Dear EarthTalk: What are the big delivery companies like FedEx and UPS doing to green their truck fleets and operations in general?--Mitchell Glaser, Overland Park, KS
Package delivery companies like FedEx and UPS have come a long way in a relatively short time regarding sustainability, but they still have considerable room for improvement. While there is only so much these companies can do to reduce their huge carbon footprints--given their reliance on emissions-heavy air transport--they've made great strides in greening their ground fleets, optimizing their choices of modes and otherwise streamlining energy use.
For its part, UPS was an early adopter of cleaner vehicles, and today operates upwards of 2,500 low-emission vehicles that run on alternative fuels and technologies. The company is particularly jazzed about a new generation of hydraulic hybrid package delivery trucks unveiled in the fall of 2012 in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities program. These new trucks--which employ a diesel combustion engine along with a hydraulic high- pressure accumulator that stores energy captured during braking--get 35 percent better fuel economy and generate as much as 30 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions as compared to the non-hybrid diesel-powered vehicles they are replacing. While these trucks may cost UPS $7,000 apiece more than their traditional counterparts, the company estimates the upgrade will save $50,000 or more, while substantially reducing emissions, over the lifetime of each vehicle.
UPS has also been blazing new trails in operational efficiency via intermodal shifting, e.g., using the most fuel-efficient transport mode (airplane, train, truck or ship) or combination of modes to meet customer needs. A concerted effort by the company to streamline its operations in 2011 led to savings of two million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by moving delivery volume...