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Green logistics: UPS continues to deliver on fuel efficiency goals

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
August 01, 2011

UPS recently announced in its annual Sustainability Report that it is continuing to reduce the amount of fuel used per each delivered package it moves in the United States.

According to the report, UPS said its U.S. package volume increased 1.8 percent in 2010 on an annual basis, with the amount of fuel consumed per package decreasing by 3.3 percent. Company officials said this was achieved by deploying the right vehicle at the right time, using technology to minimize the miles driven, and focusing on how behavior can affect fuel use.

These metrics match up well with the company’s announced goal in 2010 to improve its automotive miles per gallon performance of its entire U.S. package delivery fleet by 20 percent between 2000 and 2020.

“The goal of 20 percent reduction in fuel usage by 2020 remains the same,” said UPS Director of Automotive Maintenance and Engineering Mike Britt. “We actively engineer ways of getting more packages per gallon as we get more density and moving more packages with every gallon of fuel.”

As an example of this, Britt explained that rather than running three trailers on the road that are 75 percent full, UPS will scale that down to two trailers running 100 percent full.

And UPS is also doing similar things with its package fleet by actively engineering miles that do not necessarily need to be driven due to its satellite centers and GP60 fleet.

“We have been actively engineering reduction of miles and package density for years,” said Britt. “With advanced driver training, we are training drivers on our hybrid electric vehicles, which is not like driving a normal vehicle, because drivers have to be trained how to achieve natural fuel efficiency. This also goes for other electric vehicles and hydraulic hybrids, which require different driving techniques to optimize better fuel technology.”

With fuel and oil prices holding firm at levels that remain higher than they were a year ago, Britt said UPS is taking a multi-pronged approach to that situation.

One part of that approach is using biodiesel in various locations, including its aerospace location in Louisville, KY. And another part is leveraging its liquefied natural gas (LNG) operations for its LNG-powered natural gas Class 8 tractors in California that UPS has been running for ten years.

“The reason we did not increase that fleet was that there was no technology out there, due to the fact that emissions standards were changing,” said Britt. “We have 48 of these tractors, and they are going to be running between Las Vegas, California, and Utah. Each of these vehicles will use 5 percent diesel and 95 percent LNG, which is a domestic fuel that is safer to use and also cheaper than diesel. That is one of our strategies in the Class 8 space.”

UPS has 11 Class 8 LNG tractors in Ontario, California and will be rolling out 48 more by year’s end, with plans to expand again in early 2012. Britt said these tractors get about 560 miles from one tank of fuel compared to 6.5 for diesel.

And in the Class 4-6 space, Britt said UPS has a large CNG (compressed natural gas) fleet with more than 1,000 vehicles and plans to increase its size as more technology becomes available. A full tank of CNG lasts roughly 300 miles.

What’s more, he explained that CNG can power Class 7 fleets as well, which does not require any fossil and diesel powered fuels. UPS has been running CNG fleets since the 1980s

Other highlights of the UPS Sustainability Report include:
-its alternative fuel/advanced technology vehicle fleet topping 200 million miles driven; and
-UPS avoided driving more than 63.5 million miles in 2010 with an emissions avoidance of 68,000 metric tones.

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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