A UPS truck in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Robert Alexander/Getty Images
This summer, UPS drivers are facing extreme heat without A/C. Many are posting photos of 120-degree trucks.
Insider spoke to a longtime driver who walks through sprinklers just to make it through their route.
This is their story, as told to writer Jenny Powers.
This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with a longtime UPS driver. He spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his job, but his employment has been verified by Insider. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Once the hot weather hits, sprinklers are my best friend.
Any chance I get, I walk through them to cool off from the punishing heat while I deliver UPS packages, especially during the record-breaking temperatures this summer. I always wear a baseball cap to work, so when I stand underneath a sprinkler, I make sure to take it off and soak it under the spray before putting it back on my head. It helps, but it’s just a short-term relief. Ten minutes later, I’m sweating all over again.
On most days, it’s hot enough in the back of my truck — where I spend 90% of my time — that you could probably fry an egg on the shelves where the packages are. I’ve never tried it though, because I want to get in and out of the back as quickly as possible.
It’s been a long, hot summer with no air conditioning or fans in my vehicle
I work five days a week, putting in between eight and 14 hours a day. On most days, I usually average somewhere between 11 and 12 hours per shift, driving around 125 miles and delivering 225 or more packages.
—Teamsters for a Democratic Union (@TeamsterRnF) August 2, 2022
Management is always asking drivers to pick up another shift on Saturdays, and sometimes I do when I need the money. But in the summer when it’s like this, I just can’t.
I’m not the only one in the heat, either. At the encouragement of our Teamsters Union, drivers are taking photos and posting about the brutal temperatures inside their trucks. It’s about 120 degrees, and we don’t get A/C or fans — even though somehow UPS has found the time and money to install cameras in our vehicles. It seems like all they care about is productivity and their numbers.
The warehouses are hot too, so even when we get back to the building, there’s no reprieve.
I can’t wait for the summer to be over
I saw the recent surveillance video of a UPS driver collapsing and then staggering away after dropping a package at a customer’s door. That’s some dedication right here. If that was me, the last thing I’d be worried about is ringing the bell.
The worst part is that this kind of stuff probably happens all the time; it’s just not captured on video. The driver probably just takes a quick break and then goes back to work, so he doesn’t get any flack.
Luckily, I haven’t gotten sick to the point where I couldn’t finish my route, but I’ve definitely gotten dizzy and lightheaded and felt disoriented and had to take a break at times.
One of the primary reasons I wanted the route I’m on in the first place is that it takes me along the Atlantic Ocean. At least three days a week, I hit the beach and go for a swim on my lunch break to cool off. In addition to my bathing suit, I always keep a cooler filled with ice water and a few towels in my truck.
Some customers on my route have given me an open invitation to jump in their pools to beat the heat
It’s a kind offer, but I’d feel awkward doing that. I’d probably do it if I knew they weren’t home, but you can’t always tell, so I stick to sprinklers.
Management claims the reason we don’t have AC is because with all our stops, it wouldn’t help. But the least they could do is give us a fan and find a way to properly ventilate the back of the truck where we work most of the day. That’s where it’s the hottest.
The workers who load all the packages in our vehicles use a construction crayon to write on the boxes to determine the shelf location. If they accidentally leave the crayon in the truck, it melts and turns into a puddle of wax.
A lot of us drivers face extreme temperatures throughout the year
While our vehicles don’t have air conditioning, they do have heat. It’s not the greatest, but it helps keep me warm enough in the winter that my fingers don’t freeze. Sometimes on really cold days, my water bottle will turn from liquid to solid ice just sitting in the cup holder.
When it’s scorching hot out, I think of all those freezing winter days in my truck where I’m shivering. In the winter, I think about days like today where I can’t stop sweating. There has to be a better way.
Our union said they’ve put UPS on notice about this and are awaiting the company’s response. We’ve got more than 300 days until our union contract is up, and yes, I’m counting.
Our union isn’t messing around about our next contract
They’re already sending us letters reminding us to save money in the event of a strike. They even set up a way for us to put a portion of our weekly paychecks into a credit union in the event that we are forced to strike.
If we were to strike, it would start the day our contract ends, which is July 31, 2023. It wouldn’t be good for anybody. Can you imagine a nationwide UPS strike?
I don’t want to go on strike, but timing-wise, I certainly wouldn’t mind missing work in the August heat — especially if it’s anything like this year.