UPS teaches holiday recruits to fend off dogs, dodge taxis

As United Parcel Service hires a holiday workforce bigger than Macy’s, recruits get a quick course in lifting heavy loads, doubling up on socks, and, in a jam, fending off snarling dogs with handheld computers.

The world’s biggest package delivery company is rushing to hire as many as 95,000 people by next week to cope with projected record deliveries. UPS is determined to perform better than last year, when harsh weather and a surge in last-minute online shopping orders caused more than a few packages to be delivered after Christmas.

Some of these employees, being recruited online via iPhones or college visits from Boston to Seattle, will wind up sorting packages in temporary portable buildings. Some will deliver boxes in Los Angeles office towers, and 207 of them will be sent out to drive signature brown Pullman trucks – in attire of the same hue – while dodging taxis and bicycle couriers in New York.

“You have these crazy kamikaze messengers” said Tony Hussienroshdy, a UPS safety trainer who looks a bit like action hero Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and has biceps to match, as he advised a group of fresh hires on the perils of package delivery.

The frenzy was palpable at a training session this month in New York. As some applicants flowed in to seek positions, new employees learned to guard against back injuries while lugging packages as heavy as 70 pounds and got pointers on situational awareness in Manhattan’s crowded streets, as well as personal grooming.

Men are permitted to wear one earring, like a stud, but “nothing gaudy,” personnel official Janet Martinez said.

UPS expects to deliver 585 million packages in December, or the equivalent of 1.9 packages for every person in the country. Such volume will put its plan to the test. The company peaked at 31 million packages delivered in a single day last holiday season; this year it expects six days to surpass that single-day figure.

UPS started formulating its 2014 strategy shortly after last Christmas, seeking ways to handle increased volume more efficiently and reliably.

One part of that plan has UPS stringing together modular units, akin to trailer-type buildings used to add space to some schools, into 15 “mobile distribution center villages” around the country. Drivers will pull into the villages’ delivery bays, pick up a load and head back out.

Another component calls for better policing of the amounts of packages that UPS’ biggest retail customers send its way for delivery, making sure they align with companies’ forecasts. Helping to carry out these goals will be a seasonal workforce bigger than those of Macy’s, which plans 86,000 holiday hires, and Inc.’s 80,000.

Most of UPS’ hiring is done online, with ads placed on websites such as in markets nationwide, supplemented with trips to colleges and a “friends and family” campaign that gives prizes to employees for candidate referrals.