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LEED a Building to Water… and it Won’t Drink as Much
UPS corporate office

Remember when Tom Hanks was in comedies? Ah, good. I see a few hands at the back. One of his most famous was “Big.” You know the one. Little boy makes a wish at a penny arcade machine to be an adult and wakes up as Tom Hanks, who then gets a job at a toy company.

In the film, Hanks is in a meeting where this guy is pitching a line of transforming toys that turn from skyscrapers into robots. Hanks tells the guy the idea is boring because no kid wants to play with a building. Now, I don’t know if what I’m about to say makes UPS boring or geeky, but we really enjoy playing with buildings. There’s a lot of stuff you can do with them. In fact, we’ve been playing with our corporate office since it was built in Atlanta, Ga., in 1994.

Our corporate office, despite being almost 20 years old, has earned Gold Status certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) as well as the Energy Star stamp of approval for energy efficiency.  You might wonder how a two-decade-old structure could hope to stay ecologically friendly. Well, let me give you the Behind the Music treatment on this one.

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Reporting Live from the Holiday Frontline: A Day in the Life of a UPS Driver Helper, part 3
DIAD V

During my short spell as a driver helper, the most invaluable resources have been the drivers, who have a reflexive knowledge of their routes that borders on clairvoyant. They can tell you not only where they will be in 30 minutes, but where all of the other nearby drivers will be, which customers will need extra time, less time, one push cart or multiple ones. If something throws a wrench into the flow of their day, they are already three steps ahead of the problem and are calling other drivers for support so nothing interrupts the deliveries and pickups. The second most valuable resource is their DIAD scanner, which they have been showing me how to use throughout the week.

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Reporting Live from the Holiday Frontlines: A Day in the Life of a UPS Driver Helper, part 2
UPS driver

My stint as a driver helper passed Wednesday last night. The pace has been rapid-fire as the cargo volume heats up closer and closer to the holidays. Deliveries number in the multiple hundreds and pickups from the major retailers at the end of the day are even more numerous. Throughout all of it, I have enjoyed the experience, despite a disagreement with a delivery cart yesterday that ripped the backside of my brown pants (more on that in another blog post.)

What has amused me the most is the constant interaction a UPS driver, or anyone in a UPS uniform like myself, receives from the general public. I’ve taken to calling them “pickup” lines. Most of them are pretty common – “What can brown do for you!”, “Whoa – HOW MANY boxes are you dropping off?!”, “Whoa – HOW MANY boxes do we have to pick up?!” (That last one was me, in case you didn’t notice.)

There are the unique encounters though that make the day entertaining, and here are my top three “pickup” lines from this week as a UPS driver helper.

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Reporting Live from the Holiday Frontlines: A Day in the Life of a UPS Driver Helper
UPS Package Car

This year, for one week at the height of the holiday shipping season, I’ve left my office in public relations and become a UPS driver helper to lend a hand delivering a few of the millions of packages UPS will process leading up to December 25th. My first day was December 12th. The Friday before, I received my safety training and a few minutes learning how to use our DIAD package scanner. In the race to get the packages out, UPS hires driver helpers in droves and Atlanta is no exception. They tossed me a brown UPS pullover which isn’t quite long enough for my arms. I was reminded of stories my grandfather tells of being thrown a pair of boots that didn’t fit exactly right during boot camp in World War II. Yeah, it’s kinda like that, but once the day begins those concerns disappear.

I met the driver I would assist at a major shopping mall here in Atlanta. The first task was deliveries to some of the stores inside. Pretty straightforward. The driver would scan, I would stack. Then we’d roll ‘em over to the location. But very quickly, his vehicle was empty and it was 5 p.m. Don’t be fooled. No one was going home. That’s when a UPS driver’s day just gets started! Now it was time for pickups from the major retail stores. We navigated his brown UPS package van into the underworld of the shopping mall. Loading docks and narrow passages. Offloading the hand trucks and heading into the hallways behind the many stores. It reminded me of that scene in Terminator 2 when John Connor is in the back hallways of the mall running from that evil robot. Any minute I expected Schwarzenegger to burst through a doorway yelling, “Get down!” Yep – exactly like that. Read More »

UPS Delivers the Future for Nike
Nike MAGs

Where were you in 1989? Listening to New Kids on the Block? Watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Back then the UPS shield still had a little package at the top and Nike was heavy into its “Nike Air” shoe line with neon colors and air bubble “windows” in the heels. I know because I had a pair in the sixth grade…but it wasn’t the shoe I really wanted after “Back to the Future: Part II” came out in November 1989 and I saw a pair of self-lacing high tops on Michael J. Fox’s feet!

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UPS Powered by a Yellow Sun
solar

When Superman is your favorite superhero, life can be pretty lonely. Every kid besides me preferred Batman. Didn’t matter that Supes could fly and lift mountains. Batman had money, a fast car and a cool mask. In 2011 though, I think Superman can have the last laugh because he’s an alternatively fueled superhero.

Superman’s powers of strength, flight, invincibility and that rocking awesome heat vision come from Earth’s yellow sun. He soaks up the solar energy like a living battery and jets off for truth and justice with no pollution trailing that red cape. By contrast, the Batmobile burns jet fuel…Holy gas-guzzling, Batman!

Although the song says never to do it, UPS is tugging on Superman’s cape a little bit with the installation of solar panels on the roof of our facility in Lakewood, New Jersey. Located about an hour outside of the original Metropolis, New York City, the 70,000 square-foot package center has been outfitted with more than 62,000 solar modules on the roof contained in more than 1,000 individual solar panels.

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Car Trek III: The Search for MPG

In the summer of 1984, I went to the theater and saw Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. William Shatner had his T.J. Hooker hair (Happy 80th Birthday, Shat’!) and afterward I went to Taco Bell and got the collector’s glass with the U.S.S. Enterprise on it. Awesome. The movie was about a search (duh) that was risky and difficult, but the reward was an altruistic goal worth all the risks.

UPS embarks on an epic search today; “The Search for MPG.” UPS is the proving ground for five new vehicles by Utilimaster and Isuzu. These are not alternative fuel vehicles. They are diesel vehicles, but have smaller, 4-cylinder engines and lightweight composite materials to increase their fuel efficiency.

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UPS Alternative-Fuel Vehicle Dashboard

Every awesome vehicle has a dashboard. Some are retro, some are backlit and some have totally sweet digital gauges. Our dashboard is animated (bonus!) and laid out simply, with friendly colors, making it easy to read. If you looked up “UPS Alternative Fuel Vehicles” in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, I’d like to think this is what would spring forth onto the pages. Yes, an awe-inspiring stack of amazing information that even manages to give a shout out to the Sun!  (Face it Polaris, he’s still more popular than you. Get over it!) 

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We Can Rebuild Them. We Have the Technology.

UPS LNG tractor being refueledTwitter chatter about our LNG vehicles has hit it on the nose. One read, “Fleets w/ #natgas = fastest way to replace foreign oil.” True, when applied to the right vehicle, the right way, in the right environment. Hybrids and electrics are good for the short stops, but as alternative fuels they don’t pass muster for the long haul. That’s where LNG comes in.

UPS needed a derivative of the venerable diesel, something that could go 600 miles with heavy cargo-laden trailer and power the engine of an 18-wheeler over a mountain if necessary. Taking the proven diesel tractor and adapting it to run on liquefied natural gas is UPS’s answer. The solution is straightforward. Implementing it is a little more complex.

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Alternative Fuel Vehicles – Collect Them All!!!

UPS compressed natural gas delivery vehicleWhen I was a kid, I remember the catch phrase on every action figure package was “Collect Them All!” usually surrounded by blazing star flash. Call it crass marketing, but it made sense to my 7-year-old mind. What could you do with only one toy? I mean, if I needed my G.I. Joes to go on a stealth mission and I only had a medic like Doc or a pilot like Wild Bill, I’d be in a bind! I would want that ninja Snake-Eyes!

Given that my mind’s 7-year-old common sense never had an expiration date, I look out on the world at 32 years old and wonder why a delivery company would limit itself to one type of alternative fuel technology? There are so many to choose from, each with distinct advantages. Who only wants one toy?!

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