Report: Teamsters tell UPS to lay off drone, driverless delivery vehicles

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Dive Brief:

  • As UPS begins contract talks with the Teamsters union this week, the union has already demanded that the logistics giant abstain from using drones or autonomous delivery vehicles to deliver packages, according to The Wall Street Journal.

  • The Teamsters also want UPS to hire 10,000 more workers and asked the company to stop the practice of making late-night deliveries, even during the busy holiday shopping and shipping season.

  • The current contract between UPS and the Teamsters is set to expire in July, and the two sides are embarking on negotiations for a new deal that will cover about 260,000 UPS employees, according to the report. 

Dive Insight:

The last time these two groups got together to forge a contract was 2013, and needless to say, a whole lot has happened in retail and shipping since then. E-commerce has driven huge business for the major shipping companies, but with that has come pressure to build out more warehouses and storage, often closer to customers who, with the evolution of expedited shipping and premium membership programs offering free, fast shipping, have heightened their expectations for last-mile delivery performance.

Companies such as UPS have found numerous ways to meet those expectations and fight back against rising competition by investing in technology innovations and sometimes investing in or acquiring other companies in the process. Drone delivery and driverless delivery vehicles are two segments of technology innovation that just about every logistics company is investigating. UPS last year conducted a high-profile drone delivery test in Florida, though it has yet to outline future plans for drone delivery.

Such innovations not only will enhance the customer experience, but also improve UPS delivery productivity while saving the company a lot of money in the long run. But there are fears that human jobs will be lost in the process, fears that UPS can’t exactly assuage, even though the company’s drone test scenario actually emphasized how drones could be controlled by human delivery personnel, potentially helping UPS’ human employees be more productive and finish their routes more quickly.

The negotiations between UPS and the union appear to be at a very early stage, with UPS getting handed an 83-page document containing union demands, according to The Journal. As in many contract negotiations, issues that are on the table at the beginning of the process may come off later, or may change greatly as the two sides move toward agreement. We’re guessing we haven’t heard the last of UPS’ efforts with drones or driverless vehicles.