UPS delivery truck drivers have begun sharing pictures showing the sweltering temperatures recorded inside their vans as communities across the US continue to experience record-breaking temperatures.
In a viral tweet shared by Teamsters for a Democratic Union drivers posted pictures of thermometers inside trucks reaching 116F (47C), 117F and 121F – temperatures far above what is considered safe. UPS trucks do not have air conditioning.
“UPS CEOs would never accept working in 120- or 130-degree offices. Drivers shouldn’t either,” tweeted Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a group of members with Teamsters, the union representing UPS truck drivers.
In June, a young UPS driver died just after his 24th birthday after he collapsed while delivering packages in Los Angeles. His family believe he died of heatstroke.
A few weeks later, a homeowner in Scottsdale, Arizona, where temperatures have topped 110F, released dramatic doorbell camera footage of a UPS driver collapsing on his front porch right after delivering a package. The unnamed driver got up after collapsing and staggered back to his truck.
In response to the video, UPS said in a statement that the driver has recovered and that drivers “are trained to work outdoors and for the effects of hot weather”.
“The health and safety of our employees is our highest priority,” the company said in a statement. “Preparation, rest, hydration and maintaining good health practices are key to working outdoors. UPS invests more than $260m annually to implement programs focused on safety, including working in hot weather.”
Heat has been raging across the country this summer, with triple-digit heat being seen in multiple states, particularly in the west and south. The death of four people in the Pacific north-west is being investigated for any ties with heat after the region experienced an intense heatwave last week. Over 100 million Americans have been placed under multiple heat warnings this summer amid dangerously high temperatures.
Climate scientists have warned that the climate emergency will make heat more intense and prolonged if not addressed.
In a list of demands posted on Twitter in July, Teamsters said that the company has cited “no scientific evidence that air conditioning [in trucks] would be ineffective”.
“We can point to [federal] guidelines that clearly recommend such cooling is in fact an effective means for employers to mitigate the risk of heat illness on the job.”
The union said that UPS should provide fans in every truck – drivers currently have to request a fan and “endure a process” before it is installed. The company could also provide ice machines in trucks, water and better protective gear, like cool neck towels and more breathable uniform, to protect drivers against the high heat. Teamsters also said that the company should hire more drivers and lighten the load of existing drivers, giving them more time to rest and rehydrate in intense heat.
“By refusing to implement these safety measures, the company is literally sending drivers out to die in the heat,” the Teamsters general president, Sean O’Brien, said in a statement in July.
On Monday, Teamsters launched its campaign for a better contract with UPS as the contract between the union and the company expires next August. Workers are looking to better wages and benefits with a new contract.