A new state law in Kentucky that was lobbied for by logistics giant United Parcel Service allowed package delivery companies starting Thursday to use modified golf carts with attached trailers to transport and deliver packages on residential streets or any road with a posted speed limit of 35 mph or less, according to The Wall Street Journal.
UPS is planning to put the modified golf carts into its delivery rotation during the busy holiday shopping season. While proceeding through the Kentucky General Assembly as a bill, the new law was intensely debated and drew significant criticism from some legislators, and more notably the truck driver union of UPS. Still, it passed the state House and Senate by wide margins.
A union representative told the Journal the golf cart delivery vehicles, which can’t go faster than 15 mph, could be unsafe traveling the same roads as faster vehicles, and that companies like UPS back the effort so they can pay drivers less money.
There are actually several states — California, Michigan, Florida, Minnesota, Georgia and now Kentucky — that either specifically allow golf carts or low-powered golf cart-like vehicles to be driven on some roadways. So, it is not as if this idea came out of nowhere, or sprung whole from the head of a UPS executive patiently waiting for a colleague to hole out at the country club course some recent weekend.
Under pressure from retailers who want to offer their growing e-commerce customer bases more shipping options, package delivery companies are working to size up their options for more efficient and less costly last-mile package delivery. UPS is not the only one among the major carriers that is doing this, but the company has invested aggressively in alternative delivery solutions in recent years. In Kentucky, it has a major hub in Louisville that is perhaps driving its sense of urgency in that state to explore new options.
Delivery drivers seem to have good reason to be unhappy about the plan: How much can you modify a golf cart for safe traveling amid other much larger vehicles, many of them going faster?
Not a whole lot is clear at this stage about how UPS plans to leverage the new law in Kentucky, so we don't know anything about how it may rework golf carts, and how widely or how frequently it might be thinking about deploying modified golf carts as package delivery vehicles.
In many of the reports spinning off of the Journal's coverage, the plan to use golf carts for deliveries is being associated with plans to launch flying fleets of delivery drones. But if that's the case, it could be a while before we see golf cart deliveries on a broad basis.