The color of UPS (United Parcel Service) delivery trucks is a subject of some debate, with people often referring to them as “big brown trucks”. However, at various times UPS has used both brown and black trucks for their deliveries. So which is it – are UPS trucks black or brown? Let’s take a closer look at the history and current status of UPS truck colors.
UPS Truck History
UPS was founded in 1907 as a messenger service in Seattle, Washington. In its early days, the company likely used a variety of truck colors and makes. However, by 1924 UPS had adopted its now famous Pullman Brown color for its fleet. This reddish-brown hue, named after the Pullman rail cars, was chosen because it was distinct from other delivery companies at the time like Railway Express Agency (REA) which used a lighter grey-green color.
UPS continued using Pullman Brown on all its vehicles into the 1960s. However, in 1961 the company experimented briefly with a pale lime green color before returning to brown.
Things changed more dramatically in 1989 when UPS launched its first major rebranding. As part of this effort, they adopted a new darker chocolate brown color called UPS Brown. This distinct milk chocolate hue better represented the gold standard UPS aspired to provide in packaging and shipping.
In 2002, UPS updated its brand colors again, scrapping UPS Brown for the slightly lighter and brighter UPS Gold found on their trucks today. So for the majority of UPS history, they have primarily used different shades of brown for their delivery vehicles.
Transition to Black Trucks
So when did black UPS trucks start appearing? In the late 1990s and early 2000s, UPS began supplementing its packaged delivery fleet with rental trucks from companies like Ryder. These rental trucks came in a standard white color.
To quickly differentiate them, UPS covered the rental trucks with large magnetic UPS emblems. However, the white color proved difficult to keep clean.
So in 2001, UPS transitioned to using primarily black rental trucks instead, which better hid dirt and were easier to match with magnetic UPS logos. This changeover is when black trucks started becoming a regular part of the UPS fleet.
Current UPS Truck Colors
Today, if you spot a UPS truck making deliveries, here are the likely color meanings:
|Color||Type of Truck|
|Brown||UPS-owned and operated for packages|
|Black||Rented or leased for packages|
|White||Used for air deliveries|
So while brown is still the color most associated with UPS, a sizeable portion of the UPS ground fleet is now black rental trucks rather than company-owned brown ones. The white vehicles are also rented, but specifically used for faster UPS air deliveries.
Beyond just delivery trucks, here are some interesting facts on the iconic UPS brown:
– UPS refers to their shade of brown as simply “UPS Brown”. It is trademarked by the company.
– Besides trucks, UPS Brown appears on employee uniforms, packages, planes, and marketing materials.
– Printing UPS Brown requires a custom Pantone mix of PMS 476 and PMS 477.
– The RGB hex code for UPS Brown is 7B532D.
– UPS packages were briefly white from 1970-1972 before returning to brown.
– The UPS mascot is “Brown”, an anthropomorphic package dressed in UPS Brown.
– UPS filed a lawsuit in 1997 against UPS Package Store franchises using UPS Brown.
So while UPS may operate black trucks these days, its identity is still very much tied to the color brown. It’s even in their mascot’s name “Mr. Brown”!
Preferences By Location
UPS has over 120,000 vehicles in operation globally. But is there a preference for brown or black trucks based on geographic location?
UPS does not provide specifics on this, but we can make some logical assumptions:
|Region||Likelihood of Brown Trucks|
|North America||Medium – Mix of owned brown and rented black|
|Europe||Low – Mostly rented black trucks|
|Asia||Low – Mostly rented black trucks|
The core fleet of UPS-owned and painted brown trucks is likely centered in North America where UPS originated. Overseas, it is more likely that UPS relies on rented black trucks for cost efficiency. But even in the US today, observers estimate 20-30% of the UPS fleet is rented black vehicles.
Gas vs Diesel Trucks
An interesting difference between the UPS owned and rented trucks is their fuel type:
UPS owns and operates its own fleet service centers to maintain its brown delivery trucks. To maximize fuel efficiency for the stop-and-go nature of deliveries, UPS brown trucks utilize diesel engines.
The rented black trucks run on normal unleaded gasoline. Gasoline produces less torque and is less ideal for the demanding duty cycles of delivery routes. But gasoline engines cost less to purchase and maintain. So the rental trucks exchange some fuel efficiency for lower fixed costs.
Whether they drive a brown or black delivery truck, UPS drivers always wear the same classic brown uniform:
– Short or long sleeve brown shirt with UPS logo
– Brown pants or shorts
UPS discontinued the old uniform with a brown cap in 1991. Now drivers just wear a regular brown baseball hat or no hat. The rest of the uniform has remained unchanged for decades as an iconic look.
So while the trucks may now mix in some black, you can still always spot a UPS driver by their distinctive brown uniform. It’s a color scheme rooted in UPS history and tradition.
With growing environmental awareness, UPS has begun integrating more sustainable delivery methods:
|Zero Emission Type||Details|
|Electric||Small electric trucks and vans|
|Pedal-Assist||Electric bikes and trikes|
|On-Foot||Deliveries in dense urban centers|
These zero emission delivery methods often involve smaller custom brown or black vehicles. UPS has even developed a modern looking modular electric truck called Metran with exchangeable compartments.
So in coming years, UPS trucks may take on even more colors as new green technologies are adopted. But the classic visual of a UPS driver hopping out of a brown truck will endure even alongside these trends.
Typical UPS Truck Specs
Whether colored brown or black, most UPS package delivery trucks conform to these standard specs:
|Make||Freightliner, International, Ford|
|Body||Box truck with roll-up rear door|
|Capacity||70-850 cubic ft of cargo space|
|Height||9-11 ft tall|
|Fuel||Diesel or gasoline engine|
This boxy truck shape provides optimal interior space for organizing and accessing packages during delivery runs. The simple body design is also cheaper to produce and maintain.
While UPS operates over a dozen different truck models, most conform to this basic setup that has worked well for package delivery over the past century. Advancements in engine efficiency and cabin comfort continue to be made generation after generation.
UPS and USPS Trucks
With both operating large delivery fleets, it’s easy to confuse UPS and USPS trucks at first glance. However, there are some quick ways to tell them apart:
|Difference||UPS Truck||USPS Truck|
|Color||Brown or black||White or blue|
|Logo||Large UPS shield||USPS eagle logo|
|Size||Full-size trucks||Mix of sizes|
|Box||Cargo box shape||More variation|
So while both deliver packages, the UPS trucks are larger, boxier, and brown or black. USPS trucks are smaller, come in more styles, and are painted white or blue. Easy ways to quickly ID them while driving!
UPS Culture and Branding
The classic UPS truck look is an important part of their brand identity. Even as they adapt their fleet with new fuels and technologies, maintaining this image remains a priority.
UPS executives have described their brand as “earnest, hard-working, and ethical”. The dependable brown trucks and diligent drivers represent these values in action everyday.
In many ways, the trucks are the logo. UPS delivers worldwide, but wherever you are, spotting a UPS delivery truck evokes instant recognition and familiarity.
Despite operating many types of transportation, that iconic brown parcel truck endures as a symbol of the company. So while black trucks may now share the route, the UPS brand remains tied to its legacy brown color.
So in summary, while UPS trucks were historically brown, today they operate a mix of brown and black vehicles. Their large fleet includes:
– Brown trucks that are UPS-owned and used for deliveries
– Black rented trucks also used for deliveries
– White rented trucks for faster UPS air service
Brown still dominates their branding. But black trucks now make up 20-30% of the UPS standard delivery fleet, especially overseas.
The core US fleet remains primarily brown. But whether brown or black, the UPS driver in their iconic uniform clues you in that your package is riding along.
So while the famous UPS slogan is “What can brown do for you?”, these days the answer could also be black. Both colors represent the reliable UPS service we’ve come to expect.