Febraury 25, 2021
Few things have changed less during the course of this century than this nation’s fleet of postal delivery vehicles.
The familiar squat, box-like vans—produced from 1987 through 1994, and in service ever since— have a steering wheel on the right, to make it easier for drivers to reach out and put mail in curbside mail boxes. They have few creature comforts—certainly not air conditioning.
Overall, they were designed to be rugged, not flashy. They have lived up to their name, the Grumman LLV, for long lasting vehicle.
Indeed, says CNN, this ubiquitous fleet of 200,000 vehicles has been around longer than such common features of modern life as smartphones, online shopping, social media, streaming services, or Google. About 70% of them are between 25 and 32 years old.
But their days are finally numbered. A contract with Oshkosh Defense, a unit of Oshkosh Corp. Under the contract between 50,000 and 165,000 new postal trucks will be produced over a period of ten years. Oshkosh initially will receive $482 million to initiate engineering efforts to finalize the production vehicle design, and for tooling and factory build-out activities that are necessary prior to vehicle production.
The amount of the contract to actually purchase the production version of the vehicles has not yet been set—but it will almost certainly be a multi-billion dollar deal.
As for the design of the new van, it has a low engine compartment and hood; and a very high windshield. It looks like a duck’s head, complete with bill. The back is tall enough for a letter carrier to stand in.
It also has safety features missing from many of the current vehicles, including — believe it or not — airbags, which are standard features in virtually all motor vehicles today.
They also will have back-up cameras, front collision warnings, automatic front and rear braking, blind spot detectors and, to the relief at last of letter carriers come summer, air conditioning.
And, according to CNN, the vehicles will have more cargo space than current vehicles—enabling USPS to deliver more packages, a growing and profitable part of its business, rather than traditional letters, a segment that’s shrinking.
Many but not all of the Next Generation Delivery Vehicles(NGDVs) will be electric vehicles. With electric vehicle changing at a fast pace and the vehicles designed to last decades, the contract calls for the electric versions to able to be retrofitted to keep pace with advances.
The rest will be what the USPS says will be high efficiency traditional gasoline engines. The precise mix between EVs and internal combustion engines has not been set. But the mix has already elicited criticism from environmentalists.
“The USPS NGDVs should be electrified as a matter of urgency,” Robbie Diamond, president of Securing America’s Future Energy, or SAFE, told CNN. “This contract is a golden opportunity to stimulate the domestic EV market and supply chain, and a commitment to electrifying the NGDV would provide a clear incentive for further domestic EV industry development.”
The vehicles have also been in the works for years. USPS has been working on the project with potential suppliers since 2016.
Research contact: @CNN