- UPS drivers are reporting heat as high as 150 degrees in their vehicles without air conditioning.
- Insider spoke with five drivers about what it's like to work in the summer heat.
- A spokesperson previously told Insider the drivers are trained to work in hot weather.
Record-breaking summer heat is taking its toll on delivery drivers, and UPS drivers without air conditioning say their job is only getting more difficult.
In June, a 24-year-old UPS driver died on the job amid a heat wave in California. A month later, an Arizona homeowner shared a doorbell video of a UPS driver collapsing during triple-digit temperatures.
A UPS spokesperson previously told Insider air conditioning would be ineffective in the vehicles, considering they "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."
Meanwhile, drivers are documenting extreme heat conditions in their vehicles by sharing photos of thermometers clocking 150 degrees and cooking steaks and baking cookies on their dashboards. Three drivers told Insider they haven't been able to handle metal equipment, like the shelving units in the back of the vehicle, without burning themselves.
"It's like a greenhouse in there," a Florida driver who has been with the company for nearly four decades told Insider. "You can feel yourself baking and unless you have places to stop along the way for air conditioning there is no relief, not until your shift ends 10 or maybe 14 hours later."
A UPS spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment ahead of publication, but told Insider earlier this month its workers are specially trained to deal with the heat.
"We never want our employees to continue working to the point that they risk their health or work in an unsafe manner," the spokesperson said.
Insider spoke with five drivers who alleged triple-digit temperatures in the delivery trucks, workers collapsing, and supervisors who discouraged employees from seeking medical care. The current drivers spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs, but their identities have been verified by Insider.
One Texas driver who has been with the company for over two decades told Insider she's suffered four heat-related injuries in the past two years, including one which left her in the hospital for two days and kept her out of work for weeks.
"It just comes over you. You try to drink as much water as you can but you're sweating faster than you can hydrate and then you start to feel poorly. Before you know it, you're about to throw up and you're having a hard time drinking fluids," she said of the last incident, which she said happened less than a month ago.
"My heart was racing and I was so dizzy I couldn't hold myself upright." she added.
UPS says it offers workers 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 much to be desired.
"It's just common sense really," the Florida driver said. "They tell you to drink water and food that will keep you hydrated. They tell you to avoid caffeinated drinks or drinking alcohol the night before, to find a cool location for your lunch break — which isn't really possible on my route."
The training also encourages drivers to take more breaks during heat waves, but drivers say their performance can be called into question if they slow down.
"You can pull over and take a break, but they're going to ride you about the numbers later," the Texas driver said.
Three drivers told Insider they've either been told to avoid going to the emergency room or seen supervisors discourage employees from seeking medical care for injuries — an issue they attribute to performance concerns.
"If they can't get the drivers on the road, sometimes the supervisors have to take over their routes," a driver from Colorado said.
UPS provides workers with ice and fans, but several drivers said the ice machines are often broken or out of stock and getting the company to install a fan in the vehicle is even harder.
"They've started telling drivers they're out of parts for fans," Anthony Rosario, a New York union leader who has been with the company for 28 years, said. "Even when they do have one, it's just pushing hot air around," he added.
Drivers push for better conditions
"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," a UPS spokesperson previously said. "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."
The issue of air conditioning in the vehicles is at the center of upcoming negotiations between the company and the UPS Teamsters union, as the contract is set to expire next summer. The union has said it plans to strike if its demands are not met in 2023 and has historically pushed for premium pay, pension, and benefits packages that allow drivers to make as much as over $130,000 a year.
Four drivers told Insider they're doubtful as to whether work conditions in the heat will ever change.
David Roy, who worked for UPS in Massachusetts for over 40 years before retiring last year, said he feels the union is "barking up the wrong tree."
"I don't know how these workers think they will stay competitive with other companies. It's hard work, but there's not many other places that offer that level of pay," Roy said, referencing Amazon and FedEx. "I always told myself there's better jobs, but there's also far worse ones."
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