U.S. Postal Service Delays New Mail Truck Choice to 2020

September 03, 2019 by Cyndia Zwahlen

The U.S. Postal Service delayed awarding a multi-billion dollar contract to replace its fleet of aging mail trucks until next year. When the program first launched several years ago, the agency said the decision would be made by now.

The Postal Service also now says it may split assembly of 186,000 next-generation daily mail trucks between several of the four company teams competing for the $6 billion-plus contract. 

“We expect to award the contract(s) for the production phase in 2020,” Kim Frum, USPS spokesperson, said in a statement to Trucks.com. 

 The new mail trucks would take over delivery duties from the boxy white trucks familiar to most Americans. 

AGING TRUCKS

Those 140,000 trucks — formally known as Grumman Long Life Vehicles — need replacement. They lack essential functions such as air conditioning, airbags or anti-lock brakes. They are too small to accommodate the e-commerce packages that make up the bulk of the mail today. With an average age of about 28 years, they are past their expected life span. 

The mail trucks are so old the Postal Service has trouble recruiting automotive techs who know how to fix them. Grumman built them from 1987 through 1994, 

The old aluminum-bodied trucks also are prone to fires. More than 120 burned in the past five years, including 22 so far this year

COMPETING TEAMS 

Four teams split between seven vehicle makers are competing to replace the vehicles with modern, custom-made delivery trucks. Testing on two dozen prototypes wrapped up in March. The trials took about three times longer than the USPS expected. 

Winning some or all of the high-stakes competition could validate years of work and pay off in a multi-year contract for a manufacturer. It also could determine the survival of Workhorse Group, a small, unprofitable electric truck company that’s on one team. 

Companies without U.S. automotive manufacturing facilities are now moving to secure possible sites.

LOOKING FOR FACTORY SPACE  

Mahindra Automotive North America said it is on the hunt. 

“Were we to win the contract we would build the vehicles in the U.S. and, in fact, signed a (letter of intent) to evaluate the former Buick City site in Flint, Mich., for that purpose,” said Rich Ansell, vice president of marketing at the U.S. unit of India’s automotive giant, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd.

The company also is evaluating sites in several other states, he said. Mahindra is offering a gasoline or mild-hybrid powertrain option, according to government filings.

Turkey-based Karsan, which makes commercial electric vehicles, is teamed with long-time USPS supplier Morgan Olson of Sturgis, Mich. It has announced a series of strategic and manufacturing agreements with that company. The team has offered a plug-in hybrid engine option for the new mail truck.

Workhorse, with truck body maker VT Hackney, also is considering where to build if the team wins a contract for their battery-electric truck.

In May, Workhorse announced that a group led by company founder Steve Burns was the preferred buyer for General Motor’s 6.4-million-square-foot Lordstown assembly complex. The purchase and makeover of the plant could cost $300 million.

“If they were to win even a piece of Postal Service business, that could absolutely make the difference between them raising the money and not,” said Mike Ramsey, an analyst with Gartner Inc., when the news broke.

The fourth team, specialty truck- and military vehicle maker, Oshkosh Corp., of Oshkosh, Wisc., and Ford Motor Co. of Dearborn, Mich., already have U.S. manufacturing facilities. They based their internal combustion engine entry on the Ford Transit cargo van.

PRODUCTION PROPOSAL REQUESTS 

The Postal Service is expected to give the participating companies requests for production proposals by the end of this year.

The production proposal phase will start a new round of competition that also could drag on longer than was initially expected. 

“The evaluation process, from RFP release to contract award for the production program, requires thorough evaluation as well as negotiations,” Frum said. 

There are other hurdles before the new mail trucks hit the streets.

Money is one. The Postal Service loses money. Much of losses come from Congressional mandates forcing the agency to fund employee retirement costs at higher rates than needed, the Postal Service said. 

But in a warning sign for the agency, the USPS’s 2019 fiscal third-quarter financial report showed a drop in its package and shipping volumes. That was the first year-over-year decline in nine years. Package and shipping revenue rose slightly. That could change if giant customers such as FedEx, UPS and Amazon move more packages to their own networks.

TECHNOLOGY WORRIES

Fast-moving automotive technology is another concern. Critics and the USPS worry that the new truck design could trap the agency into a static transportation platform. Separately, the agency is researching autonomous vehicle technology for its mail trucks, indicating that it might be a future option required of the mail truck manufacturers. 

And the pressure to “Buy American” could also affect the outcome. While any new mail truck is likely to be made in America, foreign companies are members of several teams.

Meanwhile, the agency has said that the new truck’s sticker price won’t be the sole measure it will use to award a contract. 

That will make it easier for more expensive choices such as the hybrid- or electric-engine trucks to compete. They may cost more upfront. But they should have a lower lifetime cost than a gas engine because of lower fuel bills and maintenance needs.

“Following the RFP issuance and final proposal receipt from the participating NGDV suppliers, the Postal Service will make a choice based on an evaluation of best value,” said Frum. 

Ryan ZumMallen May 8, 2019
A test drive in the Workhorse W-15 electric pickup revealed the future direction of the company now slated to partner with General Motors on production.

36 Responses

  1. Joe

    The Grumman “death traps” still being used were actually equipped with air conditioning. The USPS actually paid extra to have them removed before delivery.

    Reply
    • A

      Very true. The carriers only have a tiny little fan that works sometimes. The post office doesn’t care about its employees just that upper management do as little as possible while degrading its employees.

      Reply
    • Rich

      Not true. The LLV’s never came with air.The 1997 Ford Aerostars that the USPS used did have the A/C removed before delivery to the USPS.

      Reply
  2. Patrick

    Why is no one surprised? Someone will actually have to die in one of these vehicle fires before Postal management takes it seriously. The choice will not become easier next year.

    Reply
    • Nick

      I could see GM. Tesla’s manufacturing capabilities are a joke. It will take years for the USPS to award the contract and decades for Tesla to fulfill it.

      Reply
    • Brent

      Unfortunately, The electric vehicle will soon become one of worst environmental disasters. Already seeing environmental issues with regards to the disposal of the batteries when they no longer take a charge from the teslas and other vehicles.

      Reply
  3. Diane E Givetz

    For sure this will not be true. This will continue to be kicked down the road. Meantime rural carriers face the brunt of amazon and not have the correct equipment. Safety depends on me.

    Reply
    • Elgie

      The USPS is a fail on package delivery to rural customers: 1) They just deliver me a pink paper that requires me to make a 24-mile round trip to the post office if I want my package, but if I go that same day, they say to come back tomorrow. 2) Half the time UPS and FedEx use USPS to deliver their packages as well (even though their vans run my road every day), so see statement 1. A pox on all their houses!

      Reply
      • Smearski

        Yeah, because if you go the same day the carrier is most likely still out on his route making deliveries…with your package in the vehicle with him! So that’s way they tell you to come back the next day, genius.

  4. Michael D Turner

    Make the vehicle to be a safe vehicle with technology on board. We need to be able to see all around the vehicle.

    Reply
  5. Richard Chandler

    So we have hundreds of electric cords dangling around on ground at post office stations waiting to be serviced flat tires no starts lights inoperable and carrier’s trying to get to there truck what a mess ..

    Reply
  6. Richard

    By the time the Post office gets these truck out in the field they would be outdated. The tires they use are retreads, they never balance nor rotate the tires. The LLV’s the have in service are in their last leg. Most trucks you could smell the fumes/exhaust all day. They get inspected everyday and written up for malfunctions either they never get fixed or come back in worst conditions. I could go on for ever but I should end it here. Pray for the post office a dying breed

    Reply
    • A

      I could smell fumes for many months. Everytime I wrote the truck up, the mechanic would say he couldn’t find anything. I couldn’t believe how dumb some of these mechanics are. It took 3 months of write ups and when a different mechanic showed up after dealing with the same one for the past months he found the problem. These trucks could easily be converted with up grades and save much more money. After all when has management ever asked us what improvements would we like to see.

      Reply
  7. Jack

    A bit of perspective may be helpful here. The Long Life Vehicle (LLV) was a considerable improvement over its predecessor (the postal Jeep). I have been driving an LLV almost daily since they were introduced and frankly, like them. Although employed in a region where summer temperatures routinely exceed 100 degrees, air conditioning would be of little value to me since I spend very little time in the vehicle (park & loop route). We have been informed of the potential for vehicle fires and how to respond.

    Reply
  8. Ted Blackwell

    I tend to think the batteries wouldn’t stay up very well in a hybrid mail truck’s stop and go environment, especially if the AC was running. Also, are antilock brakes needed for a vehicle that likely never gets over 45mph in a typical day?

    Reply
    • Justin

      Electric motors and batteries excell at stop and go driving. A/C use isn’t so much of a drain as heat. Running a resistive heater can reduce driving range by 35-40%

      Reply
  9. Brenda Paulson

    I am a USPS Carrier in my 27th year—in any major change in policy, service, equipment (I.e., vehicles), not once have we the guys that’ll be driving and using these vehicles every single day been queried on what’s important and necessary for us to get the job done… some higher up n a suit in Wash DC making clueless decisions without considering any valuable input. But why change now and why bother when making a multi-million $ decision?

    Reply
    • J. Herr

      From what I read the Carrier union and personnel were queried for input on the new design. That said, did the message every make it to the carriers themselves?

      Reply
  10. A

    Here’s an idea. Why not use that money to pay back the retirement fund that the government took back in ’08. They still haven’t payed it back. They don’t care about us little workers.

    Reply
  11. DARYL LAMPKIN

    I worked part time during College. It’s up to USPS, yet, an American made Truck at an American Factory would be Great. GM just closed some Factories and they might be available to Re-Tool and Re-hire. Good Luck.

    Reply
  12. Larry K

    Only four competitors left, what happened to AM General?

    I think an electric drive postal van would be a perfect match for the USPS requirements. Most of the routes are short range with many stops. Electric drive would not only provide better operating costs over a standard ICE, but will also save on maintenance by lowering brake wear and eliminating the complex transmission in favor of a simple reduction gear set. Electric propulsion is modular so adding an extra motor for 4WD is relatively easy, adding a small ICE driven range extender could also be incorporated easily. Going electric would pretty much eliminate Oshkosh and Mahindra leaving only Karsan and VT Hackney- Workhorse. I believe Workhorse has a better propulsion system. It appears to be based around a 60 kwh battery driving 2 or 4 hub motors which can be supplemented by the tiny range extender from the BMW i3. I believe Karsan’s entry is based on their Jest mini bus which used a 44 kwh battery driving a single motor and supplemented by a small range extender, all of the components are from BMW.

    Reply
  13. Miller

    Being a rural carrier and having to load those small suv’s With those very over size Amazon package for 20 + years have damage my back to a point l have to have back surgery So I’m glad that they are replacing them with something better IT ABOUT TIME😕

    Reply
  14. James

    I just want to know when they start replacing those trucks with new ones where can I acquire one. Are they going to have an auction and sell them off or are they going to scrap them out.

    Reply
  15. TL

    I think whatever they do. It needs to be done with an American manufacturer. We have Ford and GM, and they need to be made by American workers!

    Reply
  16. James

    This whole fiasco is so indicative of the USPS mismanagement! If you work for the postal service you know what I’m talking about. The USPS has the worst (top-down) management. Management that is not management, but rather super micro-management that can’t make a decision without endless conference calls, and spending excessive amounts of money on study after useless study trying to find the absolute cheapest vehicle the will provide the carriers with the absolute minimal technological and equipment upgrades compared to the death traps that are required to drive now. Guaranteed this will drag on to the point that the final selection will be made and as it has been stated the new vehicles will be outmoded already. As for who may be selected for the manufacture of these vehicles, it comes as no surprise that the companies at the top of the list are all not based here in the United States. I mean why support the U.S. economy? Why provide jobs to American workers? As it stands today, USPS management is currently doing their best to screw over the APWU union members by reducing work force, eliminating benefits, eliminating COLA increases, and eliminating PTF and PSE positions and hiring what would be potentially part time workers that would work for less money and receive absolute minimal benefits, and that’s just part of their plan. I consider this whole truck replacement to be FUBAR!

    Reply
  17. RG AZ

    Ford, Chevy, or Dodge do not already make a vehicle that would do the job?? Seems it would be cheaper in the long run than designing a whole new vehicle.

    Reply
  18. Larry K

    Anyone know why the USPS is delaying the announcement? I hear the LLVs are falling apart and costing a fortune in repairs to stay operational. I would have thought the USPS would want to get the NGDV in the field ASAP.

    Reply
  19. Joe

    It should be an An American Company! No mihindra! Let American businesses get a postal service contract! Starting sound political now?

    Reply
  20. rich

    It’s amazing to think that with one of the largest fleet of vehicles in the world the USPS offers no vehicle training programs for new hires at it’s Tech Center in Norman OK. All new VMF mechanics are left to shadow more experienced mechanics to learn their jobs. USPS closed the automotive training program in August of 2012.

    Reply
  21. LISA MAJERSKY

    Very interested and hopeful that you guys will get good, new vehicles soon. The government MUST be forced to return the excessive pension payments. I am just a civilian/customer, but I support our not-for-profit public service over UPS and FedEx whenever I have a choice. I try to tell everybody I know how important the USPS is, and to work to prevent privatization. There are so many issues to have to explain to them. I wish you guys could get the word out about all of it. I still read comments putting the USPS down as a money-losing, bad service business that breaks your fragile mail items. NOT TRUE!!.

    Not sure how autonomous vehicles would help with all the neighborhood hazards and stop & go driving. The vehicle would still have to be manned, since there is no regularity or standard set up with people’s mailboxes. You still need somebody to grab the various sizes and kinds of mail, stop at the right place, open, fill & take outgoing mail, close the box, etc.

    I hope you can get great vehicles with air conditioning, ergonomic for loading and unloading, and with electric engines. I think ALL of the electric vehicles are going to have to start having a noise of some kind, to replace the I.C. Engine motor noise. I think it would be dangerous to be driving a silent vehicle in neighborhoods with walkers, bike-riders and kids playing.

    Reply

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