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Engineering Materials
Plastics Deliver Massive Weight Savings for UPS
7/20/2012

United Parcel Service is planning to shift to composites and other plastics for many of the structural components in its brown delivery trucks, as shown in this prototype.   (Source: UPS)
United Parcel Service is planning to shift to composites and other plastics for many of the structural components in its brown delivery trucks, as shown in this prototype.
(Source: UPS)

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Beth Stackpole
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Smart strategy for cost efficiencies
Beth Stackpole   7/20/2012 8:34:12 AM
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It appears that UPS is in good company with their decision to explore the use of composite materials. I've read about several other pilot projects in the mass transit and delivery sector where they are out in front leveraging both new materials and alternative energy vehicles to try to cut operating costs. Given that the trucks are the fuel constitute huge operating costs, the strategy makes a whole lot of sense.

williamlweaver
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Re: Smart strategy for cost efficiencies
williamlweaver   7/20/2012 10:11:42 AM
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So now on to the difficult decision: Reduce operating costs or deliver 900 lbs more packages without raising the current cost. Ether way, it is a huge win. Hooray for enterprise for innovating new cost savings in transportation. All we got from government was a PSA about correct tire inflation.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Smart strategy for cost efficiencies
Ann R. Thryft   7/20/2012 12:12:41 PM
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I don't think UPS has to make a decision between reducing operating costs or delivering more packages. The company says this particular truck is best suited to urban use, where its narrower size makes it easier to get around--and therefore speeding deliveries. As the article states, the 900 lbs difference is in the truck's weight, not the weight of its contents, and the contents difference is measured in cubic feet: it's about 70 cubic feet smaller.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Smart strategy for cost efficiencies
Ann R. Thryft   7/20/2012 12:13:29 PM
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Beth, thanks for that input about other mass transit and delivery projects using new materials. UPS is certainly not alone: the company building these trucks, Utilimaster, has made similar delivery vehicles for other companies, including Federal Express.

NadineJ
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good for International
NadineJ   7/20/2012 12:37:49 PM
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Agreed that these are very good for US urban markets but also good for international cities with older roads.  The mass retail expansion from the west into India, for example, will require more international shipments.  I wouldn't want to be on a road in Mumbai along side one of the current UPS trucks.

Now, they need to update the uniforms and logo.  I'm inspired!

Rob Spiegel
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Impressive savings
Rob Spiegel   7/20/2012 2:26:08 PM
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A 40 percent savings is significant and impressive. It's hard to believe that plastics and composites are that much lighter than aluminum. Any word on the durability and crash resistance with the new materials?

Dave Palmer
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Re: good for International
Dave Palmer   7/20/2012 5:47:24 PM
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@NadineJ: Why do you think these trucks would be better for developing countries? I'm not disagreeing with you, but I'm not sure I understand your reasoning.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Re: Impressive savings
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   7/20/2012 5:59:10 PM
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40% fuel savings after 900 pounds reduction in weight is remarkable.  Really makes you rethink the whole alternative fuel programs.  If that is indeed the case, then congratulations to UPS, but even more so to the Truck Maker, UtiliMaster.   The list of items that underwent experimental material updates is lengthy, and they should be recognized for that engineering effort. 

Now, I wonder if they are locked to an exclusive with UPS to distribute the vehicles --- or, are able to market their new success to other freight companies, DHL, FEDEX, etc-?  It all depends on who paid for the light-weight materials research.  Ann Thryft mentioned some bit of insight to that query ,,,,,,

Charles Murray
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Re: Smart strategy for cost efficiencies
Charles Murray   7/20/2012 6:43:41 PM
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Ann, any idea what the initial cost difference to the truck manufacturers is? 

NadineJ
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Re: good for International
NadineJ   7/20/2012 10:07:33 PM
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Very often, roads in developing countries, such as India or Nigeria, are consistently in various states of disrepair.  Lighter vehicles lead to fewer potholes and damage to roads.  Here in California, there have been debates to make parts of I5, in Los Angeles, semi-truck free in order to lessen the cost of constant repair due to heavy trucks.

If the cargo weight remains the same but the vehicle weight is lighter, it's a small step in the right direction.

And, if the new UPS vehicles are manufactured locally, even better.  Other companies could benefit from the technology.

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