UPS adds to its alternative fuel vehicle fleet with purchase of 48 LNG-powered tractors

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In a continued commitment to sustainability with a primary focus on fuel efficiency and energy security, UPS announced it has bought 48 heavy tractor trucks manufactured by Kenworth that are equipped to run on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

UPS said these vehicles will be deployed later this year in the western region of the United States and replace older generation diesel vehicles and will produce 25 percent fewer greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions compared to older trucks and 95 percent less diesel fuel than the vehicles they are replacing.

“UPS is aggressively moving towards addressing every type of vehicle in our fleet to reduce our dependence on oil and reduce greenhouse gases,” said Michael French, UPS spokesman, in an interview. “UPS has always made efficiency and energy sustainability a major priority.”

Along with producing 25 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to the older trucks and displacing 95 percent of the fuel used by conventional diesel vehicles they replace, a savings of approximately 4,000 gallons a day for these 48 vehicles is expected by UPS, said French.

“LNG reduces emissions of smog-causing NOx, particulate matter, and global warming greenhouse gases,” said French. “There is no smell to LNG, either at the fueling or at the exhaust and LNG runs much quieter than a diesel vehicle. [Shippers] will know that the packages they ship are with a company actively working to reduce its carbon footprint and, as a result, improve the air quality and overall environment of the communities in which we operate.”

These Kenworth tractors are powered by Wesport HD Systems and will first pull trailers on a transit lane linking Ontario, Calif., and Las Vegas, Nev., along with UPS’s 11 existing LNG tractors, according to UPS officials. They added that UPS is the only private delivery company using this technology in its fleet and now has more than 1,100 natural gas-powered vehicles in service.

UPS’s 11 LNG tractors are located Ontario and can make the round trip to Las Vegas on one tank of fuel.  Company officials said UPS is working closely with the DOE’s Clean Cities program to construct a LNG fueling station in Las Vegas, which is expected to be completed in 2011. The 48 new tractors will be based in Las Vegas and expand the number of long-haul routes in the West on which they’re used, according to the company.

UPS has 1,914 alternative fuel vehicles in its fleet, and this fleet has traveled more than 185 million miles since 2000.

French said that UPS takes a “rolling laboratory” approach to its alternative fuel vehicles (AFV) and views its AFVs as a way to study how the technologies would work on a larger scale. 
“We haven’t committed to any one technology, but remained focused on making sure it works within our fleet, that it meets and exceeds our expectations, and that it is viable for implementation on a larger scale,” he said, adding that “UPS was the first private delivery company to invest in LNG technology and we have one of the most technologically diverse alternative fuel fleets in our industry. As the environment becomes more prominent in the minds of consumers, UPS is at the forefront of carbon and greenhouse gas reduction. Additionally, these investments help UPS, and by proxy our customers, reduce dependence on imported oil.”

UPS’s efforts to advance the use of LNG as an alternative to diesel fuel were applauded by Brittain Ladd, global supply chain consultant for CapGemini Consulting.

“As I travel overseas, I have noticed an increase in the use of LNG across the globe but efforts to expand the use of LNG in the U.S. have not progressed as quickly as the rest of the world,” said Ladd. “The challenge for the majority of trucking companies and fleet owners isn’t merely the costs of transitioning their equipment to run on LNG, it is the fact that there isn’t an infrastructure in place where trucks can refuel with LNG as efficiently as they do today with diesel.

Ladd said there needs to be a coordinated effort between shippers, carriers, and government agencies to manage the transition from diesel to LNG as this will ensure the use of LNG is embraced by the majority and not just a small minority of companies. But he cautioned that while LNG can do the job and there are ample supplies within the U.S., without an infrastructure in place to assure carriers they will have access to LNG, the majority of carriers will sit on the sidelines until the infrastructure is intact.

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About the Author

Jeff Berman
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. Contact Jeff Berman

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