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Teamsters Are Closely Monitoring Drone Development at UPS


The ongoing development of drone technology – or unmanned aerial vehicles – raises important questions and challenges for Teamster members at UPS. Earlier this year, the company tested a drone that launches from the top of a package car.

A new article out last week explores the use of automation as the future of parcel delivery. 

“The Teamsters Package Division and the union as a whole are deeply engaged in monitoring these technological developments and strategically preparing for the future, with a particular focus on the impact automation could have on our members at UPS and the entire package delivery industry,” said Sean O’Brien, Director of the Teamsters Package Division. 

Working with allies and lawmakers, the union is proactively planning on how to respond to this new technology in order to protect UPS Teamsters who may be impacted by automation. The union is also analyzing the safety impact of drones and other automated technology to explore how these issues might be addressed in future bargaining.

Recent FAA-commissioned findings looked at the dangers of drones injuring humans, which seems to be a likely scenario if drones are used in ground-level package delivery. The report also raised concerns about packages being dropped from drones: “For some UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] applications, such as delivery services, there is a risk of losing the payload in flight. If one of these 5-lbs. payloads were to drop from the UAS, it could cause serious injury.”  

“For all the hype around drones, there is still a lot of uncertainty and time before this technology can be used to make package deliveries to homes. In the meantime, we have to recognize the role of technology when it improves our lives and working conditions but also fight back when technological changes threaten our  jobs and puts the community at risk,” O’Brien said.