The United Parcel Service (UPS) is a major pillar of modern commerce. The arrival of one of their instantly recognizable brown trucks is an important part of the work day for most businesses, and a cause of excitement and anticipation for the majority of American households who do much of their shopping online.
However, the UPS name has come up in connection with some of the scarier incidents occurring on the roads, including a police chase led by a stolen UPS truck, and a grisly pileup on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which involved not one but two UPS tractor-trailers and killed five people. The dead included two UPS employees and three passengers of the tour bus that started the pileup, including a nine-year-old child. A further 60 people were also injured.
It’s not yet clear in these instances whether the UPS drivers could have done more to avoid hitting the bus, thereby reducing the casualties, or if the company itself could have done more to prevent one of their potentially destructive vehicles from falling into the hands of a fleeing criminal. However, a deeper look at UPS’s overall safety record shows some definite missteps, to say the least.
If you’ve been harmed or lost a loved one to negligent driving on UPS’s part, you are not alone, and the Stoddard Firm is here to help.
UPS Has Had Its Share of Irresponsible Drivers
UPS’s hiring and training policies are often held up as the gold standard of the industry, especially when compared with those of newer, more decentralized, less regulated competitors, like Amazon’s delivery network. Although UPS has done a lot to earn this comparative praise, it has also fallen short of its squeaky-clean reputation on many occasions, both in the conduct of its drivers and in the company’s own responses to that conduct.
In January of 2020, a Tennessee family called UPS to report what their home security camera had just captured: a UPS truck twice entering their driveway, running over their dog on the second pass, and then driving away. UPS’s official statement and “apology” was backhanded at best, claiming that the driver had entered the driveway a second time in order to correct a mis-delivery, and that the dog bit him as he was doing so. The family says that neither UPS, FedEx, nor USPS has ever accused their dog of biting before, and that UPS said nothing about either a bite or a mis-delivery during their initial phone call about the incident. In any case, none of these disputed details would justify a hit-and-run. The fact that the family’s expected package was not delivered suggests that the driver probably fled the scene on purpose, rather than out of obliviousness.
Other UPS driver errors have harmed humans as well. On Halloween night of 2019 in North Carolina, a UPS truck rear-ended a car, killing the car’s driver. The UPS driver was charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle. Less than two months later in New Jersey, a UPS driver sideswiped two cars, crashed into a tree, and ran away on foot, leaving his injured coworker pinned inside the truck. Police dogs soon found the driver hiding in a nearby backyard, and he was charged with, among other things, driving while intoxicated, driving with an open container of alcohol, and driving with a suspended license. If ever there was a person who absolutely should not have been put in control of a large commercial vehicle, this was him.
Incidents like this make UPS’s recent petition for exemption from new driver training regulations seem particularly absurd. The proposed new rules would require anyone training new commercial drivers to have at least two years of commercial driving experience themselves. In UPS’s objection, it argued that this would disqualify roughly 25% of their trainers, a statistic they expected would soon increase to 50%, due to high turnover. High turnover is a common cause of accidents, as well as a common symptom of poor working conditions, and only raises further concerns about the capabilities of UPS’s driving trainers.
Understandably, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rejected the supposed industry leader’s request to be held to lower standards of driver training than its peers. In its response, the FMCSA stated that if UPS were granted an exemption, it would not be likely to reach or exceed the same level of safety as it would by following the rule.
UPS Trucks Have Repeatedly Failed at Observing Railroad Traffic Laws
When companies that use large commercial trucks fail at maintaining safety, they tend to fail in similar ways. The types of truck accidents that are most common at one company will usually be the most common at another company as well. UPS exhibits plenty of these terrible but typical accidents, including head-on intersection collisions with cars that lead to serious injuries, collisions with other large trucks that cause damage to local infrastructure, and multiple cases of UPS trucks spontaneously veering off the road and ending up in serious single-vehicle collisions with trees and other obstacles.
However, UPS also displays one singular and bizarre accident trend: their trucks keep getting hit by trains.
In October of 2019, shortly before the fatal Halloween accident in North Carolina, a UPS truck pulled out of a driveway in Connecticut and turned left onto a railroad crossing without looking. A passing train took out the nose of the truck, thankfully without causing any injuries.
In February of 2020, however, another UPS truck was struck more directly while apparently attempting to cross a set of train tracks in South Fulton at the wrong time. The driver of that truck was seriously injured, and the accident is now under investigation.
Only a week later, also here in Georgia, yet another UPS truck was clipped by a train in Flowery Branch. The driver was cited for stopping on the tracks.
As road safety goes, staying off of railroad tracks when a train is approaching is a pretty basic rule. The dimensions of larger vehicles, like UPS trucks, are certainly more difficult to gauge than those of small commuter vehicles, but one has to wonder why UPS drivers in particular seem to have such difficulty staying out of harm’s way. It’s possible that the pressure to make deliveries on time has made drivers hesitant to stop before entering a railroad crossing, in order to properly ensure there’s enough time and space to proceed.
Other Vehicles Carrying UPS Shipments Have Had Safety Woes of Their Own
Most of the public’s contact with UPS involves delivery trucks, but UPS also uses other vehicles to move packages along various legs of their journeys. Though less visible, these other forms of transportation carry their own dangers, and their own insight into the thoroughness of UPS’s safety policies.
Unfortunately for UPS employees and contractors, moving packages without a delivery truck isn’t necessarily safer. The week of Thanksgiving in 2019, two UPS employees were killed while transporting packages at the Ontario International Airport in California. For reasons unknown, the “tug” vehicle the employees were driving overturned and crushed them.
Less than a month later, a cargo plane that was contracted to carry UPS packages went down in Texas, killing its pilot. The cause of that crash is also currently unknown.
Although no one outside of UPS’s payroll was unfortunate enough to be in the way of either of these accidents, the plane could just as easily have crashed in a populated area. UPS also has just as much of a duty to protect its own workers, like the two airport employees, as it does to protect the public. Prioritizing safety should mean prioritizing it for everyone at every stage of getting a package from point A to point B.
The Safety-Conscious Face UPS Presents to the World Likely Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story
UPS has recently been in the news cycle for the annual announcement of its “Circle of Honor” inductees. In this celebration of safety, UPS honors employees who have reached 25 years of accident-free driving for the company.
While safe, responsible commercial drivers deserve all the accolades they can get for their hard work, UPS’s public ritual of self-congratulation may not speak to a genuine regard either for its employees or for the cause of safety itself.
A report published by Bloomberg Law in December of 2019 shows a very different side of UPS, detailing what employees describe as a “culture of fear,” in which they are discouraged from reporting accidents, threatened with termination and other forms of retaliation, and denied necessary medical care. Bloomberg’s investigation found more than 40 open lawsuits pertaining to this kind of worker abuse, including one case where an employee says his supervisor tried to prevent him from reporting his shoulder injury, and then forced him to continue lifting packages weighing upwards of 80 lbs. after he received a doctor’s order to lift no more than 20.
In another, OSHA-documented case covered by the report, a worker with a broken pelvis was moved onto a package cart, endangering his life, and pulled out to the parking lot to be taken to the hospital. For reasons that are unclear, OSHA later decided to excuse UPS from any fines for moving this seriously injured worker instead of calling for emergency medical assistance.
The way a company behaves toward safety behind closed doors is often indicative of how much safety support its customer-facing personnel actually receive, but UPS’s alleged underreporting of accidents has also spilled out onto public streets. One month before the release of the Bloomberg report, UPS also came under fire from the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), for failing to report a delivery driver’s death to OSHA. The driver was outside of his truck, attempting to cross a street, when he was hit by another vehicle. There’s some ongoing debate over whether this is the sort of accident that needs to be reported to OSHA, but given the nature of a delivery driver’s job, this worker’s death was definitively work-related.
Between these accusations of hushing up accidents, and the fact that UPS apparently didn’t know about its intoxicated driver’s suspended license in the New Jersey crash above, it’s worth asking whether the company’s “Circle of Honor” members have really performed 25 years of safe driving, or if their company records have simply been made to appear that way.
What to Do If You’ve Been Involved in a UPS Accident
After an accident with a UPS truck or other large commercial vehicle, your first priority should be your physical safety and well-being, followed by thorough documentation of the incident.
Do not make any statements of fault or self-diagnoses at the scene of an accident. Instead:
- Get yourself and/or any other survivors out of the way of traffic if necessary. Otherwise, do not attempt to move a seriously injured person.
- Call for any needed assistance, particularly if there are significant injuries or one or more vehicles are undriveable.
- Take pictures to document the damage and circumstances of the accident, if you are physically able, and jot down the details as you remember them while they’re fresh in your mind.
- Exchange information with the UPS driver, making sure you receive their professional rather than personal insurance details.
- If you do not need emergency medical services, schedule a full examination with your provider of choice as soon as possible, to check for internal or slow-manifesting injuries.
- If you show signs of serious injury, either immediately or upon examination, reach out to the qualified legal counsel at the Stoddard Firm.
At The Stoddard Firm, we’re committed to making sure survivors have access to the resources they need to make a full recovery, and to holding wealthy corporations accountable for their indifference to public safety. To get started with a free consultation today, just call 678-RESULT or reach out through our online chat function.