UPS drivers want air-conditioned trucks

Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 7:20 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - UPS drivers have been turning up the heat on heat safety demands.

According to NBC News, more than a dozen union leaders nationwide report more workers seem to be getting sick from the heat this summer than ever before.

Rick Moore saw the video of a UPS driver in Arizona collapsing of heat exhaustion mid-delivery.

“It really hits home, because, when you see somebody wearing your uniform, doing the thing you do every day, and you see something like that happen, you know it could happen to you,” Moore said.

Tennessee conditions haven’t been much more forgiving this summer.

“It seems to me like this has been one of the roughest summers in a while,” Moore added.

After 22 summers of driving for UPS, Moore said he is hopeful the summer of record-breaking heat will send a message.

“I think anybody in their right mind would rather have AC in their vehicle,” Moore said.

While UPS is required to provide each driver with a fan, those familiar brown trucks know most are without air conditioning.

“If your outside temperature is 95 to 100 degrees, you can figure the inside of that brown truck, dark colored truck, is going to be 120 plus,” Lendon Grisham, the president of Teamsters Local 480 (the UPS union) explained.

The dangerous heat, he added, is compounded by unrelenting hours.

“UPS, last year, was $5 billion in profits. And instead of looking to add something to enhance the drivers’ safety, like air conditioning or something like that, they put cameras in the trucks to watch the driver and see what he’s doing and put more pressure on the driver,” Grisham said. “UPS doesn’t do anything to adjust their schedules. They don’t lighten their loads.”

In response, UPS told us they meet with drivers regularly and implement programs to train them in heat safety, and have conducted extensive research on heat mitigation strategies. A representative explained that the delivery vehicles make frequent stops which require the engine to be turned off and the doors to be opened and closed around 130 times a day.

Moore said he’s disciplined about his water intake and breaks, but AC would bring significant relief. Perhaps more so, he said, would be adjusting summer hours.

“Let’s look at trying to see how we can reduce the hours during the heat to make sure that we don’t have guys out nine, 10, 11 hours delivering,” Moore said

According to Grisham, UPS’ union contract expires in 2023. He expects equipping trucks with air conditioning will come up in negotiations.

Here is the full statement WSMV received from UPS:

“The health and safety of our employees is our highest priority. UPS drivers are trained to work outdoors and to manage the effects of hot weather. Preparation, rest, hydration and maintaining good health practices are key to working outdoors. UPS invests more than $260 million annually to implement programs focused on safety, including working in hot weather.

For example, we have a program that was developed with input from experts in the field of occupational health and safety that focuses on educating employees about hydration along with nutrition and proper sleep before working in hotter temperatures. We have morning meetings with drivers all year round, reminding them of forecasted temperatures and encouraging them to be aware of their own health conditions. In the summer, in addition to providing water and ice for employees, we provide regular heat illness and injury prevention training to all operations managers and drivers.

Another example is our innovative safety platform known as the Comprehensive Health and Safety Process (CHSP). The CHSP is a collaboration between local UPS’s hourly employees and management that meets regularly to discuss health and safety, involving our front-line employees in ways to protect the health and safety of their co-workers. There are more than 3,200 CHSP committees in UPS facilities across the country. We have a dedicated team of health and safety professionals who review work practices and promote health awareness.

Our package delivery vehicles make frequent stops, which requires the engine to be turned off and the doors to be opened and closed, about 130 times a day on average. We have studied heat mitigation with our vehicles and integrated forced air systems with venting to create air flow around the driver and cargo areas. We optimize the roof of vehicles to minimize heat in the cargo area, alongside insulating the roof of the cab. We also offer fans to drivers upon request.

We also offer our employees multiple ways to share their concerns with us, and we promptly address issues when they are brought to our attention. We never want our employees to continue working to the point that they risk their health or work in an unsafe manner.”

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