Skip to content

To Increase Productivity, UPS Monitors Drivers’ Every Move

NPR logoToday, we’d like to take some lessons from the private sector. Most of us will be highly familiar with the sight of UPS delivering a parcel. What you probably don’t know is that their drivers are among the best paid in the industry, thanks in large part to their use of data. How, you ask? We examine the following article from NPR, as see it as a nice companion piece to last week’s article on Riders for Health.

First and foremost, this great piece from NPR also includes a 5 minute audio, which offers a fascinating insight into the world of data, within UPS. To say they take their data monitoring seriously is probably, in fairness, an understatement. To quote Jack Levis, Director of Process Management at UPS, featured in the audio, “the data is about as important as the package for us.”

It’s not hard to see why. With the amount of deliveries UPS are responsible for, “1 lost minute per driver, per day, over a year’s period amounts to $14.5m.” And don’t forget, that’s per driver.

Every single UPS truck gathers data all day long – including when the driver buckles his belt, closes the door and starts the truck, and how long he spends backing up – they can measure anything and everything. As a result, they soon established that a traditional key was slowing down their drivers. An insignificant amount of time, yes, but taken over the course of a year, multiplied by the number of drivers? With their data collection, they could demonstrate the tangible impact on the business, and made the change, developing a remote key fob attached to their belt, eliminating mere seconds from the time it takes to open the door – but the data shows, over a long time span, these seconds add up into many millions of lost revenue.

The direct result of increased use of data – from the development of new keys, better arranged parcels in the truck to a highly advanced mapping system – is drivers are now capable of delivering on average, 120 parcels per day, compared to an average of 90 parcels 20 years ago. That 30% increase leads to greater profits for the business, which gets passed on to their drivers, who now earn double what they made in the 1990s. So yes, data is transforming the lives of their employees, not to mention customers who receive faster deliveries.

Interestingly, the other side of the debate is whether it feels like a ‘Big Brother State’ which so much data measurement. Some drivers certainly think so, but given it leads to increased performance and pay, is it worth the sacrifice?

Last week we looked at transport data as a means of improving the distribution of basic medicines across rural African countries. Today this point is further emphasized by the impact on both UPS, and the lives of their employees. Collecting as much data as possible will lead to improvements and enhancements, even if we can’t quite see what they are until we have the data.


As ever, please let us know what you think in comments below, or on Twitter. Be sure to stay up to date with NPR for similar articles, and of course, bring in Riders For Health into any debate.