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UPS gears up for holidays with bike delivery

Posted by on November 14th, 2008 at 10:25 am

An ad from UPS for bike delivery personnel.

Shipping giant United Parcel Service (UPS) will add a new weapon to its arsenal in the holiday shipping battle this year — bicycles.

Jeff Grant, the company’s workforce planning manager for the Oregon district (that includes Vancouver, WA), says UPS plans to hire 28 bike delivery employees this season. In the Portland metro area, Grant says eight riders will be hired.

I spoke with Grant via phone yesterday. He said the main impetus for the bike delivery program was to save money.

“For every three bikes we use for deliveries, we save an average of 17 gallons of fuel per day (compared to one truck). That’s about $50 in savings.” Across the entire district, Grant says for every three bikes used during the holiday season, UPS will save $38,000 in vehicle operation and upkeep costs.

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UPS has purchased a fleet of mountain bikes outfitted with a 200 pound capacity trailer (with a cover for rain of course) and a set of lights. All bike delivery staff will be uniformed and helmets are required.

Before hitting the road, Grant says each rider will undergo a paid orientation and training session. The custom-tailored training will focus on operating the bicycle and trailer safely. “We realize the riders will be experienced already,” says Grant, “but have they ever pulled 200 pounds? Do they know the safe following distance in wet weather?”

According to Grant, he’ll ask delivery staff to deliver about 25-50 packages per day, compared to 150 stops a day for a normal “package car”.

Grant added an interesting historical note to this story: UPS started delivering by bike in Seattle (where they were founded) over 100 years ago. Today, the company once again uses bikes for deliveries up in Seattle and Grant said it went so well they’ve decided to expand the program.

UPS is looking to hire bike delivery people in Vancouver (WA), Portland, Salem, Corvallis, Eugene, and Medford. If you’re interested, call Maria Mason at (503) 978-7409 or email mariamason(at)ups(dot)com.

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  • Zaphod November 14, 2008 at 10:38 am

    This is so cool for like 1000 reasons!

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  • joeb November 14, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Hmm, I should take the month of December off at my regular job. 25-50 packages/day vs 150? It sounds like a competition. I like it.

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  • a.O November 14, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Boy, no kidding. This is awesome.

    I imagine they will be swamped with calls. It’s also a great daydream for someone with an office job, especially on a day like today.

    And who was it who was asking about the US Postal Service using bikes? This is a great example of the difference between private enterprise and government: The former jumps on the chance to save money, and the latter forms a committee and then gives up when the union decides it’d rather not act in the employer’s best interest.

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  • Hollie November 14, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Absolutely awesome. Wow.

    I wonder if one could use one’s own cargo bike? I’d love to see a fleet of UPS-branded bakfiets and/or Xtracycles.

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  • cyclist November 14, 2008 at 11:15 am

    This is pretty cool, but I’m not sure I see the cost savings for UPS. They save $50 on gas, but they have to hire two additional employees to do the work of one person, which will end up costing them for than the $50 they’d pay for gas. In addition, they say the package delivery range is 25-50, which means that the bike delivery people would only be able to delivery as many as a truck under optimal conditions.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that UPS is doing this, if only because it reduces fuel consumption and pollution, but the assertion that “the main impetus for the bike delivery program was to save money” doesn’t seem to add up.

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  • K'Tesh November 14, 2008 at 11:30 am

    I may be facing a layoff at work… and I just rode 47 miles in the last 24 hours… I might be following this up…

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  • another cyclist November 14, 2008 at 11:32 am

    i’m sure they’ve taken all that into account.

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  • Schrauf November 14, 2008 at 11:50 am

    #5, you’re missing the vehicle operational costs – the post also mentions this $38K figure, per three bikes. Well more than the cost of the bikes, plus the temporary employees.

    I too would like to take a vacation just so I could do this for the month of December – no wage necessary!

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  • Schrauf November 14, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Hell, if there were a permanent position, I would just quit my current job and take up to a 30% pay cut! More than 30% would start to become difficult…

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  • Jessica Roberts November 14, 2008 at 11:55 am

    The cost of purchasing additional vehicles just for the holiday rush must be hard to justify. Even if it takes more delivery staff to deliver by bike, it saves them the costs of acquiring, storing, and maintaining additional vehicles. I can imagine that would be attractive.

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    • Dean W December 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm

      They don’t buy more vehicles for the holidays or other busy periods- they lease them. They also have trailers for the trucks.

      A friend hunted this article up for me after a UPS bicyclist dropped off a package at my suburban Salem home this afternoon. I suppose this makes sense, if they drop the rider, bike, and a locking trailer full of packages off while the driver goes elsewhere. I wouldn’t want to tow a big heavy trailer behind a bicycle into or out of my immediate neighborhood, though.

      There are more efficient vehicles than the stereotypical big brown brick-shaped truck; none are as “green” as a bicycle, but discounting the free advertising, I’m not sure the bike is cost effective.

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  • Don Park November 14, 2008 at 11:56 am

    i agree with ‘cyclist’, it probably wont end in a cost savings though it will end in a pollution savings.

    another thing to consider is delivering packages by bike will be a very strenuous activity for the employee. i bike every day year round. Just commuting takes a toll on the body, rest days are sometimes needed beyond the weekend.

    My guess is that huffing 200 lbs up and down hills every day in the winter/spring is not sustainable for most employees. We’re talking catching colds and just being too exhausted to work some days. Its like their job just tripled its caloric output requirement – UPS will have the most fit employees anywhere if they can enjoy it.

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  • Kathleen McDade November 14, 2008 at 11:56 am

    #5 cyclist, I would guess that they’ll be using bikes on routes where it really makes sense cost-wise, too, so that they can be as efficient as possible. No cycle delivery in the West Hills, I would imagine.

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  • Coyote November 14, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    What can Brown do for me? Well, they can have all my business.

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  • BikerinNE November 14, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Would the bicyclist be starting off on Swan Island, pulling the BoB trailer with 200+lbs of cargo on the back? Is there a bike lane on Going street down there? Thats a long hill to be pulling 200 pounds up. I don’t ever remember seeing one? Sounds cool, but swan island doesn’t seem like an ideal location for having bicycles coming out in that industrial area pulling 200 plus pounds of cargo at 6:30 am when the trucks in that area are coming and going.

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  • Anonymous November 14, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Way to use a positive story about business and cycling to bash unions. The american worker is doing so well right now.

    Maybe the USPS business model doesn’t consider its green reputation as important as United Parcel Service (in Portland and Seattle.)

    They deliver mail by bike in Florida and Arizona. Amazingly I see no reference to Bismarc ND.

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  • Jason S. November 14, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Agree with comment no. 15, anonymous. Nice gratuitous bashing of workers and government.

    Not to mention that UPS will not deliver my letter anywhere in the US of A for 42 cents.

    And as a PS. UPS is a union shop. Fed Ex is not.

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  • Todd B November 14, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Better than bike trailers – bakfiets with stokemonkey power! And UPS deliverymen in Rapha tan plus fours.

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  • maxadders November 14, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Hourly wage for other physically demanding seasonal UPS work– package sort– was well under $10 last time I looked into it.

    Though I love the idea, and even enjoy the more physical jobs I’ve had, I get paid way more to sit on my butt all day. I’d give it up in a minute if UPS wanted to offer a living wage, but until then it just ain’t worth it– not to mention the risk of putting yourself at risk of injury for 8+ hours towing packages on the road. Let’s see ’em inch that salary closer to $35 or $40 an hour and see if they’re still saving money.

    Another pro-worker angle would be to argue that this move takes hours away from experienced career route drivers. That alone probably saves ’em more money than the fuel numbers above.

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  • bikey Mama carie November 14, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    WELL, if they’ll keep my kiddos while I’m out delivering, I’d jump at the job. 200 lbs is nuttin’ compared to a four yo, one yo and all their “fun” gear tossed in!! 🙂
    Looking forward to the bike deliveries at our house!!
    team cougar

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  • Graham November 14, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Neat! In theory, anyway.

    I hope they wear something brighter than brown. What can day-glo orange do for you?

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  • Refunk November 14, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    I dunno, Graham. “Brown” is so much easier to spell & say than fluorescent or chartreuse. At any rate, sounds like a fun temp thing.

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  • red hippie November 14, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    UPS has always had a pretty flexible workforce. My college roommate put himself through school while working for Brown. He started pretty low wage, but worked hard and was making decent money to suport himself and pay tuition within a few months. The regular driver make really good money (comparatively), but often have to come up through the ranks to prove their work ethic.

    I would assume that the bikes deliveries are in more dense areas and would be supported by interim deliveries. They would do the final door to door legs. It would be too inefficient to go back and forth from Swan Island.

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  • Maculsay November 14, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    UPS doesn’t do anything that isn’t measured carefully and cost justified. There are many places where UPS trucks meet and trade packages, so I imagine you won’t be hauling out of Swan. Likely around downtown, where the most eyes will see the Brown corporate shield on the bike trailer. If more people choose Brown because of the bike delivery, then that figures into the cost justification.

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  • El Biciclero November 14, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    Drivers must get paid 3X as much as a rider…

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  • » The UPS Guy Is Here….On His Bike? November 14, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    […] just read on that UPS is looking for seasonal bike delivery people for the holidays. I had no idea they had such a […]

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  • Scott Mizée November 14, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Way cool. if npGREENWAY was built, they could easily get packages in and out of Swan Island via the trail! ;0)

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  • true November 14, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    oooooooooh, corporate backing for the GREENWAY? – I like it.

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  • Todd B November 14, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    And there is always the option of sneeking the bak on the MAX during traffic grid locks.

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  • Matthew Denton November 14, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    If the trailer holds 200 lbs, that means for more than half your trip, it is going to have less than 100 lbs in it. That isn’t that bad, although I imagine it would get to you after a month.

    And yes, hopefully you’d get your loads close to where you are delivering them. Getting out of Swan Island is easy, if you don’t mind crossing private property. I’ve taken a full size keg out the cement road, and the Union Pacific employee I ran into thought that that was pretty cool, but I imagine they wouldn’t be as impressed with bunch of UPS marked bicycle trailers doing it at in a pack at 7am everyday for a month…

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  • John November 14, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    What trailers are they using?

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  • joel November 14, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    whee! 8 inexperienced ups delivery bike riders, pulling heavy trailers in traffic, in the midst of rainy winter madness! joy!

    one more obstacle to dodge, for those of us who do the same thing, and more, ALL YEAR.

    one part of me is stoked that ups is doing this, another is really spooked by the idea of giving squirrelly greenhorns trailers to play in traffic with. load-carrying trailers + downtown traffic = no fun.

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  • Scott Mizée November 14, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    who says they have to be greenhorns Joel?

    By the way, I saw this link on BikeHugger about this happening in November of last year up in Seattle:

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  • metal cowboy November 14, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Awesome. We should lobby Brown to keep a bike delivery squad year round. As for the notion that cyclists would be broken or worn out carrying a few hundred pounds around town ( less as they make their deliveries) is well, hogwash. I hauled 4plus pounds of kids, gear and hardware over the Rockies , US and Canadian, thank you, and I got stronger, not weaker by the end of those two-three month periods. As for illness, I’m not saying that riding a bike is some sort of replacement for the flu shot, but it might well be… someone should get a grant and study that one – I’ve never been more cold free than when I’m hauling big freight by bike.

    I expect that the trucks will meet the riders for package exchange – if a rider lands the No Po route they are sitting pretty in the saddle – no hills, working the quiet of the bluff and back streets.

    Man, if I didn’t have something like ten jobs and three kids already taking up all the room for Brown’s boxes – I’d jump at this . Though I did work for Brown on holiday season back in college. Unloading semi at 4am , then worked my way up to loading trucks in the wee hours of the morning. My God was that hard, stressful work. But anything outside of writing and performing and riding provokes that response in me, so I’m not a good barometer for Brown work conditions.As for pay – did the article mention hourly wage? Cause back in 1986 in Florida, they were paying seasonal loaders and the rest of us trolls something like 8 bucks an hour – a king’s ransom back then. I wonder, are they really only paying $10 now… I’m betting more, but would like to find out. Still, any work on a bicycle is living large in my book.

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  • Captain Cupcake November 15, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Lower wages just means I can cancel my gym membership as I definitely wouldn’t need it with this job.

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  • Brown Driver November 15, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    What they fail to mention is that it will only pay $8 or so per hr. (WA State)
    No one seems to mind riding a bike, but there is more involved here. Like lifting and carrying not to mention the wheather might not be a perfect 70 degree day. How about a little ice and snow? My prediction is the employee wont last the 4 week season. It is hard enough to keep them on a truck! I hope UPS supplies the ben gay.
    All those savings will be wiped out with one injury. Can you say Knee surgery?

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  • zilfondel November 18, 2008 at 2:19 am

    Min wage is like $8.25 an hour, so the above is wrong…

    In January it’ll be $8.40 an hour

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  • […] doing some delivery’s by bike messenger! (via) It’s doing this in San Francisco after some efforts in Portland turned out to be successful. Now that is pretty awesome, I’d love to know how well that works […]

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  • Amos November 28, 2008 at 7:29 am

    This was one of the top headlines on the website this morning. They used KATU’s footage.

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  • Smallwheels November 30, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    To Jason S. post 16; It is illegal for anyone to use any service other than the United States Post Office to send regular mail, even if you pay extra for special delivery to FedEx or UPS. This is a stupid law but it exists. It is hard to enforce too. About ten years ago a large company was prosecuted because they were using FedEx for all of their mail deliveries. The government won the case.

    Even if it were possible for UPS to deliver your letters for forty-two cents each it would be illegal.

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  • Rick December 2, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Absolutely ridiculous.

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  • John P December 2, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    As a UPS employee I completely agree with #35. It’s totally unrealistic. To deliver 50 stops a day and still carry only 200#’s? That means each package must only weigh 4 pounds on average! Not to mention in the last 20 years our average size of a package went from about a 10 inch cube to about 30 inch cube, and seasonally this time of year they get quite large. Oh, yeah some necktie had it great in theory; it’s always great in theory. Out here in the real world though it’s a different story. They should have just asked someone doing the job, and would have told them how laughable it really was!

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  • Momma December 3, 2008 at 12:11 am

    Insane. It’s hard enough to manuever safely through traffic without having to deal with people on bicycles who think they should have the right of way.
    The weather here this time of year can be quite treacherous. It’s a very bad idea.

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  • […] I’m a little late to this story as UPS announced the program a month or so ago. But it was completely new news to me, and I’m guessing most of you […]

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  • UPS Now Delivers by Bike | PSFK December 11, 2008 at 8:35 am

    […] Bike Portland: “UPS gears up for holidays with bike delivery” […]

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  • » links for 2008-12-13 December 13, 2008 at 5:01 am

    […] » Blog Archive » UPS gears up for holidays with bike delivery Jeff Grant, the company’s workforce planning manager for the Oregon district (that includes Vancouver, WA), says UPS plans to hire 28 bike delivery employees this season. In the Portland metro area, Grant says eight riders will be hired. (tags: business green) […]

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  • UPS Will Haul Holiday Packages by Bike December 15, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    […] everything you thought you knew goes out the window. That’s why it’s so cool to see UPS trying something new to green their model, reduce costs, and cut down on some of the stress that can turn formerly […]

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  • […] wh­y it­’s so­ co­o­l­ t­o­ see UPS t­ry­in­­g some­t­h­in­­g n­­e­w­ to­ green th­eir m­o­d­el, red­u­c­e c­o­sts, […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] everything you thought you knew goes out the window. That’s why it’s so cool to see UPS trying something new to green their model, reduce costs, and cut down on some of the stress that can turn formerly […]

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  • Scott Mizée December 19, 2008 at 12:24 pm
  • E A December 19, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    That’s awesome! Hope they roll out on 2 wheels in every city. It’s a great precedent!

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  • 24hour package delivery philippines January 20, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    “For every three bikes we use for deliveries, we save an average of 17 gallons of fuel per day (compared to one truck). That’s about $50 in savings.” Really?! i didn’t know this,thanks for the information. Keep up the good work.


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  • Scott Mizée January 21, 2009 at 10:02 am

    So… I wonder if they are DONE delivering by bike for the year now? ReFUNK, are YOU still pedaling for them?

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  • […] has been using bikes in Portland for a couple of years now. UPS has now deployed a few in Silicon Valley. UPS, the mammoth delivery […]

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  • […] This is interesting. UPS has been using Bicycles to deliver for a couple of years now. More on Wiki I’ve seen in a few places that the left turn program failed in the UK but can’t find anything to confirm that. Anybody else know? GA_googleFillSlot(“Forum_Rectangle”); (Support & get rid of these annoying ads!)        __________________ No I believe you, just show me a source please […]

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  • […],, This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged History, […]

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