UPS set to roll out propane-fueled delivery truck fleet

Continuing its focus on sustainability and fuel efficiency, UPS announced this week that it intends to make a $70 million investment to purchase 1,000 propane package delivery trucks, as well as install fueling stations at 50 of its locations.

By ·

Continuing its focus on sustainability and fuel efficiency, UPS announced this week that it intends to make a $70 million investment to purchase 1,000 propane package delivery trucks, as well as install fueling stations at 50 of its locations. 

Company officials said that this propane package delivery fleet will replace gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles primarily used in rural parts of Louisiana and Oklahoma. UPS said these vehicles can travel up to 200 miles on a single tank of propane and that operations will kick off by the middle of this year and be completed in early 2015.

UPS Director of Public Relations Susan Rosenberg told LM that UPS uses a “rolling laboratory” approach and is constantly testing different fuel sources and technologies that apply to its broad range of route characteristics.

“We benefit from propane autogas’ wide availability as a result of increased natural gas production in the U.S.,” she said. “It’s an economical, lower-cost fuel, and we think it will stay that way for a while. There’s easy transport to have more accessibility across the country. The cost of the vehicle conversion continues to become more affordable, though the propane package car still is on average $10,000 more than its former version for either diesel or gasoline. Compressed natural gas (CNG) requires different types of storage and volume that wouldn’t be as appropriate for a rural, smaller UPS facility.”

She noted that UPS had success with propane in Canada for a while, but the quality autograde propane wasn’t as available across the U.S until the more recent increase in natural gas production in the U.S.

“We’ve been looking at it for several years, but we started working with PERC (Propane Education & Research Council) and the equipment manufacturers to secure EPA and California Air Resources Board certification last year,” she said. “Propane package trucks have a 200-mile range with no route limitations. We began our road tests with 20 vehicles last fall in Georgia. We always know we’re going to have a certain number of vehicles that have reached their useful life and will need replacement. Then we can look holistically at the fleet for effective utilization.”

When asked how the “rolling laboratory” for testing different fuel sources works, Rosenberg said as an example it can compare performance, maintenance, emissions, driver feedback on routes with different terrain and climate variation; longer distance vs. the stop/start of urban delivery.  And chassis, powertrain, fuel source vendors may work with UPS, along with the EPA or the Department of Energy to test their prototypes in action vs. test tracks.  This type of testing, she said, verifies more limited range for electric and Hybrid Electric.


As for next steps with this initiative, UPS has not yet defined the specific construction onsite needs for fueling and bid the work out, and Rosenberg said that UPS expects vehicles to begin arriving by mid-summer with the deployment in Louisiana and Oklahoma to follow. More locations will be defined in the coming months as additional fueling capability is built out and more vehicles arrive. Other states being added are contingent on tax incentives and grants factoring into the UPS deployment strategy and operational needs and locations where UPS had no onsite fueling capabilities and could benefit from them being added.

When asked what the biggest aspects of this initiative are for shippers, Rosenberg cited how UPS is holding the line on its fuel and operations costs, which helps customers.

“We will have our own direct fueling onsite for predictable supply, access and time savings,” she said. “We’re being responsible to seek clean-burning fuel.”

This initiative is the most recent in a series of sustainability-related moves UPS has made in recent months.

In October, the company announced it will invest roughly $50 million to build another nine liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueling stations, and last April it it rolled out its plan to purchase roughly 700 LNG vehicles and build four refueling stations by the end of 2014. When these stations are up and running, which UPS expects by the end of 2014, UPS will have 13 LNG stations.


About the Author

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. Contact Jeff Berman

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

Sustainability · UPS · All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
B2B Sellers Prefer a Unified Approach for Ecommerce
A new study from Forrester Consulting, commissioned by NetSuite, found that many midmarket, B2B sellers say their ecommerce solutions have contributed to their growth in sales, new customer acquisitions and improved customer relationships.
Download Today!
From the August 2016 Issue
A growing number of low-cost lift trucks offer new avenues for pairing equipment and applications, but less cautious buyers might find that small up-front costs come at a steep price. Selecting the proper lift truck, lift truck tips 2016, Choosing the right Lift Truck
Megatrends in ocean freight
Ocean Cargo Roundtable: What’s in store for 2017?
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Getting the most out of your 3PL relationship
Join Evan Armstrong, president of Armstrong & Associates, as he explains how creating a balanced portfolio of "Top 50" global and domestic partners can maximize efficiency and mitigate risk.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
2016 Quest for Quality: Winners Take the Spotlight
Which carriers, third-party logistics providers and U.S. ports have crossed the service-excellence...
Regional ports concentrate on growth and connectivity
With the Panama Canal expansion complete, ocean cargo gateways in the Caribbean are investing to...

Digital Reality Check
Just how close are we to the ideal digital supply network? Not as close as we might like to think....
Top 25 ports: West Coast continues to dominate
The Panama Canal expansion is set for late June and may soon be attracting more inbound vessel calls...