The boxy white vehicles first appeared 27 years ago, and
consumer trends and age have now rendered them too small, inefficient and
unsafe. The U.S. Postal Service issued a request for information as the first
step in replacing the aging delivery-vehicle fleet, which is suffering from
wear and tear and burdening an organization already strapped for resources. General
Motors Co., which supplied the chassis for the current truck, is
interested in winning the contract, which could be worth more than $5 billion
A change to the familiar trucks emblazoned with red and blue
stripes and the eagle logo means a major contract for an auto maker, likely an
American one. It also means big fuel savings and logistics improvements for a
service that had a $5.51 billion deficit in 2014. The proposal is for some
180,000 “next-generation delivery vehicles,” which would over time replace the
163,000 right-hand-drive, light-duty mail-delivery trucks now in use. The
service says the trucks would ideally cost between $25,000 and $35,000.
The aging fleet’s costs are so high that a report from the
Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service showed the service
could sustain delivery operations nationwide only until fiscal 2017—and that
was without any unexpected decreases in vehicle inventory or increases in
motorized routes. The same report said repair costs were too high and
recommended a long-term vehicle-replacement plan.
The old trucks were designed to deliver letters. Today, in
the era of e-commerce, the service delivers more packages, and its parcel
business has increased more than 20% over the past five years. The new vehicles
will likely need to be larger, but they will also be more comfortable and have
better engines and safety equipment, according to the request. The current
trucks don’t have anti-lock brakes, air bags, electronic-stability control and
a host of other safety systems that are now standard.
But like the rest of the car-buying world, letter carriers
want better cupholders, too. Not only that, but they also want driver
compartments without crevices that mail might slip through and sturdy sun
visors than can handle having letters stuffed under them.
The postal service currently operates a fleet of more than
42,000 alternative fuel-capable vehicles, most of which are equipped to use
E-85 fuel. In addition, USPS tests and operates electric, compressed natural
gas, liquid propane gas, fuel cell and bio-diesel vehicles.
Ford Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and Fiat
Chrysler Automobiles NV have recently put out commercial delivery vans in
the U.S. that have higher fuel economy than outgoing models.
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