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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

FedEx forklift driver James Wilson

Last week I photographed inside the FedEx Express Hub in Indianapolis for a weekend story in The Wall Street Journal about the booming U.S. economy. I left my house at 1:17 a.m. and arrived at the massive facility at the Indianapolis International Airport just before 2:30 a.m. I’ve been in a lot of factories over the years, but I had never seen anything like this. The subject for the story, James Wilson, is a material handler who uses a forklift to pack pallets of overnight packages into aluminum shipping containers to be loaded onto airplanes. Wilson’s work area is a ballet of forklifts playing three-dimensional Tetris. It kept me on my toes. I had my head on a swivel to make sure I wasn’t walking into the path of a forklift or getting in the way of the other workers. It was incredible to get a glimpse of the intricate process that goes on while most of us are asleep.

James Wilson, a FedEx material handler, uses a forklift to load a pallet of packages for shipment at the FedEx Express Hub in Indianapolis in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. The jobless rate in the United States is near the lowest level since the 1960s, but gains are not being distributed evenly. (James Brosher for The Wall Street Journal)

James Wilson, a FedEx material handler, uses a forklift to load a pallet of packages for shipment at the FedEx Express Hub in Indianapolis in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. The jobless rate in the United States is near the lowest level since the 1960s, but gains are not being distributed evenly. (James Brosher for The Wall Street Journal)

James Wilson, a FedEx material handler, secures cargo netting over a stack of packages at the FedEx Express Hub in Indianapolis in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (James Brosher for The Wall Street Journal)

James Wilson, a FedEx material handler, secures cargo netting over a stack of packages at the FedEx Express Hub in Indianapolis in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (James Brosher for The Wall Street Journal)

James Wilson, a FedEx material handler, uses a forklift to load a pallet of packages for shipment at the FedEx Express Hub in Indianapolis in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (James Brosher for The Wall Street Journal)

James Wilson, a FedEx material handler, uses a forklift to load a pallet of packages for shipment at the FedEx Express Hub in Indianapolis in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (James Brosher for The Wall Street Journal)

James Wilson, a FedEx material handler, carefully maneuvers a pallet of packages into a unit load device (ULD) using a forklift at the FedEx Express Hub in Indianapolis in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (James Brosher for The Wall Street Journal)

James Wilson, a FedEx material handler, carefully maneuvers a pallet of packages into a unit load device (ULD) using a forklift at the FedEx Express Hub in Indianapolis in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (James Brosher for The Wall Street Journal)

James Wilson, a FedEx material handler, carefully maneuvers a pallet of packages into a container using a forklift at the FedEx Express Hub in Indianapolis in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (James Brosher for The Wall Street Journal)

James Wilson, a FedEx material handler, carefully maneuvers a pallet of packages into a container using a forklift at the FedEx Express Hub in Indianapolis in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (James Brosher for The Wall Street Journal)

James Wilson, a FedEx material handler, uses a forklift to load a pallet of packages for shipment at the FedEx Express Hub in Indianapolis in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (James Brosher for The Wall Street Journal)

James Wilson, a FedEx material handler, uses a forklift to load a pallet of packages for shipment at the FedEx Express Hub in Indianapolis in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (James Brosher for The Wall Street Journal)

James Wilson, a FedEx material handler, closes a unit load device (ULD) before the container's departure from the FedEx Express Hub in Indianapolis in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (James Brosher for The Wall Street Journal)

James Wilson, a FedEx material handler, closes a unit load device (ULD) before the container’s departure from the FedEx Express Hub in Indianapolis in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (James Brosher for The Wall Street Journal)

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