By Nima Kapadia

glo_ups_brandmark.gif UPS’s signature-brown vehicles are turning “green” with the use of alternative fuels.

The global, package delivery company plans to add 500 alternative fuel vehicles to its “green fleet,” 200 hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and 300 compressed natural gas vehicles (CNG) for use in the United States, according to a May announcement. It’s the largest commercial order made by a company for such vehicles, says UPS spokeswoman Rebecca Treacy-Lenda.

“UPS leads the transportation industry in its efforts to level technology and develop more alternative fuels,” said Treacy-Lenda. “This (conversion) will help us get closer to our long-term goal of limiting our dependence on fossil fuels.” UPS’s green fleet will grow by 30 percent with the planned purchases, from 1,718 to 2,218 vehicles, counting UPS operations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil and parts of Europe.

Along with the HEV and CNG vehicles, the fleet includes electric, liquefied natural gas and propane-powered vehicles.

The 300 CNG vehicles are expected to hit U.S. highways later this year, joining the 800 already in use. The vehicles run on natural gas that yields a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The 200 HEV vehicles will follow in 2009, adding to the 50 already in use. HEVs operate using electric batteries and gas-combustion motors. UPS says the vehicles can save 176,000 gallons of fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1,786 metric tons each year.

Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation and Eaton Corporation will supply the vehicles, which will be structurally similar to the signature-brown vehicles. The vehicles will also contain markings to identify them as energy-efficient.

Jeff Kauffman, a UPS driver in North Texas for 27 years, has seen the company implement additional green initiatives that include:

•Reducing Left-Hand Turns: Drivers are encouraged to avoid left-hand turns when possible to minimize idling while waiting for traffic light changes. To do so, UPS uses a “package flow” technology system. A notebook computer maps a route of continuous right-hand turns before the driver leaves the depot. UPS says this tactic saved 3 million gallons of fuel last year.

•Turning Off Idling Engines: UPS drivers are trained to turn off their vehicles when stopping for a delivery, never letting their engines idle at a curb or in a driveway. Kauffman has found this policy especially useful during traffic jams, when leaving the UPS depot with hundreds of drivers.

“These initiatives have helped with fuel costs, competitive pricing and retaining customers,” said Kauffman. “The reduction in left-hand turns, in particular, has helped keep drivers safe by not crossing into multiple lanes of traffic… I expect UPS to make additional changes in the future. It’s the mentality that everyone is living in today.”

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