Wife of UPS driver petitions for air conditioning in delivery trucks

The wife of a UPS driver seeking air conditioning across the company’s fleet of package delivery trucks submitted an online petition to UPS management Monday.

Theresa Klenk, a nurse, says her husband James Klenk, a 59-year-old UPS driver in New Jersey, suffered heat stroke and dehydration after working through several hot days in August 2016. She says he was hospitalized and went into renal failure.

"I was scared he was going to die," Klenk said, adding that drivers are sometimes lifting heavy boxes in the back of a hot truck while working as much as 10-12 hours a day.

She says she decided to start the petition on change.org after UPS, last summer "did nothing to change the conditions of the package trucks."

After Klenk started the online petition, UPS reached out to her and scheduled a meeting with UPS vice president of public relations Steve Gaut.

A petition announcement outside the UPS store in Midtown Atlanta. The petition asks UPS to add A/C to their trucks. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

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Klenk traveled to Atlanta to announce Monday in front of a UPS Store in Midtown that she had gathered more than 375,000 online signatures, and to hand over printouts from her petition to UPS at its headquarters in Sandy Springs.

“I have a special, special package for them,” Klenk said. “I want UPS to be the leader here.”

Similar online petitions focus on the U.S. Postal Service and FedEx.

After the meeting, Klenk said Gaut indicated the company has no intention to make any changes. “I am disappointed. I am angry,” Klenk said in a written statement, adding that the petition continues.

The Teamsters union, which represents UPS drivers, recently negotiated a new labor deal with UPS that is up for a vote by workers. When asked whether air conditioning in trucks is a priority, the Teamsters declined to comment.

UPS says in a written statement that it “appreciates the hard work our drivers perform every day. Working outdoors throughout the year is the nature of the job.” The company said it trains drivers on how to work in heat and cold, and its program to prevent heat-related illness was developed with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The company said it operates a “small number” of air-conditioned pickup trucks for long routes across the California desert. Those routes are similar to those driven with UPS tractor trailers, which are air-conditioned, according to UPS.

But package delivery drivers shut off the engine and open the doors or cargo bay an average of more than 130 times a day, according to UPS.

“The start / stop nature of the delivery work renders air conditioning ineffective,” UPS said.