‘Big Brown’ Gives Propane Autogas a Big Boost

UPS photos
Millions of people see the ever-present United Parcel Service (UPS; Atlanta) “big brown” trucks as they deliver packages across the U.S. and to more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. A typical UPS truck makes between 100 and 150 delivery stops each day.

On March 5, that package delivery company gave a huge boost to the propane industry when it announced at the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) Work Truck Show in Indianapolis that it plans to purchase 1000 propane-autogas package delivery trucks and install an initial 50 propane fueling stations at UPS locations. Propane will get great recognition as people see “Propane Vehicle” on the side of the trucks, but the attention this deal will get from other companies that operate vehicle fleets could have an even greater impact. Tucker Perkins of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) believes that many companies with vehicle fleets look to UPS as a model fleet that quantifies every aspect of its business to save money and the environment.

According to Perkins, the embrace of propane by UPS —which operates what various sources list as the largest commercial fleet in the U.S. at more than 92,000 vehicles — is a momentous event. Perkins, PERC’s chief business development officer, believes the $70-million transaction is one of the largest alternative fuel deployments announced by one company at one time.

UPS also believes it is a big deal, describing it in a news release as “the biggest bulk purchase of propane-[fueled] vehicles yet.”

But although the deal was a pleasant surprise to many in the propane industry, it should not be too surprising when you look at how UPS has touted its sustainability programs for years. The company works to reduce its global greenhouse gas emissions in various aspects of its business. One initiative involved working to get UPS drivers to make more right turns than left to shorten their routes and save fuel. The company’s vehicle fleet, composed mainly of the recognizable brown trucks, is a primary area of focus for the sustainability initiative.