Teamsters talks: UPS agrees to equip new trucks with air conditioning

Driver Dan Partyka delivers an overnight package. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Driver Dan Partyka delivers an overnight package. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Sandy Springs-based UPS has agreed in contract talks to put air conditioning in new trucks for its drivers, a major step in a long-standing battle, as part of ongoing negotiations with the Teamsters union.

The move signals progress in the labor negotiations as an Aug. 1 deadline looms to strike a new contract deal.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ UPS contract is the largest private collective bargaining agreement in North America. The deal on air conditioning terms comes as union members prepare to finish voting this week on whether to authorize union leaders to call for a strike if necessary. That would not mean a strike is planned, but is a common bargaining tactic used by unions in labor talks to gain leverage.

According to the Teamsters, the language agreed to calls for UPS to equip its brown package cars purchased after Jan. 1, 2024 with in-cab air conditioning systems. It would also call for air conditioning on some other new UPS vehicles, along with exhaust heat shields on some newer non-electric UPS vehicles.

For the company’s existing fleet of package delivery trucks, the company would install two fans after the labor contract is ratified.

“Air conditioning is coming to UPS, and Teamster members in these vehicles will get the relief and protection they’ve been fighting for,” said Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien in a written statement. “Today’s progress was a significant step towards a stronger new reality for so many workers and their families.”

UPS said the agreement on heat safety includes “new measures that build on important actions rolled out to UPS employees in the spring, including new cooling gear and enhanced training. We care deeply about our people, and their safety remains our top priority. Heat safety is no exception.” The company earlier this month said it had equipped 95,000 package cars with a cooling fan, among other measures to keep workers cool.

The union and UPS drivers have spent years pushing for cooling systems in vehicles to reduce the risk of heatstroke on the job.

In 2018, the wife of a UPS driver submitted an online petition to UPS management seeking air conditioning for the company’s package delivery trucks.

In last summer’s record heat, news reports said the family of a UPS driver in Southern California believe he died from heat stroke. In another event, a Scottsdale, Arizona, homeowner saw a UPS driver collapse on his porch on his doorbell video camera.