UPS Makes the Right Turn

2008 | Jun 19 in Green , Systems , Management

By Erin Duckhorn,

Right turn process saves money and the environment

On any given day, UPS delivers 15.8 million packages and documents around the world. Their delivery fleet consists of 93,637 package cars, vans, tractors and motorcycles. Those signature brown UPS trucks are everywhere! You can’t help but notice them on the road. But here’s something you may not have noticed: UPS trucks don’t turn left. Well, ok, sometimes they have to turn left. But 90 percent of the time, they only make right turns. It's part of their operating procedures to avoid making left turns.

Flickr Photo Credit to zyphbear

In 2004, after evaluating their CO2 emissions, UPS announced that its drivers would avoid making left turns. They calculated that the amount of time spent idling waiting to make a left turn would save millions of dollars in fuel costs every year. For example, in 2006 UPS trucks drove 2.5 billion miles, and with their unique package flow technology combined with their right-turn routes, they estimate saving 28,541,472 million miles, and three million gallons of fuel. Talk about improving the bottom line!

Take what works and make it better

So what happened here? The folks at UPS evaluated their existing delivery system and came up with an innovation that improved their business. Sound familiar? This is an example of what we here at E-Myth call systems innovation.

Systems innovation is the creation or improvement of business systems. Systems are not stagnant; you can’t just “set it and forget it.” In his book, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber says of innovation

It is the skill developed within your business and your people by constantly asking, ‘What is the best way to do this? Knowing, even as the question is asked, that we will never discover the best way, but by asking we will assuredly discover a way that’s better than the one we know now.

The UPS example illustrates how innovation can revolutionize the way your business works. Taking a good hard look at your systems and thinking “out of the box” about how you can do it better is part of the process. There’s always room for improvement and who knows – maybe you’ll discover your own “right turn” innovation.

You can read the ABC News article that inspired this post here.

And for more information on the E-Myth approach to systems innovation, check out this article.

Do you have an innovation story of your own? Tell us about it.


  1. .Paul S. says:

    Very interesting post.  I have commented on it on my blog here:


    It seems natural to turn left yet sometimes we have to innovate by challenging what seems natural and doing things that are counter-intuitive.

    Submitted Jun 20, 2008 4:56 AM

  2. .Marc M. says:

    I've been making right turns for years. It's my personal policy to avoid left turns as much as possible. Left turns are time consuming, gas wasting and dangerous, to say the least.

    When I go out to run errands, I mentally plan my route so that I accomplish all stops by making right turns instead of left turns.

    I commend UPS for doing something right for a change.

    Submitted Jun 22, 2008 12:48 PM

  3. .Graciela D. says:

    Maybe I'm too stupid but what does it means "right turns"?Also it depends on the countries because of the different "sides" of driving.

    Can you please explain that to me?Thanks.

    Grace .

    New Zealand

    Submitted Jun 22, 2008 11:10 PM

  4. .Erin Duckhorn says:

    Graciela, in the U.S. where the original article was posted, right turns are made from the far right lane and therefore do not require crossing on-coming traffic. So a physical right turn is also the "right" -- or correct choice -- in terms of saving time and money for UPS.

    It's safe to assume that in other countries where the road directions are reversed, UPS takes this into account and drives accordingly.

    Submitted Jun 23, 2008 7:27 AM

  5. .Joseph O. says:

    Joe Okpara

    It is very interesting to lean about this. It looks very simple but considering the volume of deliveries, it translates into a huge savings for UPS.

    In a country like ours were good road is a scarce commodity, I wonder how UPS can maintain this policy. I would watch out if they do same here.

    Joe Okpara; Lagos Nigeria

    Submitted Jun 23, 2008 11:33 AM

  6. .Adena F. says:

    This is a great example to show employees how quantification of their tasks isn't a personal assessment of them. Rather, it's an observation of their position and accountabilities that in the end, makes their jobs easier and more enjoyable.

    Adena Franz, Montreal

    Submitted Jun 23, 2008 11:48 AM

  7. .Rob W. says:

    We finally got our own proprietary scheduling and routing software system in place and despite rising fuel costs and our business making a 67% growth increase from last year, we maintained almost no increase in total delivery costs.  Thank God we did it when we did.  The savings are huge.  I hope we continue to innovate in order to stay ahead of the competition.  It's an investment but worth it.

    Submitted Aug 21, 2008 11:21 AM

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