UPS drivers claim the ‘brutal’ heat is putting their lives in risk.


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Nicholas Gubell, a UPS driver, was approaching the conclusion of his route on Long Island, New York, at 8 p.m. on a humid Thursday in July when he first felt dizzy.

Gubell, 26, had delivered roughly 200 parcels on that particular day. High 80s temperatures had been reached, and it was much hotter inside the metal rear of the truck, where, at each stop, he would have to pause for up to a minute to collect his load, with perspiration beading on his skin.

He was now stopped by the side of the road, gasping, hardly able to talk, and holding his phone in his strained, dehydrated hand.

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Gubell said, “My body was letting it go. He was transported to a hospital as paramedics cooled him down with ice packs. I was just trying to hang on as tight as I could.

Workers like Gubell have continued to deliver America’s packages for a variety of carriers, frequently in trucks without cooling mechanisms for drivers, as scorching heat waves swept across the country this summer, shattering temperature records and placing millions under heat advisories and warnings. Some UPS employees have posted pictures of the backs of their trucks, where thermometer readings reached as high as 150 degrees.

Due to a rise in heat-related illnesses among drivers, more work has been done recently to improve their working conditions.

They’re puking. Their bodies are shutting down, according to Dave Reeves, president of Local 767 in Texas, an affiliate of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which is made up of 350,000 UPS employees nationwide. It is dreadful.

According to public documents, the issue is not unique: At least 270 UPS and U.S. Postal Service drivers have been ill from heat exposure since 2015, with many of them ending up in hospitals. The statistics show that other employees of other delivery businesses, including FedEx, have also had heat exhaustion and that a few drivers have passed away recently. The Teamsters say that a huge number of heat-related illnesses, injuries, and deaths among drivers are not being reported.

Reports from the Center for Public Integrity and NBC News about the serious risks mail and delivery workers face because of the heat brought the issue to the public’s attention for the first time in a big way in 2019.

In advance of contract discussions next year, the Teamsters have begun organizing for stronger protection for UPS employees. Reeves says that the high temperatures and record-breaking heat waves are causing an alarming number of heat-related injuries.

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He continued by saying that 18 of the 9,500 employees under his supervision had suffered from heat illness in the previous six weeks alone. It is definitely getting worse, he said.

It may take some investigation to link a specific heat wave to climate change, but there is no denying that heat waves are becoming hotter, more common, and longer-lasting all throughout the planet.

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment by 13 federal agencies, which concluded that the frequency of heat waves increased from an average of two per year in the 1960s to six per year by the 2010s, the number of hot days in the United States is rising. The survey found that the current heat wave season is 45 days longer than it was in the 1960s.

Just days after beginning work as a UPS driver in Reeves’ neighborhood, Jose Cruz Rodriguez Jr., 23, was discovered dead in the company’s Waco, Texas, parking lot. In Pasadena, California, roughly 10 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, a 24-year-old UPS driver named Esteban David Chavez Jr. passed away tragically in June while delivering parcels. Earlier this month, video from a Ring doorbell showed another employee slipping and falling outside a Scottsdale, Arizona, house.

The majority of the emphasis has been on UPS, the largest package delivery firm in the world and one of the top employers in the country, even though delivery workers from the Postal Service and other companies have also fallen ill. Even though the company’s tractor-trailers have air conditioning, its smaller delivery trucks do not.

On average, the company’s package delivery vans must stop often, which necessitates turning off the engine and opening and closing the doors.

In preparation for heat waves, the company said it was giving workers more water, ice, electrolyte drinks, and fruit because “the health and safety of our employees is our top priority.”

The business said that it also intended to distribute uniforms made of moisture-wicking fabric and cooling towels, as well as to speed up the installation of fans in cars all around the nation. The organization said, “We never want our staff to work beyond the point when they jeopardize their health or do tasks in a dangerous way.”

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Legislators have also pushed for improved working conditions for postal carriers at the same time.

A measure mandating that the Postal Service put air conditioning in all of its vans was submitted last month by U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif. The law is named after 63-year-old postal truck driver Peggy Frank, who was found unconscious in her car in the San Fernando Valley, about 25 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, on a day in 2018 when the temperature reached 117 degrees.

According to the Postal Service, 34% of its cars now have air conditioning and a further 66% have fans. Any vehicle bought after 2003 also came with air conditioning, it was noted.

According to a statement from the Postal Service, “our carriers carry the mail throughout the year in a variety of temperatures and climatic circumstances.” The summertime, when temperatures soar throughout the nation, is included in this.

The Postal Service advised postal carriers to drink plenty of water, wear hats, and seek out shade whenever possible. It also said that it began a program to avoid heat sickness to provide mail carriers with the education and “tools required to execute their duties properly.”

According to UPS, staff members have received training on how to “work safely throughout the year,” and they have received reminders during the day to “keep hydrated and to take their rest breaks.”

Drivers said that, given their demanding working circumstances, such reminders were demeaning. The UPS employees said that it was impossible to drink enough water in a setting where the only toilet breaks were at shops and eateries, and that their requests for fans were often ignored.

The heat, according to 26-year-old UPS driver and shop steward Matt Leichenger of Brooklyn, “you can drink gallons of water, but it still gets to you.” He said, “Basically, the instruction urges you to drink water and eat cucumbers and watermelons.”

The need for shipping has increased in recent years along with the rise in temperatures. Because of the coronavirus epidemic, fewer people went shopping, which increased e-commerce and, according to drivers, led to more stops on their routes.

Tony Bell, a UPS carrier in Longview, Texas, said: “A body can only take so much.” Bell, 45, was taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion and kidney failure after walking his route on a day in July when the temperature reached 103 degrees.

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He drank Gatorade and 12 bottles of water on that particular day. He said that, subsequently, physicians informed him that he had come dangerously close to suffering a heart attack. I was afraid that was it, he said.

The mother of Jose Cruz Rodriguez, the UPS driver who passed away in Texas last August after his shift, Jorja Rodriguez, said that she had sent her son to work that morning with a cooler full of water and energy drinks and instructed him to “take it easy.”

She drove to UPS and watched as the cops discovered her son’s body when he didn’t return home that evening.

She recalled that he had contacted his boss earlier that day to let him know he wasn’t feeling well. She claimed that she yelled his name so many times, believing that if he heard my voice, he would wake up. Esteban David Chavez, who passed away in Pasadena, was raised by Dominique Chavez, who claimed that after his passing, she and her family made a point of stopping UPS drivers to give them a gratuity and a sip of cool water.

The Long Island employee, Gubell, said he was grateful he had been able to phone his parents on the day he felt bad.

They dialed 911 despite his inability to provide them with his location due to his confusion. Police were also notified by a neighbor. Gubell said, “I didn’t want to contact the ambulance,” and he added that he was concerned that if he had, UPS would have taken legal action against him.

He said, “People are leaving like flies out here.” It’s quite harsh,  

UPS said in an email that if one of its drivers needed quick assistance, the business would send staff to their area to help them safely return to the delivery center or arrange for immediate assistance at the driver’s location, which might include contacting an ambulance.

Prudence, Gubell’s mother, expressed sorrow for having pushed her son to apply for the UPS position. Prudence stated she had no idea that delivering goods in the area would be such a dangerous work.

Gubell remarked, “I worry about him. What is the body’s tolerance for?

in the year 2022 for The New York Times Company.


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