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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.

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Reporting Live from the Holiday Frontlines: A Day in the Life of a UPS Driver Helper, part 2
UPS driver

My stint as a driver helper passed Wednesday last night. The pace has been rapid-fire as the cargo volume heats up closer and closer to the holidays. Deliveries number in the multiple hundreds and pickups from the major retailers at the end of the day are even more numerous. Throughout all of it, I have enjoyed the experience, despite a disagreement with a delivery cart yesterday that ripped the backside of my brown pants (more on that in another blog post.)

What has amused me the most is the constant interaction a UPS driver, or anyone in a UPS uniform like myself, receives from the general public. I’ve taken to calling them “pickup” lines. Most of them are pretty common – “What can brown do for you!”, “Whoa – HOW MANY boxes are you dropping off?!”, “Whoa – HOW MANY boxes do we have to pick up?!” (That last one was me, in case you didn’t notice.)

There are the unique encounters though that make the day entertaining, and here are my top three “pickup” lines from this week as a UPS driver helper.

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Reporting Live from the Holiday Frontlines: A Day in the Life of a UPS Driver Helper
UPS Package Car

This year, for one week at the height of the holiday shipping season, I’ve left my office in public relations and become a UPS driver helper to lend a hand delivering a few of the millions of packages UPS will process leading up to December 25th. My first day was December 12th. The Friday before, I received my safety training and a few minutes learning how to use our DIAD package scanner. In the race to get the packages out, UPS hires driver helpers in droves and Atlanta is no exception. They tossed me a brown UPS pullover which isn’t quite long enough for my arms. I was reminded of stories my grandfather tells of being thrown a pair of boots that didn’t fit exactly right during boot camp in World War II. Yeah, it’s kinda like that, but once the day begins those concerns disappear.

I met the driver I would assist at a major shopping mall here in Atlanta. The first task was deliveries to some of the stores inside. Pretty straightforward. The driver would scan, I would stack. Then we’d roll ’em over to the location. But very quickly, his vehicle was empty and it was 5 p.m. Don’t be fooled. No one was going home. That’s when a UPS driver’s day just gets started! Now it was time for pickups from the major retail stores. We navigated his brown UPS package van into the underworld of the shopping mall. Loading docks and narrow passages. Offloading the hand trucks and heading into the hallways behind the many stores. It reminded me of that scene in Terminator 2 when John Connor is in the back hallways of the mall running from that evil robot. Any minute I expected Schwarzenegger to burst through a doorway yelling, “Get down!” Yep – exactly like that. Read More »

UPS Seasonal Employees: Santa’s Other Helpers

Each peak season, UPS enlists driver helpers to pick up and deliver the influx of extra packages shipped during the holidays.  I recently talked to Todd Romantini, a driver helper in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Read More »