Amid busy holiday season, Arizona UPS drivers concerned about fatigue from overtime

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(Source: AP file photo) (Source: AP file photo)

Amid a record-breaking start to the holiday shopping season online, UPS drivers in Arizona say new company policies on overtime could put the public at risk on the roads.

The union representing UPS package delivery drivers in Arizona, Teamsters Local 104, filed formal complaints with the company and the National Labor Relations Board Tuesday, citing concerns about driver fatigue after changes to the number of hours drivers can work.

Local unions in other cities have filed similar grievances.

UPS drivers are used to working long hours during the holiday rush: up to 14 hours per day, with up to 60 hours per week.

On Dec. 1, UPS announced it was expanding the maximum number of hours to 70 over an eight-day period. Due to nuances in the scheduling rules, however, a driver could theoretically work 70 hours over a five-day period followed by a minimum of 34 hours of rest, the company confirmed.

“If you're doing 300 or 400 stops a day, delivering heavy packages up to 150 pounds and have to keep going and going and going and then have to put another 10 hours on top of that, it can lead to fatigue. It can make you drowsy. It can make you make a mistake in driving,” said UPS driver and Teamsters Local 104 board member Maurice Nelson.

UPS said it implemented a similar 70-hour schedule last year; however, several drivers said the company had never before extended hours in Arizona.

“Obviously, if you're driving a lot and you're tired, it's not a good combination,” UPS driver Marc Caporrimo said.

In an email, UPS spokesman Dean Foust said the extended hours comply with all Department of Transportation regulations and will last until Jan. 5.

Foust said the changes were prompted by a “greater-than-expected surge in volume.” He noted the company expects to deliver about 750 million packages this holiday season, which extends from Thanksgiving until Dec. 31.

“That's about 40 million more packages than we delivered during the holiday season in 2016 - and it's also nearly double the number of packages (400 million) that FedEx says it expects to deliver this holiday season,” Foust wrote.

“There are many days in December where we'll be handling double the volume that we handle on an average day during the other 11 months,” said Foust.

Union leaders say their concerns about overtime hours are unrelated to contract negotiations with the company that are underway. Formal discussions at the national level are scheduled to formally begin next month.

From Dec. 2nd to Dec. 9, 88 percent of UPS drivers worked less than 60 hours, Foust said. No driver worked more than 66 hours during those eight days, he said.

But drivers are still concerned; some of the busiest shipping days – right before Christmas – are still to come.

“Our drivers want to get their packages delivered, but they also want to go home at night,” Nelson said.

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Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

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Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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