UPS Inc. said it has implemented changes in the package car driver schedules through the peak holiday season period that, in many parts of the country, will require its drivers to work 70 hours over eight consecutive days.
The changes were immediately criticized by a dissident faction of the Teamsters union, which warned they would subject already-overburdened package car drivers to even more physical hardships as they struggle with an avalanche of holiday packages. The Teamsters represent UPS package car and over-the-road, or feeder, drivers who operate tractor-trailers. Unlike feeder drivers, who spend a good part of their workdays driving down the road, package car drivers are in and out of their vehicles dozens of times a day to pick up and deliver packages, often in congested urban areas.
The changes, which went into effect on Friday and are expected to run through Jan. 14, will increase drivers' work schedules from their typical peak-season cycle, which has been 60 hours of work spread out over seven consecutive days. Under federal regulations governing the number of hours that drivers work, a driver can operate no more than 70 hours over an eight-day work cycle, or 60 hours over a seven-day cycle. When the cycle ends, drivers must take off the next 34 hours, after which time the next cycle would begin. The number of hours in a driver's workday is capped at 14, and a driver cannot be behind the wheel for more than 11 consecutive hours, and must take a 30-minute break within the first eight hours of driving.
Atlanta-based UPS implemented the change unilaterally, which a motor carrier is allowed to do as long as the carrier operates vehicles each day of the week. UPS said it would be up to regional and district managers to determine whether the increases in driver schedules are necessary, depending on a region's volume.
The company has said it expects to deliver 750 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, a 5-percent increase from last year's totals. In addition, the company expects to be swamped with returns of holiday merchandise during the first week to 10 days of 2018. UPS' daily peak volume normally swells to 30 million packages, from an average of 19 million during the rest of the year, it said.
In a statement today, UPS said it is common for motor carriers to increase driver work hours to cope with higher volumes over compressed time periods. The company said it implemented the practice last holiday in certain high-demand markets. UPS noted that drivers get paid time and a half for all work performed over 40 hours per week.
In a memo to members on Friday, Denis J. Taylor, director of the Teamsters' package division, said rank-and-file responses to the changes must come from the local level, because the terms of a UPS employee's standard workweek are defined by regional supplements to the union's master contract with UPS, not by the master contract itself. Taylor advised members to file grievances if there are contractual restrictions on the number of days or hours a driver can operate during a work cycle. Contract language overrides federal hours-of-service regulations, Taylor said.
Ken Paff, national organizer for the Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), a dissident group that frequently clashes with Teamsters leadership, said the changes would create even more stress for UPS package car drivers, who make hundreds of stops per day during the peak season. The changes will have a disproportionate effect on package car drivers relative to the feeder drivers, who don't have anywhere near the same backbreaking service requirements, particularly at this time of year, Paff noted.
Paff said UPS plans to have its drivers work five 14-hour days in a row to bump them up against the 70-hour maximum before they take their mandatory 34-hour restart break. Steve Gaut, a UPS spokesman, said the company would spread out the 70 hours over a period of eight consecutive days.
Paff called on union leaders to execute a more forceful response to the UPS measures. According to published reports this morning, drivers in Boston organized an informal protest to the changes, saying it put driver safety at risk. UPS' unionized employees in Boston are represented by the influential Local 25, which is headed by Sean M. O'Brien. General President James P. Hoffa in September fired O'Brien as head of the Teamsters' package division.