Electrify UPS: A zero emission shipping strategy

In order to address climate change, the shipping industry must dramatically reduce global warming emissions by electrifying their trucking fleets.

Morgan Hayward

Former Director, Destination: Zero Carbon, Environment America Research & Policy Center

This blog was authored by Environment America Intern Claire Windsor

With the simple click of a button, our packages arrive on our doorstep in only a few days. This has become such a regular part of our lives that UPS drivers traveling around our neighborhoods in a brown box truck have become as recognizable as the daily mail truck or school bus. While we may all enjoy the convenience of online shopping and delivery, we must remember that we’re paying a much larger price for shipping than we may realize at checkout. 

The shipping industry continues to fuel the climate crisis. Gasoline- and diesel-powered delivery trucks accelerate climate change and harm public health. The COVID-19 pandemic led to an increased demand for e-commerce, which subsequently means more global warming emissions. To mitigate the climate crisis, shipping industry leaders must swiftly transition to electric delivery trucks.  

While Amazon and FedEx have both made fleet electrification commitments, UPS has not. Environment America is calling on UPS to outline a clear commitment and plan for transitioning its delivery fleet to electric. The climate crisis is only getting worse, and it’s time corporations do their part to prevent the worst impacts of global warming.    

The transportation sector is the leading source of global warming pollution in the United States. And heavy duty vehicles contribute about a third of all road transport emissions. With the rise of e-commerce, delivery trucks drive even more miles through our neighborhoods around the country and the world. A report by the World Economic Forum predicts that by 2030, the number of delivery vehicles on the road in the top 100 global cities will increase by 36%. The average diesel delivery truck emits 18.7 tons of carbon dioxide annually. More heavy duty diesel vehicles on the road means more tailpipe pollution, worsening air quality, and increased global warming emissions. 

Though they comprise a smaller number of total vehicles, delivery trucks and tractor trailers are responsible for nearly half of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and nearly 60% of the fine particulates from all vehicles. In 2020, one in six Americans — 58.4 million people — lived and breathed in areas with more than 100 days of elevated air pollution. Tailpipe pollution is a public health crisis linked to respiratory illness and premature deaths

In response to this crisis, Amazon and FedEx have made commitments to electric vehicles. Amazon is purchasing 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from Rivian that will be on the roads by 2030. It is the largest order ever for electric delivery vehicles. FedEx committed to all zero-emission vehicles in their fleet by 2040, and has interim targets to get there. By 2025, 50% of FedEx Express global pickup and delivery vehicle purchases will be electric, rising to 100% of all purchases by 2030. 

While Amazon and FedEx lead the charge, UPS still falls short on the transition to electric vehicles and addressing their carbon footprint. UPS has committed to have carbon neutral operations by 2050, but is still focusing on expanding methane gas vehicles in their fleet with renewable methane gas, which is insufficient to address the climate crisis. In order to meet its 2050 goal and not fall behind its competitors, UPS will need to transition its 125,000 vehicles to electric. 

It is essential that the largest e-commerce businesses make ambitious climate commitments in order to fulfill their customers’ needs for reliable and sustainable services.  In particular, UPS must commit to make50% of all vehicle purchases electric by 2025, 100% by 2030, and have a fully electric fleet by 2040. 

If shipping companies fulfill their electrification goals, we will take tremendous strides in mitigating the devastating effects of climate change. Environment America urges UPS to create a comprehensive plan to electrify its delivery trucks and set science-based targets for reducing global warming pollution. Only then will we know that UPS is truly committed to its carbon neutrality goal and will take on the responsibility to care for the environment and its customers.

Photo: Mike Rosenberg via Flickr, CC BY 2.0


Morgan Hayward

Former Director, Destination: Zero Carbon, Environment America Research & Policy Center