Hot wheels

Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
UPS driver Racy Freeman checks his side mirror as he pulls away from The Augusta Chronicle loading dock after picking up packages Thursday. Mr. Freeman's UPS truck, like many delivery vehicles, has no air conditioning. But he says that's OK.

Racy Freemam has worked through some extremely hot days during nearly 30 years as a UPS driver.

But he said he'll never forget the sweltering heat of this August.

He stays hot because his company's fleet of vehicles does not come equipped with air conditioning.

Ronna Branch, of UPS corporate public relations in Atlanta, said the well-known delivery service has traditionally avoided air conditioning units inside their trucks.

"We're definitely aware of the excess heat that our drivers are exposed to, but the drivers make over 200 stops a day, and having air conditioning (in the trucks) wouldn't have any (positive) effect," she said.

"They have eight-hour shifts, and we'd like for them not to be in hot weather for an extended period of time, and they should park in the shade," she said.

She also said having air conditioning is not cost-effective. It creates maintenance and fuel efficiency issues, she said.

"Because of the nature of the drivers going in and out of the truck, we have to take fuel efficiency into account," Mrs. Branch said. And, to let engines idle while an air conditioner continued to run would create added emissions to the atmosphere and cause strain on batteries, she said. It also creates a safety issue because trucks could be stolen.

Overall, UPS' objective is to deliver packages in a timely, consistent manner - without possible loss of revenue due to broken down vehicles that need additional maintenance, she said.

Meanwhile, some drivers request fans inside their "package cars," she said, while others, like Mr. Freeman, do without fans and air conditioning.

"We're in and out of buildings so much, you don't really need the air conditioning," Mr. Freeman said. "When you go inside these buildings, you try and get as much AC as you can from the offices. You've got the water fountains, and I drink lots of Gatorade," said the south Augusta resident.

Mrs. Branch said the company prohibits drivers from retrofitting trucks with fans, because of safety concerns. Drivers are also advised to wear light clothing, drink lots of fluids and eat a light lunch when temperatures are extremely high.

"We're definitely aware of the excess heat on our drivers and want them to be aware of remaining hydrated and drinking at least eight to 10 glasses of water each day," Mrs. Branch said.

At 52, a fit and trim Mr. Freeman gives credit to his high metabolism but adds that he stays in shape by working out at the YMCA and continues to lift weights and do sit-ups.

"I mainly work out to prevent back injuries. That's the most common complaint I hear from many of the drivers," he said.

Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or tim.cox@augustachronicle.com.

OTHER COMPANIES

Do other delivery companies have air-conditioned vehicles for their drivers?

FedEx: No air conditioning.

U.S. Postal Service: No air conditioning.

DHL: Yes, most of its vehicles are late-model vans that are equipped with air conditioning.