U.P.S. adds bikes to the fleet

U.P.S. seems like a smart company. Fuel costs money, so they’re constantly looking for ways to use less fuel. Every holiday season brings a huge surge in deliveries, which this year they’re handling in part by adding bicycles to their fleet:

> Of course, each U.P.S. bike delivery system (typically a $350 mountain bike pulling a custom trailer) can haul only 15 to 20 packages per trip — a mere fraction of what a truck can deliver. Nonetheless, the company estimates that for every three bikes deployed during peak season on the West coast, it will save around 17 gallons of fuel per day and about $38,000 dollars in vehicle maintenance costs.

Bike geeks might notice that the two-wheeler in the picture above comes complete with pogies, the loose set of mittens that fit entirely over the brakes and gear shifters to protect riders’ hands in cold weather. Other gear includes, of course, a nice kickstand and a sturdy-looking trailer. The only surprise is that the whole ensemble isn’t painted brown.

> Said [a company spokesman]: “It’s first and foremost an operational effort. Every package that U.P.S. delivers today comes with a time guarantee so we’ve got to make our deliveries,” he said. “It clearly has environmental benefits and we’re excited by those, but it works in part because you’ve got heavy volume going into residential neighborhoods.”

Man-on-the-scene Nick Chambers talked to a UPS rider and was told that one perk of the program is community building: the bicycle tends to facilitate a lot more conversations delivery people and customers or passersby.

All of this leads me to wonder: firemen have long filled the role of neighborhood sex symbols. Are newly visible UPS riders poised to steal their crown?

**Update:** BikePortland has a fun video interview with one of the U.P.S. riders. The most interesting nugget is that, for this rider at least, bicycles are far more productive than U.P.S. anticipated. The company hoped riders could deliver 25-50 packages per day. In this video, Tina is set to do closer to 100.

Another tidbit: many have assumed that the bikes must operate in a fairly close range to U.P.S. delivery hubs. But in fact trucks take the packages out to riders’ homes, which then act as regional mini-hubs. Clever.


UPS Delivery By Bike! Salem, Oregon from nwduffer on Vimeo.

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  1. fur - December 21, 2008

    This is so awesome…it may influence local communities to be more bike friendly, by providing bike lanes. Great!

  2. Shirlee - December 22, 2008

    The next step for UPS is moving to a pedal-assist electric motor on the bike, which will help make those deliveries in a timely manner. This will add about $800 to the price of the bike, but what it adds in efficiency and timeliness will offset the upfront expense. Plus many delivery people are not in the physical shape required to deliver via bike, it is hard work!
    We built up 2 ebikes with our stimulus check this summer. I have put almost 700 miles on my ebike in 4 months, and while I do still ride my other bikes occasionally, for practicality and function I always choose the ebike.We have pv panels at home, so the recharge is green, but the recharge could be offset if pv panels are not available.

  3. John O'Brien - December 22, 2008

    I say, “Good on ya, again, Big Brown!”
    UPS has been doing lots of green for a good while, including routing with right turns only to save idling at lights,(UPS Figures Out the ‘Right Way’ to Save Money, Time and Gas
    Delivery Giant Maximizes Efficiency With Ingenious Planning http://abcnews.go.com/wnt/story?id=3005890 and now are investigating hydraulic hybridization of trucks. An excellent example of how green is good business smarts. (No, I don’t have any affiliation with UPS)

  4. Tim Sullivan - December 22, 2008

    Bike couriers already have the neighborhood sex symbol crown. I am happy UPS is adding bikes because I have been breathing their diesel exhaust for years, they have a lot of compensation to do.

  5. Patience - December 22, 2008

    The last mile of Delivery is the costliest of UPS’ Delivery system. With the investmestment of UPS in Mail Boxes Etc & The UPS Store the Local Box drivers could off load their residential last mile packages to the store and have them delivered by the local agents. Talk about community building. You could have your package by 12:00 and still have benefit of knowing your delivery agent just like your Postal delivery person. I wonder if the Postal Service would benefit from this kind of Idea.

  6. Emmy - December 22, 2008

    [Please keep your comments on topic.]

  7. Tara Burner - December 23, 2008

    I think it’s great especially since I’m a big eco lover. But one problem it poses is in certain areas if the UPS biker goes to the door to deliver and still has packages on his bike what prevents someone from running up, snagging them and hauling off w/the goods?
    Sorry, I’m in S. FL where nothing is sacred and having packages in the open, easy to grab would be open invite for some.

  8. Amy Kay - December 23, 2008

    I was jealous of a classmate who worked for UPS for decent wages, thanks in part to the Teamsters. Now I’m fantasizing working –getting paid to stay fit! — as a package courier.

  9. Darrell - December 23, 2008

    If this is authentic, what a gas! (no pun intended)
    Holding only 15 packages, they must be delivering close to any given hub. But, nonetheless, it’s a novel idea. Go Brown!

  10. veggieforce - December 23, 2008

    oh thats just rad.
    I will gladly be a guinea pig for this venture.where do I sign up?!

  11. Adam Stein - December 24, 2008

    You want to sign up as a rider? Maybe a bit late for this year, but I found some employment info here. Good luck!

  12. Charmaine Ruppolt - December 29, 2008

    I think this is great! They should do this all over the U.S.! Plus, it would provide jobs for a lot of people!

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