New UPS Trucks Will Get Air Conditioning After Years of Driver Demands

UPS will slowly begin introducing air conditioning to its fleet of delivery trucks from next year, but is it doing enough?

byLewin Day|
New UPS Trucks Will Get Air Conditioning After Years of Driver Demands
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Air conditioning was once considered an optional luxury, but it's generally standard issue on most vehicles today. When it comes to UPS's fleet of delivery trucks, though, drivers have long had to suffer the brunt of hot summers entirely unaided. Some relief will soon be at hand, though, as a result of long-running negotiations with workers.

Air conditioning has long been a top priority for those that work at UPS. If you've ever driven your project beater without A/C in a hot summer, you'll know the struggle. Imagine that magnified by the fact that you're stuck in a hot truck for a full day's shift. Workers have even shared thermometer readings on Twitter showing temperatures inside UPS trucks can reach in excess of 120 F. Now, it seems that UPS has finally agreed to new measures that should help to keep its trucks, and thus its delivery crews, cooler.

The change has come about via contract negotiations with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union which represents UPS workers. The primary measure is that all newly purchased UPS small package delivery vehicles will be fitted with air conditioning from January 1, 2024 onwards. Where possible, the company will prioritize the delivery of new vehicles to the hottest parts of the country first.

Of course, UPS operates a fleet of over 120,000 delivery trucks in the US. The newly-equipped trucks will make up a small fraction of that fleet for some time. For the rest of its famous Package Cars, UPS will install a fan in the cab to provide drivers with some airflow. A second fan will later be installed in UPS trucks without air conditioning by June 1, 2024.

The new agreement with the Teamsters also highlights some glaring design oversights in UPS's unique Package Car delivery vehicles. Moving forward, UPS will retrofit its vehicles with exhaust heat shields to minimize the amount of heat passing into the vehicle. This is something virtually every passenger car has featured for decades, so it's surprising the measure was never implemented on UPS's trucks. The company will retrofit existing Package Cars with exhaust shields in the 18 months following ratification of its new contract with the Teamsters.

Package Cars will also receive a new air scoop that ducts fresh air into the cargo area of the vehicle. This promises to reduce temperatures in the back when workers are loading and unloading packages. The retrofit programs will cover the bespoke Package Cars that make up 95% of UPS's fleet, with other vehicles to receive upgrades where practical.

Workers have been calling for UPS to solve this issue for years, with heat stroke and other heat-related injuries causing undue harm to those on the job. Workers have collapsed and even died on the job, with relatives pinning the cause on soaring temperatures and unbearable working conditions.

A few fans in old trucks aren't going to solve this problem overnight. While it's positive to see the company finally taking some actions toward protecting its workers from injury, it's hard to understand why it's taken this long in the first place.

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