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UPS Avoids Left Turns to Save Fuel, Reduce Emissions and Improve Safety

Time studies of its package delivery operations led UPS to discover that avoiding left-hand turns would save time, conserve fuel, reduce emissions and reduce the potential for accidents.

UPS managers (who for years planned routes by physically driving each one and plotting on maps) began experimenting with their routes to see if right hand turns would increase efficiency. It worked. For decades, UPS has designed routes in a series of loops with as few left-hand turns as possible.

Over the last few years, UPS has been rolling out some internally developed technology that automates many of the design principals that were manually performed in the past, among these is to minimize left-hand turns. Today, UPS managers use a combination of personal and historical experience coupled with specialized, sophisticated computer programs to design our delivery routes.

In 2007, UPS route planning technology

  • Shaved nearly 30 million miles off delivery routes;

  • Saved 3 million gallons of fuel; and

  • Reduced emissions by 32,000 metric tons of CO2—the equivalent of removing 5,300 passenger cars off the road for an entire year.

UPS offers other gas-saving driving tips on its website.


John Hamilton

Anyone who has worked for the US Post Office knows that UPS did not "discover" the value of eliminating left turns.


50 years ago my uncle refused to go places that had too many left turns. It became a family joke, but it looks like he may have been wise before his time.

P Schager

Of course, UPS is overdue on converting its fleet of delivery trucks to hybrids, as they are a clear case of an early practical application of hybrid technology. As soon as they do this, the environmental benefits of avoiding left turns go away, and in fact they are probably driving a bit further overall with this scheme. It will still save them a little time, though.

What we really need is an advanced electronic road traffic control system that makes it so that left turns don't waste much time. (Nor red lights, etc.) Despite the fact that you will free people to drive further, so many will. But the looming advent of that (and related platooning systems) just reinforces the need for advanced eco-benign car technology such as this site explores.

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