Fed Ex courier Tom Connors has delivered some strange things in his 27 years on the job, namely chirping live crickets for animals to eat, and big bales of hay for a movie that was being filmed. But for the most part, what’s in those packages and envelopes is a mystery to him; with 120-140 deliveries to make in one day, he’s driving 70 miles or more a day, jumping in and out of the trademark purple and orange truck.
Behind his seemingly elementary task – delivering boxes and letters in a timely manner – is logistical technology designed to maximize express delivery, ranging from a carefully timed schedule that is mapped out by route engineers and dispatchers, to a wireless handheld computer or PowerPad that can do everything from alert drivers to unexpected pick-ups and capture signatures electronically. The pressure is on to deliver packages “safely but quickly,” says Connors, who has but a few minutes to spare for each delivery. “There’s time enough for a friendly hello, but we have to keep moving.”
Connor’s day begins early at the South Boston station, where he and the other drivers load the trucks, scan their packages, and receive updates on what’s coming in on aircraft. He has four or five industrial parks to roll through, plus catalog deliveries, priority business envelopes, and, yes, covering Hyde Park, he has delivered to Mayor Menino, who calls the Boston ‘burb his hometown.
The recession has significantly slowed cargo delivery – freight, express, and mail – but employment opportunities exist for not just delivery drivers, but also package handlers, warehouse personnel, data entry agents, and customer service representatives. These entry-level positions provide benefits and a steady income for people like Connors, who used to work in a college mailroom and finds his current job allows him to be his own boss. “It’s like being in a moving office,” says Connors. “I meet a lot of neat people, and time flies, because you’re always against the clock.”
Q: What are the job requirements for a courier?
A: You need a high school diploma; a safe driving record, and the ability to lift 75 pounds unassisted and 150 pounds with the proper equipment.
Q: You’re constantly on the go. Is the job tough on the body?
A: There’s a lot of wear-and-tear on the body, and you’re jumping in and out of the truck over 100 times a day. It’s not as easy as people think. It takes its toll. But every morning, there’s a flex and stretch exercise session for all of the drivers to help work out the kinks.
Q: How were you trained for your job?
A: There’s a two-week courier class, and a safe driving course that you have to go through. Then you’re sent out with an experienced courier who trains you en route. Finally, you do the circuit with a manager, who critiques your performance.
Q: What can customers do to make your job easier?
A: We’re in-and-out, so there’s not a lot of time for talk. They should really read the hangtags if they miss a delivery. And don’t call until the package is ready to be picked up. You’d be surprised at how quickly we can get there.
Q: What are your busiest times of year?
A: Tax time and Christmas.
Q: UPS drivers are supposedly sex symbols, with their shorts and brown uniforms. Are you ready to compete with that?
A: Well, we have a better uniform, without a doubt. Our colors are nicer. No comment on the sex symbol part.