UPS announced plans to purchase 1,000 propane package delivery trucks and install an initial 50 fueling stations at UPS locations. The investment in propane vehicles and infrastructure is approximately $70 million.

The propane fleet will replace gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles used largely in rural areas in Louisiana and Oklahoma with other states pending. The vehicles on these routes can travel up to 200 miles on a tank of propane. Operations will begin by mid-2014 and be completed early next year.

UPS, in collaboration with the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), a non-profit propane technology incubator, worked with equipment manufacturers to secure certifications with the EPA and California Air Resources Board. UPS tested 20 propane-powered brown delivery trucks successfully this past winter in Gainesville, Ga., and expanded its order with Freightliner’s custom-built chassis for UPS, and GM engine. UPS uses a “rolling laboratory” approach to test different fuel sources and technologies according to their route characteristics. The new propane fleet is expected to travel more than 25 million miles and to displace approximately 3.5 million gallons of conventional gasoline and diesel per year.

“The opportunity to road test new propane vehicles and fueling equipment with one of the most sophisticated fleets in the country is a major milestone for the propane industry,” said Roy Willis, President and CEO of PERC. “This announcement is the culmination of many entities bringing together the best in propane technology to achieve the greatest economic and environmental results.”

The UPS deployment this year benefits from propane autogas’ wide availability as a result of increased natural gas production in the U.S., and there is more price stability with the accessible supply.

UPS has one of the largest private alternative fuel fleets in the nation with more than 3,150 alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles. This includes all-electric, hybrid electric, hydraulic hybrid, CNG, LNG, propane, biomethane, and light-weight fuel-saving composite body vehicles. UPS began deploying alternative fuel vehicles in the 1930s with a fleet of electric trucks that operated in New York City. Since 2000 alone, the company’s “green fleet” has traveled more than 300 million kilometres.

UPS Canada currently operates more than 800 propane-powered delivery vehicles, but plans to expand its fleet to 966 by year-end as more vehicles are converted to operate on propane. With a fleet of more than 3,000 vehicles (including package cars, tractors, shifters and trailers) operated by UPS Canada, more than a third will operate on propane. Propane trucks that were put in service by UPS Canada in the 1980’s were converted from gasoline and diesel to run on alternative fuels. Propane-powered vehicles are deployed in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, but concentrated in the Toronto area.

The newly added propane-powered vehicles feature the latest technology in clean-burning propane engines. Propane vehicles emit about one-third fewer reactive organic gases than gasoline-fuelled vehicles. Nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide emissions are 20 per cent and 60 per cent less, respectively, than emissions from similar-sized gasoline engines.