USPS Completes Next-Generation Delivery Vehicle Tests

May 03, 2019 by Cyndia Zwahlen

The Postal Service in March finished testing prototypes of trucks for its next-generation delivery vehicle program, the agency’s chief said publicly this week. But the closely followed competition’s winner has not been announced.

The agency expects to issue a request for production by early fall, Postmaster General Megan Brennan said during a congressional hearing Tuesday on the agency’s poor financial health.

“We are currently analyzing the results of the testing that was over a multimonth period in different topographies and different climates,” she said. “And those results will help inform the production request going forward.”

VT Hackney-Workhorse Group mail truck prototype

Detail from the VT Hackney-Workhorse Group prototype (Photo: Brian Williams/Trucks.com)

Five manufacturer teams are competing to build the trucks.

POSSIBLE $6.3B CONTRACT

The next step, the contract for actual production of the vehicles, could be worth up to $6.3 billion. But production is likely to be incremental – 12,000 mail trucks a year – and take place over seven years. That’s based on the agency’s prototype request. The agency also asked for battery-electric and plug-in hybrid powertrains options.

The teams are:

  • AM General of South Bend, Ind.
  • The U.S. division of India’s Mahindra, known for building right-hand-drive commercial vehicles.
  • Oshkosh Corp. and Ford Motor Co.
  • Karsan Otomotive, a Turkish truck maker, working with Morgan Olson, a Sturgis, Mich., manufacturer of walk-in vans that has a long-standing relationship with the USPS. A Morgan Olson predecessor company, Grumman Olson, won the original $1.6 billion contracts in 1985 and 1991 to make 142,655 Long Life Vehicles, or LLVs. Production ran from 1987 to 1994.
  • VT Hackney and Workhorse Group are offering an electric mail truck.

The Postal Service and the companies have met over the past month to hammer out final specifications for the production design, according to people involved with the process not authorized to speak on the record.

All parties involved in the process signed nondisclosure agreements with the Postal Service.

Oshkosh-Ford mail truck prototype

The Oshkosh Corp.-Ford prototype (Photo: Brian Williams/Trucks.com)

The Postal Service has struggled to maintain its aging fleet of boxy mail trucks. The fleet of about 140,000 delivery vehicles has been plagued by engine compartment fires in recent years. Maintenance costs have skyrocketed. Fuel costs are high. The trucks achieve around 9 to 10 mpg, according to agency data.

QUARTER-CENTURY OLD

The average age of the trucks is 27 years, the agency’s chief said. But the trucks’ aluminum bodies were built to last 24 years.

Prototype testing began in November 2017 and included in-lab durability trials. The 50 or so vehicles were tested by mail carriers on routes around the U.S. that included mountains and deserts.

The agency’s goal is for each truck to cost from $25,000 to $35,000. It said it would need up to 180,000 trucks.

It is not clear how the agency will pay for them.

Cyndia Zwahlen February 4, 2019
U.S. Postal Service says it will finish testing mail truck prototypes early this year then seek bids for estimated $6.3 billion manufacturing contract.

17 Responses

  1. Randy

    I say cut your losses and shut down it’s mainly junk mail anyway .
    People now can pay bills online ,
    Email , Facebook etc to communicate . save taxpayers money

    Reply
  2. Ruth H Porter

    Fwiw…about15 years ago, the postal service, under the guise if saving money, forced some rural carriers into the llv’s..forcing these carriers to give up a.c., 44×4, radio, 369° visual for ancient vehicles that catch fire and frequently reach over130° inside; all because they knew Amazon was coming and they didn’t want to pay the extra trip it would take to del8ver larger and more parcels…
    Basically extra trip v increase in fuel costs, repairs, and even heat related illnesses and at least one death….hmmmmm

    Reply
  3. Brian

    You don’t know what you are asking for when you suggest the USPS should be shuttered.
    Carrier costs will skyrocket!

    I am glad to see the post office upgrade their vehicles. It will help with efficiency and safety, the number one concern.

    It is remarkable that the USPS can hit every house and business in the country each and every day, excluding Sundays and Holidays. Remarkable.
    No one comes close to that.

    Reply
  4. Greg

    Hybrid is a smart move, more important in the north than in the south. Here is the thing, they need to use only one model so that they can keep inventory cost down on supplies to keep fleet running. Hopefully they take input from current drivers on what to have in the trucks as well. That being said, i also hope they gotten a bigger horsepower situration to allow for better efficency and better all around camera setup as well. Yea, one has to keep improving but keeping exact same model in production will really help.

    Reply
  5. Bebop down

    I say that you, Randy are an ignorant and angry person!

    Reply
  6. Larry Kimura

    Electric propulsion is clearly the best solution for the majority of the NGDV fleet. However, rural delivery with routes beyond 50-80 miles may be better serviced with a hybrid system because a smaller and cheaper battery could be used. The Workhorse proposal for 80 miles battery range supplemented by a small BMW 647 cc two cylinder producing 20 kw would work well in this role. Not much information on hybrids proposed by other vendors, but I’m sure they are proposing something similar as a pure ICE only solution would not be able to match the operating costs. Karsan makes a mini bus in Turkey which also uses the BMW 20 kw range extender so it’s possible two of the venders may be offering similar solutions.

    Some of the NGDVs will need 4WD. One of the advantage of electric drive is their modularity. Going from 2WD to 4WD is much simpler. The photo of the VT Hackney/Workhorse van appears to show electric hub motors on their front wheels similar to their NGEN 4WD van. Going to a cheaper 2WD simply requires unplugging the hub motors and replacing them with conventional wheels.

    The biggest problem with electric propulsion is the initial cost. I can’t see how any manufacture can offer a NGDV with electric drive and stay within the USPS cost target of $35K. Perhaps one solution is lease the fleet of NGDVs for the annual fuel savings, which I believe is around $500 million a year.

    One thing is for sure, the current fleet of LLVs is well beyond their expected life span and falling apart and costing and costing A fortune to keep on the road. A new delivery vehicle is needed immediately.

    Reply
  7. Jeff adamson

    I am a 31 year mailman. I am willing to bet letter carriers will not be involved in the decision.
    Our trucks need 4wd or at least FWD. The cargo compartment needs to be taller so that a human can stand up in it. A replacement truck will need A/C and heat(yes, many of our trucks dont have adequate heat), and a defrost that has vents IN FRONT OF THE DRIVER(ask a mailman if you dont understand that one)…and a good personal fan that is not on the other side of the truck.

    Reply
  8. Larry Kimura

    President made an interesting tweet today which may influence the selection.

    “GREAT NEWS FOR OHIO! Just spoke to Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, who informed me that, subject to a UAW agreement etc., GM will be selling their beautiful Lordstown Plant to Workhorse, where they plan to build Electric Trucks.”

    Lordstown is a huge plant where GM used to make the Chevy Cruze, much larger than what Workhorse needs to make a few dozen electric trucks a year, unless of course they were awarded the USPS contract for 180,000 Next Gen mail trucks. Ohio is a key state in the upcoming 2020 elections. Closing the Lordstown is bad for Trump, forcing the USPS to award the NGDV contract to the VT Hackney/Workhorse team on the condition they take over Lordstown would keep his supporters in Ohio happy. I wonder if this announcement places the USPS in a bind, I think the Workhorse solution is great but I wonder if the USPS would have wanted another vendor.

    Reply
  9. JP

    Right Hand Drive Ford Transit Connect is what is coming, like in Canada. They traded their LLVs (yes Canada also had LLVs) for Transit Connects since 2010. It will probably be the extended version. All the Transit Connects are actually imported from Spain anyways so we will just import the RHD version. This prototypes will not be awarded the contract….

    PS – Mr. Adamson, don’t you remember when they asked ALL carriers to take a survey about their wants in the future delivery vehicle a couple of years ago? I remember.

    Reply

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