Q 14Q 14
Job Design for Drivers Keeps UPS on the Road to Energy Efficiency
United Parcel Service is famous for its brown-uniformed drivers behind the wheel of brown delivery trucks. But when it comes to energy consumption, UPS is all green. The company is constantly looking for better fuel-efficient vehicles. Its fleet includes electric, hybrid, and natural-gas vehicles, as well as its standard gasoline-powered trucks. Recently, for example, UPS ordered all-electric vans to deliver packages in Southern California and the Central Valley. Because each van travels the same limited route each day, drivers don't have to worry about running out of electricity between charges. Between 2000 and 2009, UPS recorded a 10% improvement in the miles per gallon it gets from its delivery vehicles.
UPS drivers are expected to follow very specific guidelines for how to deliver packages. These aim to complete each route in the fastest, most efficient way possible. The company details the route that each vehicle is to follow; the routes avoid left turns, which require time and gas to idle while the driver waits for oncoming traffic to clear. At each stop, drivers are supposed to walk at a "brisk pace" of 2.5 paces per second as they move to and from their truck. They keep this up as they make an average of up to 20 stops an hour to deliver about 500 packages a day.
Until recently, drivers were supposed to carry their key ring on their ring finger, so they would never need to spend time fumbling around in pockets. Now the company has improved on that method: Drivers no longer need to waste time pulling keys out of the ignition and using them to unlock the door to the packages. Instead, UPS is giving drivers a digital-remote fob to wear on their belts. With the new keyless system, drivers stop the truck and press a button to turn off the engine and unlock the bulkhead door. The changes will save 1.75 seconds at each stop. That's equivalent to an average of 6.5 minutes per driver per day. Besides saving time, the changes save motions by the driver, thus reducing fatigue.
Specific requirements such as these are the result of relentless efforts to improve efficiency. Throughout each day, computers installed in each truck gather data about the truck's activities: how long it idled, how often it backed up, how far it traveled when it was time for the driver's break. The computers also record whether drivers wore their seat belts. At the end of each delivery day, industrial engineers analyze the day's data and look for ways they can save more time, fuel, and money.
The demand to maintain a "brisk pace" is only one reason why jobs for drivers and other workers at UPS can be physically taxing. Besides being able to move quickly, workers are expected to be able to lift packages weighing up to 70 pounds without assistance. Joe Korziuk told a reporter that in more than two decades with UPS, he has enjoyed his jobs driving and washing trucks, but it has taken a toll. He says the surgeries he has had on both knees and a shoulder and the bulging disks in his back are all results of working conditions: "They're always harping on you and pushing you to go faster and faster." As a result, he said, he also was injured when boxes fell on his head, causing a concussion. Responding to complaints such as these, the union representing UPS workers in the Chicago area demanded that UPS reduce workloads and take more responsibility for workers' safety. According to workers, UPS promoted safety and higher efficiency at the same time. Workers trying to keep up with the pace were unable to meet the safety goals. UPS's response has been that safety is a top priority and injury rates are low for the messenger and courier industry. Officials note that when employees experience even minor on-the-job injuries, they receive training in how to prevent similar injuries in the future.
Despite the safety complaints, UPS is a good employer in the opinion of many workers. Drivers appreciate what they consider to be good wages and benefits.
Based on the information given, what role would you say motivation plays in the design of drivers' jobs at UPS? How could the company make its jobs more motivational?