Five Secrets of UPS Drivers

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Five Secrets of UPS Drivers

Ron Wallace's book for us recounts his ascent from driver to president of the largest courier company in the country and the leadership lessons he learned along the way. You see UPS drivers everywhere, but how much do you really know about what they do? Here are five secrets of UPS drivers:

1. Their every move is being tracked. The whole operation at UPS hinges on increasing productivity and the company is always thinking of ways to increase just that. That handheld scanner-computer device the drivers carry around? Those also track and record a driver's every move--which also means that someone also knows when the driver is not moving.

2. Their vehicles are not trucks, and they're definitely not comfortable. UPS' delivery vehicles are never called trucks or vans. They are exclusively referred to as "package cars." These vehicles also have no air conditioning in most locations (which is why you often see drivers in hotter climates driving with the doors open) and also lack a stereo or even a radio (drivers need to bring their own boomboxes for that).

3. They have to dress a particular way--right down to the socks. Shoes must be shined and shirts must be pressed, but if you're a driver and you are going to wear shorts, you must wear UPS socks with the company logo. The socks are not provided as part of the uniform so drivers need to purchase them separately.

4. They also have to look a particular way--sort of like in the military. Drivers are not allowed to grow full beards. Mustaches are permitted but cannot grow below the corners of the mouth. Also, all kinds of hairstyles are fine but for men, hair cannot touch the top of the collar.

5. They don't turn left if they can help it. UPS found that making left turns--essentially going against the flow of traffic--took up a lot more time even when it seemed like a shortcut. Drivers are encouraged to drive in right-hand loops to get to their destination. Today, many of the company routes are designed to avoid left turns, and UPS says the policy has saved 100 million gallons of gas and reduced carbon emissions by 100,000 metric tons since 2004.