Baking

UPS drivers collapse at work and bake cookies on their dashboards as they work without AC power in extreme heat of up to 150 degrees

Record-breaking summer heat is taking its toll on delivery drivers, and UPS drivers without air conditioning say their jobs are getting harder and harder.

In June, a 24-year-old UPS driver died on the job amid a California heat wave. A month later, an Arizona homeowner shared doorbell video of a UPS driver collapsing in triple-digit temperatures.

It’s a problem drivers say they’ve struggled with for decades, but it’s only getting worse.

A UPS spokesperson previously told Insider that air conditioning would be ineffective in the vehicles, considering that they “make frequent stops, which requires turning off the engine and opening and closing doors, approximately 130 times a day on average.

Meanwhile, drivers are documenting extreme heat conditions in their vehicles by sharing photos of thermometers clocked at 150 degrees and cooking steaks and cookies on their dashboards. Three drivers told Insider they were unable to handle metal equipment, such as the shelves in the back of the vehicle, without burning themselves.

“It’s like a greenhouse in there,” a Florida driver who has worked for the company for nearly four decades told Insider. “You may feel baked in and unless you have places to stop along the way for air conditioning, there’s no relief, not until your 10 shift is over or maybe 14 hours later.”

A UPS spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment before publication, but told Insider earlier this month that its employees are specially trained to deal with the heat.

“We never want our employees to continue working to the point of endangering their health or working in an unsafe manner,” the spokesperson said.

Insider spoke with five drivers who alleged triple-digit temperatures in delivery trucks, workers collapsing and supervisors who discouraged employees from seeking medical attention. The current drivers spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their jobs, but their identities have been verified by Insider.

A Texas driver who has worked for the company for more than two decades told Insider she suffered four heat-related injuries in the past two years, including one that left her in the hospital for two days and prevented her from working for weeks.

“It takes over you. You try to drink as much water as you can, but you’re sweating faster than you can hydrate yourself, and then you start to feel sick. Before you know it, you’re about to throwing up and you’re having trouble drinking fluids,” she said of the latest incident, which she says happened less than a month ago.

“My heart was pounding and I was so dizzy that I couldn’t stand up.” she added.

UPS says it provides workers with training on how to deal with extreme weather conditions, including heat waves, through a program called “Cool Solutions.” But, five drivers told Insider, the training leaves a lot to be desired.

“It’s really common sense,” said the Florida driver. “They tell you to drink water and food that will hydrate you. They tell you to avoid caffeinated drinks or alcohol the night before, find somewhere cool for your lunch break, which doesn’t is not really possible on my route.”

The training also encourages drivers to take more breaks during heat waves, but drivers say their performance can be challenged if they slow down.

“You can park and take a break, but they’ll tell you the numbers later,” the Texas driver said.

Three drivers told Insider they were either told to avoid going to the emergency room or witnessed supervisors discouraging employees from seeking medical attention for injuries, a problem they attribute to performance issues.

“If they can’t put drivers on the road, sometimes supervisors have to take over their routes,” said a Colorado driver.

UPS provides workers with ice and fans, but several drivers said ice machines are often broken or out of stock, and it’s even more difficult for the company to install a fan in the vehicle. .

“They started telling drivers they were out of fan parts,” said Anthony Rosario, a New York labor leader who has worked for the company for 28 years. “Even when they have one, it just pushes hot air,” he added.

Drivers push for better conditions

“We have studied heat attenuation with our vehicles and incorporated forced air systems with ventilation to create airflow around the driver and cargo areas,” a UPS spokesperson previously said. . “We optimize the roof of the vehicles to minimize heat in the loading area, in addition to insulating the roof of the cabin. We also offer fans for drivers on request.”

The issue of vehicle air conditioning is at the center of upcoming negotiations between the company and the UPS Teamsters union, with the contract set to expire next summer. The union said it plans to strike if its demands are not met in 2023 and has always demanded bonuses, pensions and benefits that allow drivers to earn up to more than $130,000 a year .

Four drivers told Insider they doubt working conditions in the heat will ever change.

David Roy, who worked for UPS in Massachusetts for more than 40 years before retiring last year, said he felt the union was “barking up the wrong tree”.

“I don’t know how these workers think they’ll stay competitive with other companies. It’s hard work, but there aren’t many other places that offer this level of pay,” Roy said. , referring to Amazon and FedEx. “I always thought there were better jobs, but there were also much worse.”

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