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'No Drones or Driverless Trucks', Demands Teamsters Labor Union (cnbc.com) 295

An anonymous reader quotes CNBC: No drones or driverless vehicles for delivering packages -- that's one of the major demands from the Teamsters labor union in the big contract negotiation it's undertaking with UPS this week. The union wants to ban UPS from using such new-fangled technology, which the logistics company has been reportedly testing... The current agreement affects 260,000 full and part-time UPS employees and expires in July. "UPS is focused on a contract that provides the flexibility needed to remain highly competitive, given the challenge of an increasingly crowded logistics segment," the company told CNBC.
The Drive notes the smaller carbon footprint of drone deliveries, while adding that "one completely understands and empathizes with the aversion truck drivers have toward this stark, autonomous future.

"If it feels like their jobs are being endangered by the incredible exponential growth in technology, it's because they are."
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'No Drones or Driverless Trucks', Demands Teamsters Labor Union

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  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @11:36AM (#56020069) Journal

    Good old featherbedding.. Tell me what else is new.

  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @11:40AM (#56020093)
    If their contract still protected animal drivers, none of them would have a job.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 28, 2018 @12:42PM (#56020475)

      If their contract still protected animal drivers, none of them would have a job.

      This is mainly just a move of spite. I can at least understand why the drivers would feel this way, but UPS is in a bad spot no matter how it works out.

      Either UPS moves forward with tech like everyone else, and the drivers lose their jobs..
      Or they agree not to, become uncompetitive and have profits tank, and the drivers also lose their jobs.

      So in either case the drivers are guaranteed to lose their jobs.
      It's just this way they get to take UPS down with them.

      • Either UPS moves forward with tech like everyone else, and the drivers lose their jobs..
        Or they agree not to, become uncompetitive and have profits tank, and the drivers also lose their jobs.

        So in either case the drivers are guaranteed to lose their jobs.
        It's just this way they get to take UPS down with them.

        At least if UPS moves forward with the technology it might be a slower transition and if it's using a truck full of drones for the last mile, some of those drivers can still drive the trucks and manage the drones.
        If UPS doesn't move forward then they go bankrupt and all their jobs, retirement, etc... dies with it.

    • Well, Santa would still have a job. Along with a couple guys in around central park, and the Amish.

  • I love unions (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @11:40AM (#56020095) Homepage

    They built this country.

    We should tell them that we will put "no drones" or driverless trucks into their contract as soon as we finish putting the "no horse-less carriage" rule into effect that the stablemen are demanding.

  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @11:40AM (#56020097)
    They're called "teamsters" because they used to handle teams of horses to move freight. It's a good thing they didn't allow any new-fangled technology encroach on that business model!
  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @11:49AM (#56020133)
    ... With the transition from teams of horses to trucks, they were still the "driver." Now they are fighting the elimination of the "driver."
    • The driver in this case will be engineers designing drones, autonomous control and drone delivery facilities.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I guarantee you there are not 260,000 engineers doing this.

        • Well, then we need to mandate artisan, hand-carved drones, with personalized software, written during the month of the customer's birth sign. Jobs for everybody!

      • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @12:25PM (#56020343) Homepage

        More likely, it'll be the coordinators who (from a central location) make sure the automated fleets are available where they're needed, when they're needed, and in good repair to function as needed.

        With automated transport, the basic challenge of logistics changes from having transportation at a given place to having a large enough pool of transportation in a given area to provide a level of service. Computing services went through the same transition over the last decade, as we've moved from having colocated dedicated servers to cloud-hosted virtualized data centers. The same ops engineers who used to manage racks of servers for one company are now managing racks of servers for the cloud provider, just using different tools and being much more efficient.

        In the end, this higher efficiency has led to a huge boom in demand for hosting services, in turn raising the demand for computing infrastructure. It's a perfect example of the old adage "if you build it, they will come". I expect that with automated transport, we'll start seeing huge fleets of delivery vehicles roaming the streets - even to the scale of having multiple delivery vehicles on the same street at the same time - and the workforce that used to drive will then move towards maintaining and managing the vast fleet.

        • ...we'll start seeing huge fleets of delivery vehicles roaming the streets - even to the scale of having multiple delivery vehicles on the same street at the same time - and the workforce that used to drive will then move towards maintaining and managing the vast fleet....

          Or the workforce will be needed to increase the capacity of the over-crowded streets. In your analogy of virtual servers, you also need to acknowledge the tremendous increase in networking capacity that connects the virtual servers to those that use them. There may need to be a similar increase in street capacity.

        • Much more likely from the container being dropped off an autonomously piloted freighter ship, being driving by an autonomous truck to the AI managed warehouse, product being dispatched by an AI distribution system to AI drones, no humans will be involved at all.

          The pipe dream that the offset workers can be put to work maintaining their new autonomous overlords is just that. For one, nobody is going to buy autonomous vehicles that need constant maintenance. They will build them as non-servicable modules t

        • I expect that with automated transport, we'll start seeing huge fleets of delivery vehicles roaming the streets - even to the scale of having multiple delivery vehicles on the same street at the same time - and the workforce that used to drive will then move towards maintaining and managing the vast fleet.

          I do not expect this.

          I expect that with automated transport, we'll start seeing huge fleets of delivery vehicles roaming the streets - even to the scale of having multiple delivery vehicles on the same street at the same time - with a similarly automated fleet for maintaining and managing the delivery fleet.

          I don't see a reason that the maintenance of the drone fleet would be anything but automated. Make the drones modular, and if the robot can't swap out a bad module for a good one, scavenge what you can,

  • by Camel Pilot ( 78781 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @11:53AM (#56020149) Homepage Journal

    Just think the jobs that could created if all deliverers had to be delivered by hand or hand truck?

  • by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @11:53AM (#56020151) Homepage Journal
    Forgoing driverless vehicles for package delivery will be the end of UPS. The cost of logistics will be too much to compete when FedEx and DHL start
    • But forgoing a contract with the teamsters right now will also likely be the end of UPS. What the teamsters are doing is walking to the dry end of the titanic. They could save it by jumping off, but they're fucked either way. And UPS is powerless to convince them to jump off.

      This is just them selfishly taking someone down with them, in order to survive for a bit longer than they otherwise would.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Perhaps if the people who will benefit from them jumping would provide some sort of life boat, they would be more willing to jump. You seem to be quite generous with other people's lives.

        I don't see you lining up for the big jump.

  • Wouldn't last. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @11:54AM (#56020153)

    Even if they get their way and UPS doesn't use drones or driver-less trucks, other companies around the world will continue to develop the technology. When a the new technology is ready, they will get everything in place and then layoff every driver all at once. That will be far more devastating to them than if they are have a period of time to actually get new jobs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geoskd ( 321194 )

      That will be far more devastating to them than if they are have a period of time to actually get new jobs.

      These folks are not qualified to do anything other than drive for a living. A very large percentage of them are barely trainable as it is. The jobs they are capable of learning to do, automation is already wiping out. Like the manufacturing workers, their ranks will be decimated, and they will end up blighting the country because we force them into abject poverty. There is nothing of value that society will be willing to pay them to do, so we better figure out what the plan is because Manna is comming. [marshallbrain.com]

      • While I understand your pessimism, your cynicism is unwarranted. You greatly underestimate the value of human intelligence and the human capacity to learn. Not every one of them is going to be a genius but they aren't incapable of learning new skills. The question is how many opportunities are going to be available versus the number of people needing them. For this reason, I believe that UBI and higher education should be free for all our fellow citizens. I also understand that in the current state, th

        • Not every one of them is going to be a genius but they aren't incapable of learning new skills.

          New skills is one thing. New skills that they can do better than a machine is quite another.

          Captcha: frying pan.

      • I drove a truck and I've been a Teamster but I'm not stupid and when I was laid off I didn't just crawl into a corner to die, I got a better job.

        I'm sure you're a very precious member of our economy who can do anything but you're assuming that people with simple jobs are only capable of that job and nothing greater which is an incredibly narrow and baseless claim.
        • Not everyone can do that. Depending on the age, a lot of people don't want to learn new skills or start over or whatever, and it takes perseverence.
      • This is what I consider the greatest irony in the debate over how to help the poor and working class. Those who purport to want to help and protect them most also have the lowest opinion of their intellect and capabilities. Those who say they should help themselves do so because they have a higher opinion of the intellect and capability of these people, and believe they can learn how to do a new, better job.
    • For those too young to remember, the Teamsters and AFL/CIO mostly successfully blocked robots from being introduced into factories in the 1980s as a ploy to protect assembly line jobs. As a result, when China offered manufacturing with lower-cost assembly line labor in the 1990s, most of those jobs left the U.S. for China.

      If the U.S. factories had automated in the 1980s, maybe our factories would've been cost-competitive with cheap Chinese labor, and our manufacturing base would've remained here. Some
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 28, 2018 @11:55AM (#56020159)

    It's the fundamental concept of how the economy is supposed to work, if you don't pay anyone!
    If you automate all the jobs away, then where, precisely, is the money supposed to come from, that your potential clients would use, to buy your stuff in the first place? In other words: How would you make money in the first place?

    Everybody would be fine with full automation, if the wealth that that causes would go to those, who actually worked to generate it. Instead of those, who merely leeched on them, mooching off of society, taking bailouts, causing inflation, stifling the free market by doing everything they can, to prevent their victims and their enemies to gain a lever that would keep it healthy and balanced.

    People always teach kids that example with the lemonade stand, where $1 goes around in circles, and you end up with the same $1, making no money.
    But that's how the entire economy works in the real world too! (At least the legitimate parts.) It's so much more complex, that it's well obfuscated.
    The only way it can be different, is when money is literally made up out of thin air. (Like stock markets, bank loans, abused crypto-currencies, etc) And that's actually still the same, because by doing it, the money itself loses value. So the wealth still doesn't magically appear out of thin air, but comes out of the pockets of everyone who owns some of that money, via inflation.)

    Frankly, the union should STFU, collect some money from its members, buy their own driverless trucks and drones, and spread the profits among the members, in return for their investment.
    That would be compatible with the philosophies of the most extreme capitalists, libertarians, socialists and communists.
    The only ones who would absolutely hate it, would be those who want to keep leeching. Be it the capitalist or the socialist kind.

    • you're preoccupied with where the money comes _from_. The ruling class, OTOH, is preoccupied with where it goes _to_.

      You've figured out that if we automate all the jobs away the entire economy will grind to a halt. Good job. I mean it. That's the first step. But you still think the ruling class is just like the working class, e.g. that they depend on the economy for their livelihood. This is incorrect. The ruling class makes their living by _owning_ things. They don't need a functional economy to do well
  • Because the biggest part of UPS is their interstate transfer system.
  • by DeplorableCodeMonkey ( 4828467 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @12:03PM (#56020201)

    We need to engage in the unsexy business of building a lot more rail. If something has to move from a port to 800 miles inland, barring it being military equipment that the military deems too sensitive to send by rail (ie things like nuclear weapons), it should be sent by rail most of the way. That is way more cost-effective than fleets of trucks for the same purpose and much more environmentally sound.

    I'm actually surprised Musk hasn't hedged his bets on this and offered to have the Boring Company help build small networks of tunnels to make direct routes by rail cheaper and less reliant on eminent domain. (It wouldn't be big business, but it would be a great way to test the tech)

    • Aside from needing double track in more locations and electrification, the US has a robust rail network, and I fail to see why “more” is needed. While it is impressive that some places can run rail to within a mile of the destination, it seems like an unrealistic strategy for the US. I do find it ironic that most of the logistics centers seem to forego rail spurs, but there is a reason.

      What I think the US railroads really need though is micro switching and intermodal transfer yards to better s

      • The US, and Canada, used to have a robust system of rail networks. The decline of rail has seen the railroads rip up large tracts of their networks because it was too expensive to maintain. Some of the lines have been turned into recreational trails once the tracks were taken up.

      • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

        most of the logistics centers seem to forego rail spurs, but there is a reason.

        Yes, the reason is the massive subsidies [truecostblog.com] that trucks enjoy. Why pay for a spur out of your own wallet when the government will build you a road out of theirs? Simple economics!

    • The US already has the largest rail network in the world, the vast, vast majority of which is being used for freight. While there’s surely room for more growth, it’s aleady being utilized quite effectively as it is for the sorts of things that make sense to put on rail.

      Even so, rail can only get your package between hubs, so you still have a need for point-to-point deliveries once you move things from one hub to another. That’s where courier drones can eliminate the most jobs/save the most

    • I'm actually surprised Musk hasn't hedged his bets on this and offered to have the Boring Company help build small networks of tunnels to make direct routes by rail cheaper and less reliant on eminent domain.

      Rail inevitably winds up being a government project, because nobody else can do it. That means it costs money. Sitting back and letting car companies sell cars while ignoring road maintenance makes money. It's not sustainable, but it's where we are. Musk knows better than to try to fight governments. His business model, in fact, wouldn't be viable without government interference. (Maybe one day, but not today.)

  • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @12:11PM (#56020239)
    Many times this winter we got packages from UPS or FedEx and I thanked the driver for braving the elements for me. I feel the same about this as I do about pizza; if there is no one to walk the package to the door for me then the service is not nearly as good or valuable to me. Now if automation halves the delivery cost because it now lacks this service then fine, but I'd like to know what my inconvenience is worth. There is something to be said for human involvement.
    • if there is no one to walk the package to the door for me then the service is not nearly as good or valuable to me

      Does it have to be a human that walks it to the door, or can a robot do that?

      • A robot can do it, but it will have to be able to navigate a couple feet of snow if I haven't had time to clear it since the last snowstorm. Also, my driveway is frequently slick and ice-rutted. It depends on the weather.
    • by lorinc ( 2470890 )

      You put value in people suffering for your pleasure?

      • Isn't that any job? Should I feel guilty that someone has to work a full shift at McDonalds so I can come through and order a burger?
    • How much money do you have that not having to walk through some snow is worth half a delivery cost?
  • Don't replace me with automation or I'll go on strike!?
    • Who is going to unload your drone or truck and carry things 20 feet to the freight elevator?

  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Sunday January 28, 2018 @12:16PM (#56020271)

    No parking in second row, no throwing of packages over walls, no rough handling of delicate packages, no stealing of valuable items, no poisoning dogs, ...

    But seriously, in which millennium do they think they live?

  • If we assume the previous contract length indicates the length of the next one, agreeing to not use drones or automated vehicles for delivery doesn't seem to make much difference the chance that either is allowed in the next 5-years is zero.
    • If it's in the contract now, it becomes much more difficult to take it out later. In this round, the argument can be framed as "the union is demanding new protection", but if it's in there for one cycle, the next round will be "the company wants to take away this existing protection".

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Sunday January 28, 2018 @12:25PM (#56020339)

    When it comes to fighting technical innovation the unions always lose. Economics always wins. And if it's by old companies going out of business and the new ones based on automation rising.

  • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @12:29PM (#56020381)
    Just because the union puts this on the table, it doesn't mean they think they are going to get it. The more you have on the table to take off, the more you end up getting in return. It's negotiation 101.
  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @12:32PM (#56020397)

    Problem 1: We can't get the economy to grow at a sustainable 3% because we already have 4% unemployment. Without productivity growth or population growth, the economy is not capable of 3% growth long term. The labor is just not available.

    Problem 2: Automation at restaurants, grocery store checkouts, and with driverless cars and trucks will allow businesses to do the same work with fewer workers. This huge increase in productivity will put millions of cashiers and drivers out of work.

    Each problem is the solution to the other -- unless government steps in and prevents it from happening.

  • Look, I don't think driverless anything is nearly as close as some people assert but to simply stomp an angry foot and deny what's coming isn't a strategy - it's a pathology. A terminal one, because when it does (almost inevitably) arrive, then you're entirely unprepared.

  • "Here, let us raise the cost of your labor, and transfer the benefits not to you, but to the union, which is gonna skip town anyway when your employer decides to off-shore, outsource, automate, or use cheap illegal alien labor!"

  • As soon as those techs become reliable, FedEx and DHL will make use of them and will out compete UPS.

  • The unions can chill out. The only "incredible exponential growth in technology" in drones and autonomous vehicles was 5-10 years ago. They've been struggling against the wall of reality ever since.

  • by mileshigh ( 963980 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @01:07PM (#56020633)

    The union knows all too well that automation is inevitable. UPS' R&D of automated delivery shows that they realize they'll be roadkill if they don't get out in front ot the automation juggernaut, and the union sees that too.

    What they really want is a guarantee that no jobs will be lost and no pay cuts, e.g. drivers will be retrained as drone wranglers.

    The problem is that, say, an experienced driver makes $30-40/hour. As a driver, he's worth it because of high productivity and safety. However, as a drone wrangler he's starting from scratch and no more valuable than a newbie making $14/hour. Structurally high labor costs could put UPS at a huge disadvantage in the upcoming drone delivery price wars.

  • Death Pact (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @01:10PM (#56020649)

    Drones and Driverless Vehicles are going to be the death of the Teamster's Union.

    If UPS agrees to the Teamster's demands then UPS will be killed off along with the union as competitors undercut UPS by having lower costs of delivery.

    If UPS balks then the Teamster's threat is they'll kill UPS now by striking. That in turn will hasten UPS to adopt drones and driverless vehicles quickening the death of the Teamsters.

    Either way the Teamsters lose. They had their time and place. They are no longer needed and are now a parasite on the system. They are like the dinosaur lice that specialized to suck the blood of dinosaurs. When the dinosaurs died off so did those lice.

    The only question is can UPS find a path forward that lets them get from here and now to then and there where they will have to go: drones and driverless vehicles.

    I like my UPS driver. He's a great guy. But it is a job that is facing extinction. I wish him the best in finding a new and exciting job.

  • Robots don't get any paychecks to skim for hookers and blow for mobsters and politicians.

    -jcr

  • ...Because when they don't get an income anymore, no matter how rich you are - they WILL be coming for you.

  • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @01:42PM (#56020825)
    There's no way that robots can do what human drivers do. Driving a simple vehicle around some simple roads is one thing. Unloading boxes from a truck, putting them on handtrucks and getting them into our business is a whole different thing.
    • I thought drones were going to deliver them to my porch.
    • Unloading boxes from a truck, putting them on handtrucks and getting them into our business is a whole different thing.

      The robot won't use a hand truck, the robot will be the delivery cart. And the truck will also be a robot, and besides driving it will be able to handle stacking. That's two things it will do better than UPS. I've had a UPS guy go off the side of the hill here where I expressly told him not to turn around, and where any idiot would have seen was a bad place to go in wet conditions, when there was plenty of room to turn around where I told him to turn around. I turn a Sprinter around there all the time, I'm

  • by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @02:05PM (#56020987)

    Say most of routine human work can be automated. There will always be some demand for human labor - because we like to see each other's faces and because of one off tasks for which it's not worth building a robot. According to laws of supply and demand, a little bit of human labor will then buy a lot of robot labor. Works for $19.95 smartphones right? So you will work for two days per week and enjoy living in a home built by a home-building robot, eating produce harvested by a self driving combine harvester and so on. Just like in a primitive society people used to spend 3 days hunting a zebra and two weeks eating a zebra while painting cave walls and dancing around the fire. Except you get to live much nicer by having robots raise and butcher your zebras. Instead, we insist on confining ourselves to industrial monestories for much of our waking time. If anything, lots of software people can afford to work part time from remote and still get by in an affordable area of the country. Maybe that will set a trend? What the world needs now is an army of slackers.

  • ... and lose.

    The largest expense in delivery is people.

    Workers have lost out to automation before and yet we're still here.

    This, too, shall pass.

  • ... at the Texaco refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, ca. 1980.

    "We are all going to lose our jobs to computers!"

    The union had a major cow and the company really, really wanted to decrease the costly, annoying workforce.

    Didn't happen.

    The fucking automation was crappy in a harsh hydrocarbon-rich environment; only the manufacturers understood their product and knew nothing about cooking crude.

    We had triple the workforce for years -- new construction, trained operators, analysts from the vendors, engineers from T

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It'll be so nice when AI takes over all contract and civil legal proceedures and 99% of the lawyers are unemployed homeless.

    Brave future coming chaps, hold tight!

Were there fewer fools, knaves would starve. - Anonymous

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