UPS is constantly "data mining" all the information gathered from the "telepathic" trucks, says Reidy. The data is searched, analyzed and sifted through to find relationships, patterns or any significant statistical correlations, especially peer-to-peer comparisons among vehicle models.
While it isn't readily noticeable, UPS uses more than six different package car designs that allow for the selection of the right vehicle for different routes.
The new telematics systems also provide visibility into vehicle idle time. The technology has helped to reduce the amount of time spent idling by 15 minutes per driver per day, Spencer says, and that means significant savings in fuel consumption and engine emissions. According to Clean Air Counts - a northeastern Illinois regional initiative to reduce ozone-causing emissions, over 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine; one hour of idling burns up a gallon of fuel; and an idling vehicle emits 20 tine more pollution than one traveling at 32 mph.
"Multiply results like that by more than 102,000 drivers worldwide and you can start to imagine the potential," says Spencer. UPS drivers worldwide log over 3 billion miles a year.
Beyond reducing idling time, the telematics initiative is helping UPS reduce energy consumption and environmental impact by pinpointing ways to maximize fuel economy and to optimize dispatch planning and driver routine to reduce overall driver miles. Telematics and route planning software are combined to determine where route inefficiencies exist, help design more direct routing and group deliveries to reduce the miles driven and fuel consumed.
Spencer notes that by doing things like reducing left turns, UPS has shaved 29 million miles off its delivery routes last year. That saved more than 3 million gallons of fuel and reduced emissions by more than 31,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).
The telematics initiative also has become a safety tool for UPS. Collected data is analyzed for unsafe driving habits and issues. By monitoring braking and backing patterns, as well as seat belt use, managers can help drivers adopt behaviors and habits that not only increase their efficiency but their safety as well, Spencer says. Any telematics recorded safety event is reviewed with the driver to help them self-correct.
Since the telematics initiative started, UPS drivers have decreased the number of times they back up their trucks - a behavior UPS drivers are trained to avoid for safety reasons - by about 25 percent, says Spencer. This has resulted in a significant reduction in backing accidents.
The data gathered also "helped improve an already excellent seat belt usage compliance rate from 98 percent to an almost-perfect (99.8 percent) rate," he adds.
Telematics is also being used to document the return on UPS' investment in "green" vehicles. It operates the transportation industry's largest private fleet of alternative fuel vehicles - some 1,900. They include compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), propane, electric and hybrid electric vehicles.
Its fleet of some 250 hybrid electric vehicles are expected to save 176,000 gallons of fuel and reduce CO2 emissions by nearly 1,800 metric tons each year, according to Spencer. That is the equivalent of removing almost 100 conventional UPS trucks from the road for a year.
UPS began testing its new telematics initiative on 1,500 delivery trucks at 10 ten U.S. facilities across the country in various geographies and climates, and at one operation in Canada. It has been expanding the program fleet-wide ever since.
One of the nice things about the telematics initiative says Spencer, is that with advancing new technologies, the program is continually evolving and offering up new insights for improving UPS' operational efficiencies and emissions reduction strategy, while reducing expenditures.
"It's exciting to think about what will come next," Reidy says.
As technology improves and prices drop, fleets now have plenty of providers and options to choose from