SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Postal workers are feeling the pressure, working around the clock to handle a holiday shipping season made much busier by the pandemic.

“I think that plays a lot in it too. As letter carriers, we are essential,” Tom Dlugolsenski, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 134, says.

It’s an essential service that’s been in overdrive since the pandemic started.

“Just to put things into perspective, we actually entered into holiday volume back at the start of the pandemic, which you know was mid-march,” Scott Jevis, Syracuse’s postmaster for the USPS, says. “So we’ve been proactively planning and strategizing all year, knowing our traditional peak holiday season would be upon us.”

Add a typical holiday shopping season with a growing number of people who feel more comfortable shopping from home, and Dlugolsenski says postal workers are handling nearly double-digit increases in volume.

“It’s more than you can imagine,” Dlugolsenski says. “If you can picture tractor-trailers full of packages waiting to be unloaded in the main sorting facilities, lined up.”

Jevis adds, “I can tell you from my experience in the company and as a mail carrier myself at one point in my career, we have employees seeing volumes that they literally have never seen before. We’re pushing our capacity to the limit, but the planning we put in place is paying off. We’re ready for it and everything’s flowing smoothly.”

The union representing letter carriers across Central New York says it’s crunch time as they account for a third challenge: staffing shortages caused by COVID-19. All of these challenges are creating long hours and sometimes seven-day workweeks.

“Our carriers come in a 6 a.m. or sometimes six to seven in the morning but we’re still finishing up sometimes 8 p.m., nine o’clock at night,” Dlugolsenski adds.

The extended hours and high demand are not only putting stress on the system but a lot of stress on mail carriers as well.

“You come into the station and your truck is loaded three times to go and run packages all day, that’s very overwhelming, very stressful times for a lot of people,” Dlugolsenski says. “So that’s difficult to manage and it doesn’t end. It won’t end until January really.”

The union asks people to help keep mail carriers safe, as they work hard to keep you safe. They say you can simply keep your lights on and clear your walkways for carriers making deliveries before dawn or after dark.