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Delivery fleet deploys policy to boost driving efficiency — here's why you'll never see UPS trucks turning left

Time is a crucial factor for a delivery company.

Time is a crucial factor for a delivery company.

Photo Credit: iStock

If you've ever been stuck behind a delivery truck in traffic, you just have to hope a right turn is coming up. 

Indeed, UPS all but stopped its trucks from turning left, according to the Washington Post, as Harvard Business Review has shared. 

It seems fairly counterproductive, but surely there's a reason for doing so?

What does UPS achieve by eliminating left turns?

As the Washington Post detailed back in 2014, some 90% of all turns made by UPS delivery trucks are to go right. 

In the United States, where motorists drive on the right, making that left turn can be time-consuming as you wait for a break in the flow of traffic in the opposite lane. 

Time is a crucial factor for a delivery company, which has many stops to make and little time to do so — and speedy deliveries make for happy customers.

Furthermore, left turns can be more dangerous. According to New York City officials, cited by the Post, making a left turn is three times more likely to result in a crash involving a pedestrian. 

Why is this so important?

It might seem like an odd policy, but less time spent waiting in traffic adds up to improved efficiency. Dedicated software creates the perfect route for trucks, as reported by CNN in 2017, and the benefits are not only limited to ensuring deliveries arrive on time. 

UPS estimated that turning right more often than not saves spending on more than 10 million gallons of fuel between 2004 and 2014, per HBR, and resulted in an average of six to eight miles less driving distance on delivery paths, per Mental Floss.

"A left-hand turn is also less fuel efficient, because your car's idling longer, which is also not good for your vehicle," UPS' senior director of process management Jack Levis told CNN

In addition to avoiding 100,000 metric tons (about 110,000 tons) of carbon dioxide pollution over a decade, per Inhabitat — the amount produced by a gas-powered passenger vehicle driving about 256 million miles, using an Environmental Protection Agency calculator — that should also mean less maintenance to keep trucks in working order, saving delivery companies money on operating costs.

How does this policy help the planet?

Vehicle pollution from dirty-fuel-powered machines is one of the leading causes of global heating, per the EPA. 

Research from the Stand.earth Research Group, published in 2022, found UPS is one of the six biggest polluters in the delivery sector, alongside FedEx, Amazon Logistics, DPD, eKart, and DHL eCommerce Solutions. 

The study found that last-mile pollution from these companies accounts for 4.5 megatons of carbon dioxide pollution a year, which is roughly the same as the amount of pollution that 600,000 U.S. homes produce with their energy usage. 

Some companies are looking at cleaner electric delivery vehicles to bring packages to doorsteps, though, including UPS, FedEx, Amazon, the U.S. Postal Service, and Walmart

But any policy to decrease the pollution produced daily will help to limit the planet-warming gases released into the atmosphere — these gases trap heat and increase the chances of severe weather conditions, like droughts, deadly storms, and wildfires.

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