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'It's not your 9 to 5 job:' UPS trying to attract younger drivers in tight labor market

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Posted at 1:30 PM, Oct 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-28 15:30:57-04

DENVER, Co. — Sean Holland has driven the same route for work every day for more than 20 years. He says it hasn't gotten boring yet.

"It's not your 9 to 5 job," Holland said. "If that's what you're looking for, this isn't it."

Holland is a UPS driver in suburban Denver. He took the job in the early '90s, and since 1995, he's been driving the same truck: Bertha.

"I've had her, next month, it will be 26 years," Holland said. "The old girl, she comes out full to the gills every day. I get rid of all that, and then we do another pickup run in the afternoon and fill it back up. There's a sense of accomplishment that goes along with that."

Holland and delivery drivers across the country were deemed essential workers at the height of the pandemic. Stay-at-home orders forced people to use delivery services at a higher rate. U.S. parcel volume went up 37% from 2019 to 2020.

UPS is hiring 100,000 seasonal workers this year to keep up with the demand as the holidays approach. But they are competing with other major companies in nearly every industry.

"We have a very robust recruiting approach," said Jeff Bloedorn, director of human resources at UPS. "We are heavily into the social media and making people aware of what UPS offers."

The company is starting some new hires at $23 an hour, with a $2,000 signing bonus. Bloedorn says there are other incentives, many of which can't be measured with dollars and cents.

"It’s a great teamwork atmosphere," Bloedorn said. "[People] like the hustle and bustle of moving all the packages... It’s a career that allows a person to take care of themselves and their family."

The pandemic has shifted a younger generation's opinion of work. A UPS survey found 9 in 10 millennials are "more open" to the types of jobs they'd accept.

But experts warn the life of a truck driver is still a difficult sell.

"I always ask my students this," said Dr. Robert Novack, a professor at Penn State University. "'How many of you would like to grow up and be a truck driver?' None of 'em."

Dr. Novack says the under-35 crowd is looking for fulfillment and purpose from a potential career. That can be tough to find from the driver's seat of a delivery truck.

"You see the rigs on the road, and as a car driver, they're an annoyance because they're big, they get in the way," Dr. Novack said. "We're working with some companies on trying to make the job of being a driver a little bit more suited to their needs. You know, treating them almost like an asset."

Holland agrees that the job can be tough.

"It's long hours, but like I said, it's rewarding," he said.

"I actually met my wife on my route out here," Holland said. "She was one of my customers for a couple years before we started dating, and ultimately got married, and now we’re married 21 years. You know, I've had dead-end jobs. And, yeah, I've been doing the same thing for almost 29 years now."

Holland smiled.

"But I love it."