Ready Or Not, Here They Come: Everything You Need To Know About FedEx’s and UPS’s API Changes

Aerial view of a city at night with a connected UPS and FedEx API concept

Fill in the blank: The biggest news to come out of UPS and FedEx over the past couple of years has been related to ______.

If you answered, “their annual rate increases,” you’re not alone.

However you’re also mistaken, because while most of us have been busy focusing on the ins and outs of the latest GRIs, both carriers have quietly announced plans to swap out their longtime APIs in favor of newer models — and informed shippers that they’ll need to be ready to come along for the ride.

“The good news is, these API changes will make customers’ and carriers’ data much more secure,” said AFS CIO Nathan Johnson. “The bad news is, they’re making life considerably more complicated for a lot of shippers’ IT departments in the short term, or at least they should be.”

We recently sat down with him and AFS President of Parcel Micheal McDonagh to learn more.

Some of our readers are techies. But many aren’t. With that in mind, walk us through the basics of these API changes in plain English – and tell us why they’re so significant.

Nathan: FedEx and UPS have decided to retire the APIs they’ve been using in favor of more advanced APIs technologies that are now available.

The new APIs offer better functionality and data protection than the existing ones and put the carriers’ APIs more on par with other companies that have been leveraging advanced B2B integration for years. Unfortunately, they don’t play well with some technologies that many shippers may be using. As a result, many shippers will have to make a technological shift to continue integrating with FedEx and UPS. If they haven’t done so already, they’re running behind.

What kind of a shift are we talking about?

Nathan: In Geek speak, both carriers are moving to a RESTful API using a more advanced security model like OAuth 2.0 instead of single access key authentication. Shippers who are using older protocols like XML or SOAP for their API integrations will have to make a conversion to something that’s RESTful compatible.

That doesn’t sound “restful” at all. What’s the deadline for this new integration?

Micheal: It was supposed to be May for FedEx and June for UPS. But both carriers have since moved their deadlines to August and September, which tells you what a challenge this has been for most shipper companies to comply with.

Nathan: It’s definitely a lift for IT teams.

Nathan, earlier in this conversation, you mentioned that if this isn’t making life more complicated for shippers’ IT departments, it should be. What did you mean by that?

Nathan: Despite the many announcements and guides that have been posted or sent out, many shipper companies still don’t seem to have gotten the memo that complying with FedEx’s and UPS’s new API access requirements isn’t going to be quick or easy.

That’s why it’s important to let companies know that they can’t wait until the last minute to begin upgrading and/or converting their technologies. Their IT professionals should have been working overtime on these new integrations already, because if they haven’t, they might eventually find themselves temporarily locked out of these APIs.

What kind of APIs are we talking about?

Micheal: You name it – real-time track and trace information, delivery status, delivery time, location and other pertinent information.

Sounds like pretty much everything. Does that mean that all of UPS’s and FedEx’s customers are affected by this API shift?

Micheal: Not necessarily. For companies that only use UPS and FedEx to ship parcels, it’s business as usual, and no change is needed.

However, for companies that DO use the parcel carriers’ various APIs (or want to) it’s non-negotiable. Either they find a way to comply with the new technological requirements or they miss out on many of the UPS and FedEx systems capabilities that they’ve come to depend on.

What if a company is using a TMS instead of these APIs? Does it need to be concerned?

Micheal: That TMS is probably still integrating with FedEx’s and UPS’s APIs in some form or fashion, so it’s still a pressing issue.

Nathan: The same holds true for companies that are relying on 3PLs or other software providers to handle their parcel carrier interface.

Any chance the deadline will be moved back again?

Nathan: There’s always a chance, and both FedEx and UPS have adjusted their timelines, but I wouldn’t want to bet on another schedule change. Whether it’s in the next couple of months or maybe longer than that, the API transition is happening.

That’s why we’ve already gone live with our UPS API integration – and testing and will go live with FedEx integration well before the deadline.

Why not go live with both at the same time?

Nathan: The two companies’ API changes – and the steps required to sync with them – are similar but not identical. They’re essentially two different flavors, as you can see from looking at both companies’ developer pages.

Double the work!

Micheal: And double the fun.

Why do we detect a hint of sarcasm in that last comment? One last question: What’s the takeaway for shippers?

Nathan: Oh wow – thanks for ending with such an “easy” one.

First and foremost, I’d say reach out to your parcel shipping department, IT department, 3PLs and systems providers to make sure they’re aware of these new requirements – and hard at work on making sure your company is ready. Don’t assume that they’ve seen all of the communications from either carrier or that they’re fully on top of it, because as we’ve already mentioned, this particular transition hasn’t been making a lot of headlines.

Second, don’t assume your company has all the time in the world to work on this. It’s an effort to complete all of the complex work required for each new integration, and in addition to allowing time for programming, you also need to build in some time for testing. Always nice to test in parallel and avoid hard deadlines.

Finally, if you’re concerned that your company or its partners won’t be ready in time, give AFS a shout. We’ve been eating, sleeping and drinking API connectivity across our carrier base for years, and we’d be happy to provide you with the guidance or ongoing API access you need.

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