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Reporting Live from the Holiday Frontline: A Day in the Life of a UPS Driver Helper, part 3

During my short spell as a driver helper, the most invaluable resources have been the drivers, who have a reflexive knowledge of their routes that borders on clairvoyant. They can tell you not only where they will be in 30 minutes, but where all of the other nearby drivers will be, which customers will need extra time, less time, one push cart or multiple ones. If something throws a wrench into the flow of their day, they are already three steps ahead of the problem and are calling other drivers for support so nothing interrupts the deliveries and pickups. The second most valuable resource is their DIAD scanner, which they have been showing me how to use throughout the week.

I won’t lie. Even though UPS just upgraded to the DIAD V, which I have personally dubbed “The Final Frontier,” for the novice like myself the DIAD scanner is not an intuitive gadget. I grew up in the Nintendo generation and we had four buttons on the controller. The DIAD has a myriad of buttons that give me vertigo when I look at it. They perform all manner of functions: scan packages, call up lists of tracking numbers, enter signatures, notes, names, void scans, etc. With every package in our system scanned an average of 16 times during transit, the importance of the DIAD cannot be underestimated. It tells both the customer and UPS exactly where your package is at all times. During the busy holiday season, that information is doubly important.

Learning to use the DIAD isn’t easy, but the drivers are masters at it. The driver tells me after the signature to push the “enter” key. Which one is that? None of them say “Enter.” Is it the one that has a half-circle on it? No, wait, the one with the check mark? Nope. How about this one that looks like a crescent moon? As I struggle with the DIAD, I suddenly hear the voice of a leprechaun in my head saying, “Yellow moons! Green clovers! Orange stars! Blue diamonds! And purple horseshoes!!!” <sigh>

While the DIAD itself is not my immediate forte, the art of stacking packages is something that I have come to pride myself on. Drivers must stack them rapidly, securely, and as high as possible, whether in a shipping truck or on a push cart. You want to move the maximum number at a time to shorten the time it takes to finish the job. All of the boxes are different sizes and shapes. Imagine if you opened up a game of Jenga and found out all of the wooden bricks were different! Upon opening a UPS shipping truck cargo door, you’re stepping into the last scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark – a huge room full of boxes. Your job is to start offloading them quickly, but you must be careful! Some are huge but are actually quite light (bean bag chairs). Others are small but as heavy as lead bricks (God only knows). But there is one universal truth I have learned – cardboard is just like California. At any time without warning, it can crumple and collapse into the abyss!

Remember the object of Jenga? Don’t let the stack fall. Same goes here, except this time you’re standing under it! Cardboard is not reliably stalwart and gravity is a harsh nemesis! 

I’m fairly certain the DIAD would survive the avalanche better that I would…

Category: Business Insights
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    Comments [2]

  1. Question for you! I was a Driver’s Helper last year during December, however, the training class that UPS gave me never once explained how to use the DIAD, so I assumed that it would not be part of my duties as a Driver’s Helper. However, my driver did want me to learn how to use the DIAD, so he attempted to teach it to me while we were stopped for 4 mins. Unfortunately, I need much more tutoring than that!

    Where can I find comprehensive instructions for learning how to use the DIAD, so that I can be of more use to my driver this Christmas season on the truck.


  2. Hey Michael, your post had a chuckling in several spots and I’m at the library, getting strange looks from peeps around me.
    1st time season helper here and never really been a gadget kinda person, just hoping to get better with each stop/day specially when it comes to the DIAD.

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