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Technology and Human Behavior Come Together: Telematics at UPS

UPS’s business is based on our ability to deliver any package to the right place at the right time. We log millions of miles to do so—on the ground, in the air, across the ocean, via rail and even on bike, so it’s not surprising that as a global logistics leader, UPS is a carbon-intensive business. However, we’re also a business that helps the world reduce its climate impact.

That may sound like a paradox, but it’s fundamental to our operations – by aggregating millions of shipments into one highly efficient shipping network every business day we work to reduce not only our impact but also inherently affect the impact of our customers’ shipments. The development and use of technology and innovation are the ways we add efficiencies and conserve fuel. We are at our best when technology and human behavior come together.

Perhaps the best example of that is UPS’s use of telematics in our package delivery and freight operations. Telematics is the integration of telecommunications and informatics. Our proprietary telematics system allows us to collect data, test ideas and hone our performance – essentially using our delivery vehicles as “rolling laboratories.”

We start by equipping vehicles with sensors that provide information on how the vehicle is performing mechanically. Key variables include speed, direction, braking, and the performance of specific parts and components in the engine and drive train. Our maintenance teams use this information to perform customized maintenance on each vehicle based on its actual needs rather than on a one-size-fits-all schedule.  Our goal is to replace fluids, parts and other components sparingly, keeping materials out of the landfill and using less over the life of the vehicle.

Meanwhile, we are analyzing vast amounts of information from the vehicle in combination with GPS data, customer delivery data, and driver behavior data. UPS vehicles produce 1.25 billion telematics records each week and are projected to produce approximately 2 billion records per week as we expand the use of telematics to encompass our entire U.S. Domestic Package and Supply Chain and Freight segment fleet. The insights gathered enable us to make small adjustments with big payoffs, because we can put them to use around the world.

To maximize the benefit of telematics, we bring our drivers into the process. We give them and their managers detailed reports on how their actions stack up against the results we strive for, such as avoiding engine idling. By following optimized routes, drivers save fuel and time.

Having concrete data empowers them to optimize their behavior behind the wheel and make their “rolling laboratory” ever more efficient and empowers them to be a critical contributor to our sustainability performance.

These efforts are paying off:

  • In one year alone package operations drivers in telematics-equipped vehicles eliminated more than 39 million minutes of idling time. This translates into fuel savings of more than 260,000 gallons (and avoidance of 2,640 metric tonnes of CO2).
  • Drivers in telematics-equipped vehicles achieved twice as much improvement as other drivers in stops per mile (a metric that measures our ability to deliver more packages with fewer engine restarts that consume fuel) – saving 1.8 million miles of driving from telematics in 2010, equating to more than 186,000 gallons of fuel or 1,893 metric tonnes of CO2. Applying this same rate of improvement across the domestic package car fleet would yield savings for the year of 9.3 million miles or 966,000 gallons of fuel (9,809 metric tonnes of CO2).
  • Telematics and proprietary routing technology enabled us to avoid driving more than 85 million miles in 2011.
  • Eliminated more than 98 million minutes of engine idling time last year, or more than 653,000 gallons of fuel and 6,470 metric tonnes of CO2.

It’s easy to see via these telematics examples that IT is a key platform for sustainable innovation. If you know what data matters, have a methodology for collecting and analyzing it, and a culture that has embeds sustainable thinking, technology can be a motivator for innovation.

Mike is vice president of UPS’s global fleet for engineering and maintenance. He manages the business and profit plan for a global fleet of over 110,000 power units and 138,000 non-power units. He is responsible for a workforce of more… [Read more about Mike Hance]

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