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UPS Delivery: Should You Be an Independent Contractor or Official Employee?

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Gigly team, Marketing at Gigly
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If you’re thinking about taking on some extra work for the holidays or finding a new job, you might consider becoming a UPS independent contractor driver.

Many of us have imagined how cushy the job must be: working your own route, making big bucks, and coming and going as you please.

Well, UPS is always hiring, and you still have time to make your daydream come true.

But, maybe working for one company isn’t what you really want to do in the long run.

Maybe you want more flexibility in your schedule.

The United Parcel Service also hires part-time and full-time independent contractors, especially during the holidays when their delivery services are most in demand.

So, if you decide to apply for a job with this shipping giant, you’ll get to decide whether you want to be a full-time employee or an independent contractor.

You don’t have to play eeny-meeny-miney-mo to choose which type of worker you become — this guide gives you the pros and cons of both categories, so you can make an informed decision.


What Does a UPS Delivery Driver Do?

UPS driver wearing branded surgical mask and driving truck

A UPS driver does so much more than deliver packages. You need some hard and soft skills to qualify for the job (and, of course, a valid driver’s license).

Physical and Social Requirements

In the course of a day as a package handler, you could drop off an average of 120 deliveries or more.

This involves a lot of physical work:

  • Getting up and down the truck steps (if you’re in a UPS vehicle)
  • Navigating long driveways to get to the doors
  • Driving for extended periods

Customer interactions happen frequently. The better your social skills are, the more enjoyable the job will be. No one wants a cranky delivery person, and you represent the company.

Whether you are an independent contractor or an employee, you’ll still have to report to a manager. This requires respectful and timely communication. It helps if you can handle constructive criticism well, especially as you’re learning.

Don’t meet the physical requirements?

That’s okay! You may not qualify for a delivery driver job, but you can still apply to work in a UPS store.

Computer Skills

A computer tracks your time to see if you’re staying on schedule, and you’ll have to interact with it throughout your shift.

You’ll need to know how to use the box that records package delivery times, too.

As technology evolves, computers may become a bigger part of the job. But if you’re comfortable with learning new computer skills, you’ll fit in just fine.

Gig Workers have Health Insurance Options Too. Consider supplemental benefits.


UPS by the Numbers

The company is a massive corporation. They advertise the ability to send packages to “more than 210 countries and territories worldwide.”

With competition like FedEx and USPS, the managers at UPS know they have to offer high pay and benefits to their workforce.

To handle the nearly 20 million packages and documents it’s responsible for each day, the company hires part-time and full-time staff and contractors.

A large percentage of those on the payroll deal with freight and handling packages to some degree.

As a truck driver, that contact becomes your main responsibility. You don’t load the contents, but once they’re in your possession, it’s up to you to promptly deliver them.

Employee Rates

UPS has about 540,000 part-time and full-time employees on staff during most of the year. During the holidays, that number is ramped up by about 100,000.

Many full-time drivers start out as independent contractors using their own personal vehicles. If this is the position you’re hired for, and you do well, you could be offered a full-time position at the end of the season.

Average Hours

UPS went through a rough patch where full-time drivers were contesting the heavy workload they were required to follow.

Often working six or seven days a week to keep up with the company’s Amazon partnership and other deliveries, drivers were burnt out.

The company compromised by creating a new job position, classified as a Combination Driver. This job involves some driving (during weekends and busy hours) but other types of work (warehouse, clerical, etc.) when the need for delivery drivers is down.

Full-time delivery drivers can still expect to see a lot of overtime in their schedules, especially during busy seasons. Personal vehicle drivers may get part-time hours unless the route is short-staffed or overly busy.

How Much Do UPS Drivers Make?

UPS salaries depend on a number of factors:

  • Location
  • Experience and skills
  • Length of time the driver has worked for the company

Starting pay has a vast range. According to Glassdoor, you could be offered anywhere from $11–$52 per hour.

The more you have to offer the company, the higher your pay rate will likely be. For instance, someone with a CDL who can drive a tractor-trailer is going to make a higher hourly rate than a freelance courier driver.

What About Benefits?

Deciding whether to work for or with UPS often comes down to the benefits rather than the pay.

All full-time employees get the following benefits:

  • Health insurance
  • Paid time off
  • Sick days
  • Retirement options

As an independent contractor delivery driver, you get a similar salary without the benefits.

You’ll drive your own vehicle, too, which is an added expense. Yes, you’ll get mileage reimbursement, but you still have wear and tear and fuel to deal with.

Note: If you’re an independent contractor, vehicle maintenance is a business expense. If you want help finding other deductions to help you lower your tax burden, one of our financial counselors may be able to help.

Pros and Cons of Working for UPS Directly

Van filled with packages

Let’s discuss the benefits and downsides of full-time employment with UPS.

Things You’ll Love

There are a lot of advantages to working for a company with an impressive reputation and longevity:

Reliable Paychecks

As an employee, you never have to worry about not getting your next paycheck if they worked the hours. You’ll consistently know how much to expect on payday, and you have job security and benefits.

Consistent Schedule

The company sets and manages a controlled schedule for you. Your working environment is professional, and you leave the work at your job instead of bringing it home at the end of the day.

Professional Workplace

Major corporations like UPS have structured methods of improvement and efficiency, so you know if there’s an issue, you can talk to someone who will listen.

Things to Be Aware Of

Before you submit your application, you may want to consider these factors:

Capped Salaries

While it’s nice to have a consistent paycheck, when you’re working for a company, sooner or later, you’ll hit a ceiling.

For UPS, salaries for drivers cap out around $70,000.

Strict Schedules

There’s not a lot of leeway in your schedule, either. Although Combination Drivers have eased up driver hours a little, there’s still minimal flexibility for time off.

The packages won’t deliver themselves!

Seniority Structure

Keep in mind that you may not be able to start out as a driver. Many employees have to work in another role for several years before becoming a driver with their own route.

Overall, though, UPS has a reputation for being a good company to work for if you want a stable job with benefits and competitive pay.

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Pros and Cons of Becoming a UPS Independent Contractor

Here are some of the benefits of taking the independent contractor route:

Flexible Schedule

Running your own show is everyone’s dream. As an independent contractor with UPS, you kind of get to do this.

You can’t completely set your own hours, but you have more flexibility with time off. As long as you’re meeting the number of hours they require and you show up when you’re supposed to, you can choose to work fewer hours or take time off.

High Compensation

Personal drivers do get perks like high hourly pay plus mileage reimbursement. In busy seasons, you can bank almost as many hours as you’d like.

Considerations About Independent Contracting

Unless you’re already comfortable leaving the security of a regular check behind, independent contractor jobs can be difficult. Here are some things to consider before joining UPS’s freelance team:

Irregular Income

While you have the potential to make more than you’d get in a salaried position, the pay isn’t always stable. From week to week, your hours — and therefore your income — can change.

This can make it hard for you to plan a budget.

Lack of Benefits

Independent contractors don’t receive employee benefits, such as health insurance and legal protection. There isn’t a set contract or job stability, and you’re not guaranteed hours.

Tax Responsibilities

When you get your paycheck, it won’t have taxes withheld. When you file your federal taxes, you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for your wages.


Can You Make Real Money Working for UPS?

Driving for UPS full-time is a solid blue-collar job. You can make very good money, and you don’t need a degree or special training (other than what the company provides).

Independent workers can also make good money, but mostly during peak seasons.

How to Apply for a Driving Job With UPS

The company doesn’t have job openings for contractors all year round. If you want to be an independent contractor for UPS, you need to sign up for job alerts.

Once you’ve submitted a resume and application, you won’t have to search the site for new listings. Even if they don’t hire you right away, they’ll send a “Now Hiring” notification to your phone or email when new listings appear.

At that point, you’ll know that UPS needs a package delivery driver, and you’re already qualified. They may just be looking for a driver helper or someone for day delivery. But, you may still be able to make some decent money.

You can also attend any hiring event that you see advertised. Getting your foot in the door and making connections is a great way to get noticed.

Let them know your job description of choice and that you want to work independently. They may have a position open for you!


Taking the Pros, Fixing the Cons

If you choose to be an independent contractor with UPS, you can have your cake and eat it, too.

How?

By finding ways to address the downsides of the job.

How can you get health insurance without spending a fortune?

And what about managing your taxes throughout the year?

Here are some solutions:

Gigly for Supplemental Insurance

Gigly, in partnership with The Alliance of Gig Workers, is a membership program that offers supplemental benefits:

  • Health and wellness benefits
  • Financial and legal benefits
  • Discounts on everyday products and services

Because so many members are connected under one umbrella, everyone is entitled to volume discounts.

Hundreds of companies work in partnership with Gigly to help gig workers save money. If that’s all that’s holding you back from independent contracting, consider that hurdle jumped!

Sign up for Gigly and get access to our supplemental benefits!

Taxes Troubling You? Turbo Tax Can Help

We get it — no one wants to be on the wrong side of the IRS, and dealing with your own taxes can be scary.

With the right accounting program, like Turbo Tax’s version designed for independent contractors, it doesn’t have to keep you from working for yourself.

Their easy-to-use software teaches you how to save your receipts, find deductions, and more. Tax time can be a breeze, even when you’re in the gig work lifestyle.


Conclusion

If the life of a UPS driver has always appealed to you, why not start working toward that life?

Whether you want to be an official employee or take the independent contractor route, you have options.

No matter which way you choose, you’ll have benefits — either from UPS or through Gigly!