Lincoln Journal Star: UPS Testing New Delivery Vehicle in Lincoln

If you think the roads in and around Lincoln are bad, you're not alone.

UPS has chosen Lincoln as one of five markets in which to test a new lighter delivery vehicle, in part because of bad road conditions.

UPS is testing the new diesel-fuel vehicles as part of a search to lower its fuel costs, especially on high-mileage routes, said Michael French, a UPS spokesman

French said two of the test markets -- Roswell, Ga., and Livonia, Mich. -- were chosen because of their proximity to UPS headquarters and the U.S. headquarters of the van's maker, Isuzu, respectively.

Two other test markets, Albany, N.Y., and Tucson, Ariz., were chosen for their weather extremes.

That left UPS searching for a market with tire-crunching, chassis-rattling routes that could test the durability of its new vehicle, which is made of composite materials to reduce its weight and improve fuel efficiency.

French said the UPS automotive team talked to the local district offices all over the country.

"We were wondering, in which state do we have a route that's really long and that also doesn't have ideal pavement," he said.

The answer: Nebraska -- Lincoln, specifically.

French said that's not an indictment of local roads, nor does it mean that UPS thinks Lincoln has some of the worst roads of anywhere it delivers. It simply means there was a route identified that is long enough for UPS's test purposes that also has some rough pavement.

French didn't identify the specific route, but a UPS media website says Lincoln was chosen for having "rough country back roads," which would indicate that the vehicle is being tested not only on city streets but also on unpaved county roads.

French said the company has invested heavily in alternative-fuel vehicles and has more than 1,900 in its fleet. But those vehicles don't function as well on high-mileage routes, in part because their engines actually get lower fuel economy on longer drives.

But diesel-fuel vehicles have proven reliable, he said.

The new vehicles, made jointly by Isuzu and a company called Utilimaster, are similar to the company's current P70 "package cars," which are essentially vans. But they are a little smaller -- with only 630 cubic feet of cargo space as opposed to 700 -- and 1,000 pounds lighter because of the use of the composite materials.

The smaller size and lower weight allow for a smaller four-cylinder engine that gets up to 40 percent better mileage than the current vehicles' engines.

French said UPS started testing the vehicles in April and will continue doing so until the end of the year.

The company will then analyze data from the test and decide whether to add some of the vehicles to its fleet permanently.

"We want to make sure that the vehicles can hold up," French said.


-Lincoln Journal Star