15 Real Truths About Becoming a UPS Driver

Before applying for a job with UPS, there are a few things you should know.
Updated Sept. 10, 2023
A female delivery driver

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UPS workers recently notched a massive win through their union. The minimum wage for starting part-timers jumped to $21 an hour, and the average top wage for full-time workers will steadily increase to $49 an hour.

The deal was made in an effort to avoid a strike by employees, but the result has been a major buzz surrounding jobs at one of the world’s largest shipping companies.

Before you look to join UPS in the hope that you will move beyond living paycheck to paycheck, here are 15 things you need to know about becoming a driver.

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It’s possible to make good money

Brian Jackson/Adobe Payday on a calendar

Thanks to the new deal with the union, part-time and full-time UPS workers should see a nice boost to their bottom line.

The current average pay for a full-time driver after four years on the job is $42 an hour, and the average year salary is $95,000. According to UPS, that’s the best pay in the industry.

However, with the new deal, things get better: The highest-paid drivers are now on track to average $49 an hour, giving full-time drivers a six-figure income.

So working for UPS can definitely help you get ahead financially.

Higher pay doesn’t appear right away

vetkit/Adobe businessman counts money in hands

UPS workers have to get through a progression system before they will see those high wages. Specifically, it’s a four-year progression to get to a position’s top rate.

And according to the Teamsters union, that $49 top rate won’t be reached until Aug. 1, 2027. The first increase will be this year, with a bump of $2.75 per hour.

Accepting tips is OK — sort of

New Africa/Adobe woman putting tips into glass jar on wooden table

While FedEx drivers aren’t allowed to take tips or gifts, there’s no such rule in place for UPS drivers.

However, UPS encourages drivers not to accept tips.

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Work days can run long

Prostock-studio/Adobe woman suffering from insomnia lying in bed

There is no way for drivers to know what their day is going to look like until they get to work. It can be very unpredictable, because they never know how many packages need to be delivered or what traffic will be like.

This unpredictability extends to daily schedules. Some days can be eight hours, while others can be longer. That poses challenges to a life outside work, especially for those with families.

Getting a good route can be a challenge

DisobeyArt/Adobe courier man with signing on tablet

Locking down a good delivery route is key to enjoying the job, but it isn’t easy. Dedicated routes don't become available often.

When they do, drivers can bid for the route by putting their name on a list, with the most senior driver usually being offered the route. If that driver doesn’t take it, the route gets offered to the next most senior driver, and so on.

Left turns are discouraged

Your Hand Please/Adobe ups delivery vehicle on street

UPS drivers are asked to avoid making left turns whenever possible.

Avoiding left turns means you won’t cut across traffic, which lowers your chances of getting into a crash. It also saves time and gas, since you don’t need to wait to squeeze through a break between vehicles.

The trucks get warm

kieferpix/Adobe Woman drinking bottle of water

Those delivery trucks you see heading through cities and neighborhoods across the U.S. are not luxury vehicles. And they get hot during warm weather.

The heat inside the vehicles has been a frequent complaint from workers. In 2022, two drivers died in their trucks on hot days.

UPS only recently agreed to put air conditioning in new versions of its iconic trucks, but it’s not coming until 2024.

You will have to go to UPS ‘boot camp’

Tada Images/Adobe A UPS truck

Going through training when you join a new company is pretty standard stuff. UPS does it a little differently, however.

Its “Integrad” program is closer to a boot camp. Drivers learn how to manage heavy boxes, of course. The training also goes over potential hazards, how to operate vehicles efficiently, and even how to navigate across ice.

The trucks don’t have radios

WavebreakMediaMicro/Adobe  A driver sitting in his delivery truck is calling a customer to receive a parcel placed on the seat.

Hitting the road and cranking some tunes is a time-honored tradition for many people, but UPS delivery trucks don’t have radios.

So, while you certainly can listen to music while delivering packages, you’ll need to find a way to provide your own soundtrack.

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Dog bites are a hazard

InsideCreativeHouse/Adobe running dog with happy couple

Dogs may be man’s best friend, but they aren’t always so fond of delivery drivers. That means dog bites are a real hazard.

Sometimes the injuries are bad enough that drivers have to be hospitalized. One driver was hospitalized in Mississippi when he was attacked by two dogs in 2022.

UPS will personalize your vehicle

William/Adobe ups truck parked in london street

If you stick with the company for long enough, UPS will give your delivery truck a bit of personalized flair.

Drivers who put in 10 years get a nameplate for the side of their vehicle. Drivers who maintain a safety record for 25 years or more get a “Circle of Honor” emblem.

UPS will probably watch you

pikselstock/Adobe woman working in an industrial place

UPS is all about logistics. After all, it’s at the core of their business. It also means the company needs to know where its drivers are at all times, which means you’ll probably be watched if you join the team.

A DIAD — delivery information acquisition device — is a handheld computer that drivers mount to their dash. It keeps track of their routes.

Some drivers have issues with management

fizkes/Adobe woman executive scolding employee

Some UPS drivers have expressed frustration with how management and supervisors operate.

In particular, drivers have said that they are made to feel guilty about taking time off, despite the fact that they are owed sick days and personal days as part of their union contract.

It can be tough to find a bathroom

creo2/Adobe black restroom doors

As you might guess, UPS delivery trucks do not have bathrooms onboard. And if you’re on the road delivering packages all day, you’ll eventually need a bathroom break.

On the plus side, UPS has gone on the record as stating that routes are designed specifically to give drivers the opportunity to go when nature calls.

Driving jobs might not be great for social people

lovelyday12/Adobe delivery man giving parcel box to customer

Except for getting their truck loaded before a shift, drivers spend the day alone. Once they’re on their route, that’s it: It’s just them, their packages, and the road.

Some people may prefer that. But if you enjoy being with colleagues and having supervisors nearby, a driving job might not be for you.

Bottom line

Sundry Photography/Adobe A UPS truck

There’s no doubt that UPS offers competitive wages. But potential drivers should be prepared for the unique challenges of the job.

If you are willing to meet those challenges, the new union agreement has created extraordinary gains for workers. No wonder a lot of folks are looking to score a job there. Working for UPS might be a great way to boost your bank account.

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Author Details

Will Vitka Will Vitka is a D.C. area reporter and writer. He previously worked for WTOP, The New York Post, Stuff Magazine, and CBS News.

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