UPS Drivers Never Turn Left: Or do they?

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This topic seems to be taking the internet by storm. I’ve counted no fewer than 3 articles in my twitter newsfeed and when I did a search for it, more than half of the first 30 results are articles from the last 3 weeks. I took a look through the results and it seems that an article by The Conversation on January 20, may have kicked everything off this year. It was shared/discussed on reddit the next day and things seem to have snowballed from there.

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We all love useless facts.

Whether or not UPS makes left turns isn’t exactly a vital fact for anyone, other than UPS employees of course, but we all seem to be suckers for useless information and random facts. You should know that this topic is by no means new, even if it is the first time you’ve heard about it. Initiated company wide in 2004, the ‘no left turn’ policy has saved UPS millions of gallons in fuel. No one can seem to agree on what the actual number is, they just quote it from each other with no reference of time scale either.

There were quite a few of articles in 2014 and 2015, but the earliest reference I can find to it is from an ABC News article in April 2007. As to strictly written works Backpacker magazine covered it in September 2007 in an article titled ‘Damn, Climate Change is Funny!’ discussing how left turn traffic lights cause drivers to waste gas and how UPS used a new software to reconfigure their routes and saved 3 million gallons of fuel in the first year alone.

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I don’t know about you, but I haven’t really spent that much time following a UPS truck around town to even notice if they make left turns or not… I saw one article (IFL Science) quote 10% as UPS’ average for the number of left turns. Though that is a ‘guesstimate’ from Tasha Hovland one of their industrial engineering managers back in 2007.

So, why does UPS have a ‘no left turns’ policy in the first place?

  • Savings on fuel through vehicles spending less time idling waiting to turn left
  • Decreased safety hazards when turning with traffic
  • Fewer delays when turning with traffic

You can see why an international company would implement such a policy, but is it something worth doing for yourself? Well, UPS has increased safety for their employees, decreased their fuel costs, and lowered the time it takes to deliver their packages. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

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