Go inside UPS' boot-camp for driver trainees who are set to hit the road this holiday season

  • United Parcel Service told CNBC it's aiming to hire 12,000 delivery drivers to handle what's expected to be the biggest holiday peak for e-commerce ever.
  • All UPS driver candidates in U.S. attend a week-long intensive boot-camp training class at one of 10 facilities. CNBC got an exclusive look at one of them.

United Parcel Service told CNBC it's aiming to hire 12,000 delivery drivers to handle what's expected to be the biggest holiday peak for e-commerce ever.

This year, nearly $212 billion in online holiday spending is being forecasted by eMarketer, more than 18% of total estimated holiday sales of almost $1.15 trillion.

To learn how to deal with all those deliveries, all UPS driver candidates in U.S. attend a week-long intensive boot-camp training class at one of 10 facilities.

CNBC got an exclusive inside look at the Menlo Park, California center in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, generally seen as the start of the holiday shopping season.

The UPS training includes: driving in a mockup of a neighborhood, carrying boxes on a machine that simulates a slippery sidewalk or floor, making a delivery in 90 seconds and other tricks of the trade.

Tristan Christensen, UPS' head trainer, told CNBC that about 20% of candidates make it through the curriculum she designed to make drivers efficient and their deliveries profitable.

"They are essential workers and they are essential for us staying profitable," Christensen said. "I'm not necessarily talking to a driver about, the overall profitability of the company. But those methods that they're taught, that efficiency that we bake in, I think they understand that."

During the holiday peak, UPS increases its routes by 25%, and a driver can make as many 200 stops a day, an approximately 33% increase from the daily average.

"I could see myself getting scared sometimes," driver candidate Fernando Su told CNBC. "Having this kind of training — being here and learning all of this stuff firsthand, before I actually go out there — it really does kind of ease my mind. Su added that it makes him "feel a little bit more comfortable about getting out there doing it by myself, and trusting myself that I'll be able to get it done."

The competition for the best drivers is intense in the current labor market. Amazon and FedEx are seeking to hire seasonal workers totaling 125,000 and 90,000, respectively.

UPS, which announced in September plans to hire a total of 100,000 seasonal employees, told CNBC that 30% of those workers transition into a full time position.

Christensen, who started as a seasonal employee, said she believes the opportunity for a career at UPS makes the company increasingly competitive. "It's a tight labor climate. We have to make UPS attractive and compelling for people. Offering a career opportunity to people who have been disrupted or displaced from their previous employment, I think that makes UPS very attractive."

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