UPS Production Push: Working Safe, Working Smart

May 22, 2009: In a tough economy, UPS management is getting leaner and meaner. New technology helps management push drivers for more.

Following UPS’s methods is the best way to protect yourself.

UPS management is laying off drivers, adding stops to routes, and pushing package car drivers to increase production more than ever.

“In my building, five drivers are laid off. That means more work for the rest of us,” reports Matt Higdon, a steward in Georgia Local 728. “Some of us have stop counts at peak season levels.”

The heat is on drivers to work faster and faster. And UPS is rolling out new technology that will only make the problem worse.

With new technology like telematics, management can monitor drivers more than ever. Every day is a potential electronic OJS.

The best way to protect yourself is to follow UPS’s methods.

Why We Run, Why We Shouldn’t

There are plenty of reasons why some package car drivers take shortcuts. Getting in early to see their family. Keeping customers happy. Avoiding hassles with management.

But running can get you into trouble:

  • Management will always come back for more. They’ll add stops to your route and expect you to work faster and faster.
  • If you have an injury, you won’t be able to keep up your old pace. But management will still expect the same production from you.
  • If you don’t follow the methods, management can discipline you for not working as instructed.

Work Safe, Work Smart

Matt Higdon, Local 728 UPS management is giving conflicting messages on an hourly basis: Go faster. Be safe. Build the business. “Do what the methods say to do and focus on keeping a safe, even pace,” recommends Higdon. “Don’t take shortcuts.”

Take your breaks at the appropriate times. Obey the posted speed limits, including those in your own building. Do your stretches before your first stop and after all rest periods—and do them every day, not just on an OJS.

Follow the methods every day—whether or not management is breathing down your neck.

“The best way to become good at something is to practice every day,” Higdon says.

That Special Day

Some drivers get nervous and speed-up when the supervisor comes on the truck. Don’t do it.

Management is disciplining drivers who have a higher Stops Per On Road Hour during an OJS for not working at a “demonstrated level of performance” when the sup is not on the truck.

What should you do to be ready for an OJS?

  • Follow the methods just like you would on an ordinary day.
  • Make a note of your load every day and keep track of misloads so that you can show the difference when your load is perfect for the OJS.
  • Get to know your pre-loader. They can be your eyes and ears and let you know how your load was changed on the day of your OJS.
  • Is the sup trying to do your work? “Make a note if you see the supervisor handling packages or opening doors,” advises Craig Karnia, a steward in Chicago Local 705. “You can use that to explain later why your numbers were higher on the OJS.”

Called into the Office

Following UPS’s methods is the best way to protect your job and your safety. But management may not be happy with your numbers.

Craig Karnia, Local 705 If management calls you into the office to talk about your work performance, be sure to bring a steward. “Answer management’s questions with clear simple answers,” recommends Karnia. “If they start asking you about something that happened days ago and you don’t know or don’t remember the answer to a question, just say so. Never make up an answer.”

“Management’s main purpose in these meetings is to intimidate you, and put pressure on you to push yourself too fast,” Karnia said. “Keep your cool, listen to what management has to say and don’t let them get under your skin. Follow the methods every day.”

If you get a warning, grieve it right away. If you get in more trouble later, a Teamster panel or an arbitrator will definitely take notice if you haven’t challenged previous warnings.

If management asks you to sign a letter committing to a certain level of performance, you can refuse to sign it. If management orders you to sign it, sign it under protest and file a grievance.

Strength in Numbers

Drivers are safer when more drivers are following the methods.

That starts when experienced Teamsters who know the methods take the time to share their knowledge with other drivers.

You can help by sharing this article and other tips with drivers in your building. Some members order TDU’s Daily Log Book in bulk to give to other drivers.

TDU is sponsoring a special workshop for package car drivers at the TDU Convention, Nov. 6-8 in Cleveland.

And we’ll continue our coverage of package car driver issues in the next issue of Convoy, with a special report on UPS’ new telematics program: “Safety, Service and Performance” (SSP).

What is management doing in your building to push production? Click here to let us know or to get in touch with TDU’s UPS Committee.