Confessions From A Former Delivery Driver


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Lots of people have complained because UPS and FedEx were late on their Christmas deliveries.  UPS, FedEx, and the US Postal Service have blamed the late deliveries on the huge volume and bad weather.  FedEx is projected to handle 275 million shipments and was at almost 100% capacity.  UPS is projected to deliver around more than 132 million packages.  And I loved how the Postal Service had some of their delivery drivers out on Christmas Day, that is not right.

While the online retailers are pleasing the customers with refunds and gift cards.  I wanted to talk about my time as a delivery driver.  Outside of the Christmas Season, it was torture.  I worked out of the Anniston terminal and my route was 70 miles up the road in Guntersville Alabama.  It was a 90 minute drive to get up there.  And the Huntsville terminal was only 30 minutes away.  Yep, the way the shipping companies set up their terminal locations is crazy.  I was often out around 12 hours a day.  But on some days, I was out delivering up to 14 hours a day.  The shipping companies set up their delivery routes based on zip codes.  And Guntersville has such a large zip code!

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From Google Maps.

Guntersville is very unique because of the lake and mountains.  Most of the time, I had to take one windy, narrow road for a couple of miles to deliver one package.  And this took up to one hour at times to deliver one package.  This meant I was out up to 10 pm some nights, and this was July.  There was another truck where it did businesses and homes in the downtown area.  I did all the areas outside of downtown.  The other truck had to be back to the terminal by 7 pm so the picked-up packages could be shipped out to Atlanta, and remember it’s 90 minutes down the road.  I gave all of my pick-ups to the other truck and continued to deliver the rest of my packages, even if it was 10 pm at night.  People were not happy seeing me at their front door so late at night.

I got calls from the terminal every night to send my scanner information wirelessly back to the terminal.  This was at around 8 pm at night, and I still had a 90 minute drive ahead of me.  Some nights when I got back to the terminal, the office had their lights off and the door was locked, I hate being the last one there.  To sum things up, the delivery company brought in a lawyer and I was interviewed, then fired for breaking federal law.  The contractor who I worked for was also fired but sued and brought me in to testify, but the delivery company won.

The local delivery terminal was very, very busy during the Christmas Rush season.  They rented out every available box truck and white church van without seats.  The only way you could tell it was a delivery driver was the uniform and the small identification magnet with the US DOT number on the side of the truck or van.  The terminal usually goes through a temp company to hire drivers.  They have the new drivers go though a basic classroom class and a driving test in a box truck.  The delivery company uses contractors instead of hiring their drivers, which is wrong.  So the temp drivers worked via a temp company.  But the contractors used them for help.

The normal routes were split up because they got way too heavy.  For example, a route that included Guntersville, Gearldine, Crossville, and Dawson was split up where Guntersville was one route.  And the other cities were another route.  The drivers were given the help of a manifest, route map, and directions.  But many drivers used their own personal GPS devices if they did not know where a house was at.  And in rural Alabama, some houses were very hard to find.  Drivers would love to see all houses put out large green reflective signs with their house number at the mailbox.  Drivers hate seeing mailboxes with small or no numbers at all.

Drivers got to the terminal at 6 am and were out by 7:30 am to 8 am.  Drivers were often out for a very long time, some were out up to 16 hours a day and were delivering up to 10 pm and even midnight.  Yep, I did some deliveries like that.  And the people at those homes were angry!  Who wants a delivery person showing up at their door at 10 pm at night?  I had a couple of times where the person answering the door was pointing a gun or was about to call the police.  And did you know that federal law requires all drivers not to drive over 11 hours a day?  During the Christmas Season, the rule book was thrown out the window.

The packages in the box trucks and the church vans were also not very secure.  Yep, they were sliding around especially if the brakes were hit too hard.  And some customers had to deal with their packages being broken.  Since some people complained that they had their packages delivered but wasn’t really delivered.  I wanted to say this.  As long as a package does not require a signature, the driver is going to leave it.  It might be a mailbox, the front door, the garage, the back door, or anywhere else.  If the customer (you) does not leave the driver a note on where to leave the package, you might never know where the package was left.  Another person or a dog might have picked up your package and taken it away.  And the drivers hate that note that asks them to deliver their package in another place in town, they don’t have time for that!

I would consider this Christmas Season a lesson for any of you who shop online or ship things.  One, be thankful to those delivery drivers who are working 14-16 hours six days a week during the Christmas Season.  They are tired, hungry, and can’t wait for Christmas to end.  Drivers don’t even have the time to take a break to get a bite to eat.  And yes, male drivers will find a quiet spot on a rural road to take a pee break to save time.  I did that several times.

Two, the customers need to ship much earlier!  I would not choose standard shipping after December 1st.  It is worth your time to choose express delivery and pay extra after December 1st.  One, because there are many more express terminals than standard ground terminals.  And two, unless you ship right before Christmas, you will get your packages.  UPS and FedEx needs to end guarantees for 2-day and next day delivery after December 20th.  You should NEVER order something that close to Christmas and expect it by Christmas, never!

And three, be patient.  Many more people are shopping online which means your package will be shipped with the large volume.  UPS, FedEx, and the US Postal Service needs to do some major upgrades for the 2014 Christmas Season.  They need to hire more employees, purchase more trucks, and add more capacity, instead of sitting on that cash reserve.  Unless the shipping companies do those things, we will keep seeing shipping delays every Christmas Season.  Because we can not prevent bad weather, and we can’t stop people from buying things online, you can’t!

I am glad I am out of the delivery business.  I feel bad for those drivers every Christmas Season.  That is why I get most of my Christmas gifts from the brick and mortar stores.  You know you could buy Christmas gifts without a computer right?  It’s called a store.  The delivery drivers thank you for choosing a store instead of buying online!