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REPORT: Why UPS trucks only turn right (mostly)

by ASC Staff on Jun 13, 2017


UPS has specialised routing software that favours right turns over left.
UPS has specialised routing software that favours right turns over left.

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The express logistics giant UPS is saving 37,000 tons of fuel per year by only making right-hand turns, according to a report by CNN.

The courier favours right-hand turns over left always, unless a left-hand turn is unavoidable, and in doing so saves fuel and cuts down on emissions equivalent to over 20,000 passenger cars per year.

UPS, which dates back to before the First World War, started the practise during the 1970s in New York, but has since implemented the system in most of the more than 190 countries in which it operates.

A software now tells all drivers the most efficient route for their given batch of deliveries and automatically prioritises right-hand turns.

Loop dispatch

UPS came up with a method called "loop dispatch," plotting deliveries in a right-turning loop and starting with one side of the street first in the 70s and has since perfected it with a software called Orion, launched in 2008.

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The routing software calculates the best possible route for each truck while favoring right-hand turns. "It took 10 years to get it right. The hardest part was making it think more like a driver and less like a computer," says Jack Levis, UPS senior director of Process Management.

Orion analyses 250 million address points a day and performs 30,000 route optimisations per minute in the US alone. This saves the company US $300 to US $400 million annually in fuel, wages and vehicle running costs.

"Our basic routines were already good, and allowed us to save about 85 million miles a year. When we put Orion on top of those, it shaved off an extra 100 million miles, and the savings got up to 185 million miles a year," says Levis.

But why are left-hand turns so bad?

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