ATLANTA -- UPS, the package delivery company, said it can now provide drivers with more accurate information about their 100-plus daily stops, helping them make the best use of their time, while saving fuel and reducing exhaust pollution.

ATLANTA -- UPS, the package delivery company, said it can now provide drivers with more accurate information about their 100-plus daily stops, helping them make the best use of their time, while saving fuel and reducing exhaust pollution.

The company unveiled new route management software this week that is says will help drivers cut fuel consumption by more than 1.5 million gallons this year and CO2 emissions by 14,000 metric tons.

The technology, which UPS has been developing in-house for the past decade, is called On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation, or ORION, and the company said it delivers mapping data to drivers' handheld devices that it is more accurate than other devices using the Global Positioning System, or GPS.

''When you use a normal GPS system, you don't necessarily get the most effective way to go from Point A to Point B," Jack Levis, director of process management, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "If we have a delivery at Wal-Mart, if you use a GPS system it will drop you off at some place along the main road.

''Our system knows where the entrance is," Levis said of ORION. "Our system would route you all the way to the back dock."

The technology, which relies on mapping data developed exclusively for UPS, is being announced just as the company and its chief rival, Memphis-based FedEx, are gearing up for the highly competitive holiday package shipment season.

UPS expects peak holiday package delivery volume to rise by 8 percent between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with its heaviest day Dec. 16, with more than 34 million packages globally. FedEx said its busiest period will be Dec. 1-7, with more than 85 million shipments globally.

FedEx spokeswoman Shea Leordeanu did not comment specifically on the new UPS technology. "FedEx continually integrates new technologies into our operations to better serve our customers," she said.

Mark Schoeman of the Colography Group Inc., which researches the package delivery industry, said customers may eventually benefit from cost savings and more customization of pickups and deliveries.

''All of those (UPS) operational costs would have to come down somewhat with the advent of more precision in understanding and knowing where to make those pickups and deliveries, which hopefully will get transferred then to the consumer who has to pay the rates," Schoeman said.

Levis said a reduction of just one mile per driver can save UPS up to $50 million annually. The company didn't say how much it has invested in ORION.

UPS is also prototyping navigation technology that will make ORION even more useful to drivers, Levis said.

Christopher Seward writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. E-mail: cseward(at)ajc.com.

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