UPS Drivers Say No to Drones

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 Package delivery giant UPS has put major resources behind the development of new technologies like drone delivery and driverless vehicles.  But UPS drivers may not be as enthusiastic about the changes.
The Teamsters, the labor union representing UPS drivers, has called for a prohibition against the use of drones or driverless vehicles in their negotiations with United Parcel Service Inc, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Negotiations between the Teamsters and UPS have not gone smoothly over the last few months.  The collective bargaining agreement, which expires in July, is one of the countries largest: representing over 250,000 employees.

The argument is a disappointing one for the drone industry, highlighting the problem that the industry faces with public perception.  UPS’ previous tests of drone delivery have involved a realistic implementation concept: one of augmenting drivers’ efforts by having drones deliver packages on the same street as the driver.  This kind of a plan would not eliminate drivers, just effort and foot traffic.  Given that another of the union’s grievances is over the long hours that the drivers were required to work over the holidays, drone technology could provide a significant benefit for both sides.

UPS did their first tests of drone delivery in 2016, delivering medical supplies to a remote area: since then they’ve tested further with a drone and truck combination.  UPS has over 100,000 drivers on the road each day, delivering in both urban and rural areas: rural deliveries are among the most expensive to complete.

“This test is different than anything we’ve done with drones so far. It has implications for future deliveries, especially in rural locations where our package cars often have to travel kilometres to make a single delivery,” said Mark Wallace, senior vice-president of global engineering and sustainability, UPS, at the time of the test. “Imagine a triangular delivery route where the stops are kilometres apart by road. Sending a drone from a package car to make just one of those deliveries can reduce costly kilometres driven. This is a big step toward bolstering efficiency in our network and reducing our emissions at the same time.”

“Drivers are the face of our company, and that won’t change,” Wallace said in 2017. “What’s exciting is the potential for drones to aid drivers at various points along their routes, helping them save time and deliver on increasing customer service needs that stem from the growth of e-commerce.”


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