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Fleet Fuel Economy Improved by UPS’ “No Left Turn” Rule

One Simple Change Improved the Fuel Economy of the UPS Fleet
One Simple Change Improved the Fuel Economy of the UPS Fleet

The next time you see a brown UPS delivery van in your area making a right turn, he might actually be making a left, and improving fuel economy at the same time.

No, the right-turn left-turn confusion isn’t some space-time equation gone awry, but a simple discovery made by UPS (United Parcel Service) more than a decade ago. To keep track of their delivery vans, UPS installed GPS (global positioning system) tracking devices. Far from simply knowing where the vans are, UPS also used this information to keep track of route times and even fuel economy.

To make their delivery logistics more reliable, as well as improve route efficiency and van fuel economy, UPS engineers analyzed the routes that the vans were making and their respective fuel consumption. They made an interesting discovery when they analyzed the data, the more left turns a van had to make, the more fuel the van consumed.

What was happening with this left-turning UPS vans that was impacting their fuel economy? Basically, making a left turn was against the flow of traffic, forcing drivers to wait for oncoming traffic to pass. While they were waiting, their vans were idling, burning up fuel for no good reason, bad for fuel economy and emissions. Additionally, they were losing time on their deliveries, bad for their corporate image and bottom line.

So, better than ten years ago, UPS made a decision, minimize or eliminate left-hand turns, instead making the equivalent three right-hand turns, and the results are multiple. First, deliveries are faster and route drivers get back to their distribution centers on time. Second, there are fewer accidents. Finally, fuel economy has improved, saving tens of millions of dollars in fuel. Even better, according to UPS, this simple rule, along with a couple of other route optimization strategies, has saved about 98,200 tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the last ten years.

Image © By MobiusDaXter (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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