WJRT12 News: UPS Testing New Truck in Mid-Michigan


LAPEER COUNTY (WJRT) -- (06/13/11) -- With gas prices so high, the United Parcel Service is testing a lighter, more fuel efficient delivery truck in our area.

As ABC 12's Randy Conat reports, apparently Mid-Michigan's rough roads are good for something.

UPS was looking for five "extreme locations" around the country to evaluate its new light-weight composite vehicles. Mid-Michigan was one of those selected.

"Mine's a high-mileage area and a lot of country, dirt roads. That primarily is why they picked this area so we can see on the really rough roads how well it handles and how well it holds up," said UPS driver Phil Bluthardt. 

For the past month, this truck has been making deliveries in Mid-Michigan. It weighs 1,000 pounds less than the conventional UPS truck and has a smaller diesel engine.

"We're looking to get 40 percent better fuel economy in this vehicle," said UPS fleet manager Ken Houck. 

The plastic panels are dent-resistant and there's no need to worry about rust from winter road salt.

"Absolutely no corrosion and one of the benefits is we can inject the paint right into the composite body so we might not have to paint this vehicle again in our lifetime," Houck said. 

Better fuel efficiency isn't the truck's only talking point. The interior has been redesigned with the driver in mind.

"It's a non-slip floor. It has a very nice handrail coming in, a safety feature that's great," Bluthardt said. 

The door to the cargo area can now be opened remotely. The new one-piece windshield eliminates the center support that hampered visibility. The truck's testing period will run through the busy December delivery schedule.

"We'll get a complete work out, right through peak season, a good example of what this can do for us," Houck said. 

But amid all the redesigning, they left out one thing.

"They didn't put in air conditioning. I wish they would have done that. I'm guessing that probably isn't going to happen," Bluthardt said. 

After the nationwide shakedown cruise, engineers will evaluate how the trucks performed.