How does FedEx check packages for drugs?

FedEx is one of the largest shipping and logistics companies in the world. They ship millions of packages each day across their global network. With such a high volume of packages, FedEx has implemented various security measures to prevent illegal substances like drugs from being shipped through their system. Here is an overview of how FedEx checks packages for drugs and other prohibited items:

Screening Packages

All packages that enter the FedEx system are subject to screening and security checks. This starts from the moment a package is dropped off at a FedEx shipping location or picked up from a customer’s home or business. Packages are scanned and pass through weighing stations where weight discrepancies can flag a package for further inspection. Data about the package characteristics is collected such as origin, destination, shipper and receiver info, weight, size etc.

X-ray Machines & Drug Sniffing Dogs

At FedEx sorting facilities, x-ray machines and drug dogs are used to screen packages. X-ray images allow inspectors to view the contents of a package without opening it. Suspicious items or anomalies can then be flagged for a manual search. Specially trained sniffer dogs are also used to detect narcotics and other contraband smells from the outside of packages. Their powerful sense of smell makes them effective at finding drugs concealed in boxes and envelopes.

Manifest Checks

All FedEx packages must be accompanied by a shipping manifest that lists details about the contents, shipper and receiver. FedEx security agents carefully verify these manifests and look for any red flags such as suspicious locations, unusual shipper/receiver names, excessive insurance, odd package sizes/weights and more. Unverified or suspicious shipments are pulled aside for further screening.

Address Screening

FedEx maintains a database of suspicious addresses connected with past drug seizures or related criminal activity. Packages shipped to or from these locations automatically get flagged in the screening process. Senders and receivers are also checked against deny/watch lists maintained by FedEx and authorities.

Canine Teams

Trained sniffer dogs and handlers are strategically deployed at FedEx facilities to proactively screen cargo. The dogs can quickly sniff out packages containing illegal narcotics being routed through the system. When they detect suspicious odors, the packages are set aside for inspection by agents.

Law Enforcement Partnerships

FedEx works closely with various law enforcement agencies to identify and stop prohibited shipments. They collaborate with the DEA, FDA, Customs, and local authorities by sharing critical shipment data and providing training. FedEx also has their own dedicated security staff that help coordinate enforcement efforts.

Inspection Process

When a suspicious package is flagged during screening, it enters an inspection process to determine if it contains contraband. Here are some steps in the inspection process:

Controlled Area

The package is moved to a controlled, non-public area for closer inspection out of view. This is done for privacy, security and safety reasons.

Physical Inspection

In a secure room, inspectors will physically examine the package and its contents. They check for false bottoms, hidden compartments, chemical odor residue and other signs of smuggling.

X-ray & Testing

Advanced x-ray systems and technologies are used to test the package for narcotics without opening sealed portions. This can detect anomalies and hidden items.

Drug Sniff Test

A sniffer dog is brought in for another comprehensive sniff test of the suspicious package. Their nose can pick up scents that chemical tests may miss.

Manifest Verification

The shipping manifest is checked again in detail against the actual package contents looking for inconsistencies.

Attempt to Contact Shipper/Receiver

The shipper and receiver contact info is verified and FedEx security may attempt to directly contact them with questions about the shipment.

Check Law Enforcement Databases

Shipper, receiver and package details are searched across law enforcement databases for any criminal connections.

Package Held or Seized

If prohibited contents are confirmed, the package is held by FedEx security for authorities. Otherwise, it is returned to normal processing.

Common Drug Shipment Methods

Drug traffickers use a variety of concealment methods to try to avoid detection when using shipping carriers like FedEx. Here are some of the common ways drugs are smuggled:

Inside Legitimate Items

Drugs are hidden inside products with secret compartments like furniture, electronics, auto parts, stuffed animals, canned goods etc. The rest of the contents make the package look innocent.

Disguise Odors

Strong smelling products like coffee, dryer sheets, mustard, silicone caulk etc. are used to mask any drug odors and evade sniffer dogs.

Multiple Packages

Drugs are split across multiple packages sometimes shipped from different locations making each one look harmless. They are then consolidated before delivery.

Fake Businesses

Traffickers set up fake sender and receiver businesses so the shipment appears legitimate related to that industry.

Third Party Shipping

Rather than directly shipping to the receiver, packages go through intermediate locations first to disguise the final destination.

Excessive Packaging

Extra plastic, bubble wrap, shopping bags, gift wrapping etc. is used to make contents difficult to examine and deter close inspection.

FedEx Efforts Against Drugs

FedEx deploys a multi-layered strategy across people, processes and technology to prevent drug shipments:

Trained Staff

Thousands of security agents, handlers and inspectors are trained to spot signs of smuggling using the latest techniques.

Advanced Technology

Extensive use of x-ray systems, molecular scanners, application screening and analytics to enhance detection.

Canine Teams

A dedicated contingent of sniffer dogs and handlers to proactively target suspect packages.

Law Enforcement Collaboration

FedEx works closely with DEA, Customs, and local authorities by sharing data and alerting on suspicious activities.

Courier Inspections

Physical checks of courier vehicles, personnel and credentials to verify FedEx standards are met on their routes.

Contingency Plans

Facility lockdowns, shipment diversions and other emergency protocols are ready in case of a drug interdiction situation.

Preventative Monitoring

Proactive tracking of data like origins, destinations, names, payment methods to identify high risk drug patterns.

Year Packages Screened Packages Inspected Drug Packages Intercepted
2019 4.7 billion 10 million 43,000
2020 4.9 billion 11.2 million 38,000
2021 5.1 billion 12 million 41,000


FedEx employs extensive measures to check packages for drugs and prohibited items throughout their network. Security agents, advanced technology, sniffer dogs and law enforcement collaboration allow FedEx to detect and intercept thousands of drug shipments each year. While traffickers constantly change tactics, FedEx adapts their defenses to stay ahead through training, innovation and vigilance. This multilayered approach is key for FedEx to maintain the integrity of their shipping system against the menace of illegal drugs.

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