UPS takes great care to help its fleet shine

Manager: Tom Steidley
Title: Senior project manager
Fleet: UPS Atlanta, GA
Operation: Nationwide and global package delivery


When was the last time — or anytime — you saw one of the famous United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) package cars, or any vehicle in its fleet, not clean?

UPS fields tens of thousands of trucks, tractors and trailers nationwide. Those vehicles are the driving force of the big brown machine.

Of the 13.6-million packages and documents UPS delivers per day, a whopping 10.3 million (76%) are delivered by ground. Only 2 million (15%) shipments account for U.S. air volume while 1.3 million (10%) are delivered internationally.

Considering how big the fleet is, it would seem a nearly Herculean task to keep all its vehicles looking as clean as the day they entered service.

But keeping all that rolling stock clean is a challenge that must be met, and is expected to be, from the top down.

“UPS has a written policy stating that buildings and equipment must be kept clean and neat for enhanced attitude, safety and efficiency,” says Tom Steidley senior project manager for UPS Automotive Engineering.

“This means every vehicle must be maintained at a high standard everyday,” he adds, “not every second Tuesday” [or what have you].


Steidley notes the UPS washing policy is important to improve safety for the company's employees as well as to present a positive corporate image to customers and stockholders.

As for enhancing safety, Steidley says regular vehicle washing eliminates “dirty windows and dirty mirrors that decrease visibility and dirty lights that make it harder for the driver to see and be seen. Clean wheels and lug nuts allow drivers to do good pre-trip inspections.

“Having clean vehicles to operate tells drivers the company cares, and that helps build pride and a sense of ownership,” he continues. And, he adds, sending vehicles into the shop clean allows techs “to complete a good mechanical inspection.”

To accomplish all this, according to Steidley, each UPS facility refers to a master operating plan. “This details the number of vehicles to be cleaned; the staffing required; the vehicle arrival schedule and the time span.”

While vehicles had been washed on a schedule, now washing is done as needed with “personnel trained to know what is acceptable” condition and what requires cleaning. Either the vehicle's driver or the washer on duty is allowed to make the wash-or-no-wash call.

A big consideration is determining what kind of washing equipment is adequate at a given site — manual or automatic — depending on how many vehicles need to be turned around. “Detailers may also be needed for what brushes miss.”

According to Steidley, UPS figures on six minutes to wash a package car or trailer but 16 minutes for each tractor.

He says manual washing is the most widely used method. “Vehicles to be washed are parked in a designated area and washed using a bucket of soap and water and a flow-through brush on a water hose.”

But water is not used if not needed A dry mop plus a dusting solution will suffice if the vehicle is deemed only “lightly dusted.”

Maintenance Bay presents case studies detailing how fleets resolve maintenance-related issues.