UPS Inc. (NYSE:UPS) said it is testing advanced technology that it claims will enhance driver and public safety, to the chagrin of a Teamsters union dissident group that warns the company could be continuing a decades-long pattern of leveraging technology to harass its drivers.
The Atlanta-based company has installed the “Lytx Drivecam” in its familiar brown vans at four centers in Texas and Oklahoma. It is the first step in a plan to install the technology nationwide, according to the Teamsters For a Democratic Union (TDU), a group at constant war with mainstream Teamster leadership and deeply suspicious of UPS’ labor-related initiatives.
UPS, which is the largest Teamster employer with about 252,000 members, would not comment on whether a nationwide rollout is planned.
In a statement emailed to FreightWaves late Friday afternoon, UPS said that two devices are being tested: One is an in-cab sensor that monitors driving habits and sends an audible alert to the driver to take “corrective action.” The other is an outward-facing camera that alerts the driver if the vehicle drifts on the roadway or if a potential hazard is detected.
The in-cab device does not have video or audio capability. The outward-facing device records video for use in accident claims and to raise awareness of safe driving behaviors, UPS said in the statement. The devices, which are enhancements to telematics systems in place for more than 20 years, are part of UPS’ ongoing effort to keep “our people and the driving public safe,” the company said.
In an internal memo issued Wednesday, Dennis Taylor, director of the Teamsters’ package division, said it is “investigating the enhancements” as it relates to contract language addressing how UPS’ technology changes affect the labor-management relationship.
“We have been assured by UPS that there is no driver-facing video or audio capability,” Taylor said in the memo. He advised Teamster officials to contact the division if they have any verifiable information to the contrary.
That doesn’t sit well with Ken Paff, TDU’s long-time national organizer and the group’s point man on matters concerning UPS and other Teamster employers. UPS Teamsters, he said, “know all too well how management abuses telematics to harass and discipline (its) drivers. The technology being tested could be another layer in the company’s efforts to hassle its drivers while they’re on the road,” Paff said.
Paff accused the administration of Teamster President James P. Hoffa, which the TDU opposes, for accepting at face value UPS’ explanation of how the technology will be used. Paff called the Taylor memo “weak,” and said union workers “cannot afford to wait until management activates all of the spyware’s capability before our union takes action.”
Over the decades, there have been union anecdotes of UPS using telematics as a tool to harass drivers about the amount of time spent at one stop, or how long it took to arrive at the next stop, among other things.