The U.S. Postal Service said it will award an expected $6 billion in contracts for the next-generation mail truck later this year.
The agency is providing only the scantest details but in late December asked up to four separate company teams for contract proposals to build the new truck. Each of the teams previously has provided prototype vehicles to the Postal Service for evaluation.
They have until March 27 to bid for what the postal service has previously said will be more than $6 billion of business to build as many as 180,000 delivery vans. But the agency said it could extend the deadline. However, the Postal Service said it plans to award one or more contracts this year.
The post office now uses about 140,000 Grumman Long Life Vehicles for its main delivery service. Manufactured from 1987 through 1994, they need to be replaced. A 2014 audit from the office of the USPS inspector general found that the current fleet can only meet the delivery needs of the agency through the 2017 fiscal year.
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 vehicle is a custom body manufactured by Grumman mounted on a Chevrolet truck chassis that the automaker stopped making ages ago.
The mail trucks are so old the Postal Service has trouble recruiting automotive techs who know how to fix them.
The old aluminum-bodied trucks also are fire-prone. Thirty-four of the U.S. Postal Service’s aging Grumman LLV delivery trucks caught fire last year, according to a tally by Postal Times. That makes 153 since 2014.
The Postal Service started the replacement process in 2015. It awarded $37.4 million in contracts to six suppliers to produce 50 prototype mail vehicles a year later. Several of the suppliers have since dropped out of the bidding.
There are four left, but one of the teams has split up, leaving its status in the bidding unclear.
Turkey-based Karsan, which makes commercial electric vehicles, is teamed with long-time USPS supplier Morgan Olson of Sturgis, Mich. The team has offered a plug-in hybrid engine option for the new mail truck.
Mahindra Automotive North America is another. Mahindra is offering a gasoline or mild-hybrid powertrain option, according to government filings.
“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,” Rich Ansell, vice president of marketing at the U.S. unit of India’s automotive giant, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd., told Trucks.com last year.
The company also is evaluating sites in several other states, he said.
Workhorse Group, a small Loveland, Ohio, electric truck builder, had teamed up with truck body maker VT Hackney. But it said VT Hackney has dropped out of the project.
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.
None of the companies would talk about their bids, citing a confidentiality agreement with the Postal Service.
The production contracts – there could be more than one awarded – will cover what the agency calls its Next Generation Delivery Vehicle, or NGDV, and its flexible fuel vehicles.
The evaluation process “requires thorough evaluation as well as negotiations. As such, we expect to award the contract(s) for the production phase in the summer of 2020,” Postal Service spokeswomen Kimberly Frum told Trucks.com in an email.
But Frum provided no other information.
“The Postal Service cannot comment on which companies are vying for the NGDV contract, their potential subcontractors, team members or any other details,” Frum said.