000 packages are handled at the company's Los Angeles processing center, which gave CBS News a rare behind-the-scenes look inside.
While you're sleeping, FedEx workers are working through the night to sort and ship packages.
"This is peak season," said package handler Kyles Hawkins. "Our shift usually lasts about six to seven hours depending on our flights. Sometimes we can get out early, but now that it's peak we're here long days."
FedEx recently added 14.4 million square feet of sorting capacity for the holiday season — the equivalent of 300 football fields.
Workers like Hawkins make sure all the labels on packages riding down a conveyor belt are facing up. They'll eventually make their way into metal containers designed to fit perfectly on a cargo plane.
Bobby Willis, vice president of operations for the Pacific Region, said it takes "anywhere between 30 and 40 minutes" to fill a Boeing 767. "We can do it pretty fast," he said of the real life game of Tetris. The planes never go out empty or half-full this time of year, he said.
It's not just gifts on the conveyor belts. FedEx also ships critical COVID vaccines across the country. From pickup to delivery, the vaccines are in FedEx's possession for about 20 hours, operations manager Steve Hornstra said.
Hornstra was there for the first shipment of vaccines a year ago.
"We're very proud to be part of that," he said. "Those shipments come in and we're saving lives, right? We're saving lives. Potentially millions of people with those 290 million vaccines that are coming through our system that we've delivered. That to me, that's incredible."
Between vaccine shipments and the holiday season, this is FedEx's Super Bowl. Hornstra called his employees "industrial athletes."
"Every day, first five minutes is a stretch and flex," he said. "You're coming in here lifting 50 pounds, packages up to 150 pounds coming through this system. You gotta be warm. You gotta be loose and ready to go."
Team lead Lasedyia Griffin says the most important thing for these athletes is rest.
"We're always on our feet and we wanna make sure that our team is good," she said. "It takes our bodies, our arms, upper body to do this. So we have to stay focused, mindset and just be ready to work when you get here."
for more features.