USPS Vehicle Fleet Even Older, Crappier Than My Toyota Tercel

Yep, these are old.

Yep, these are old.

The U.S. Postal Service estimates that most of its current fleet of vehicles are going to crap out by 2017. Sure, they pretty it up by saying that the vehicles are “near or have exceeded their expected service life,” but we all know what that means. Yet the USPS has the same problem as many ordinary citizens: how do you acquire a reliable vehicle to get to work when you’re flat broke?

Some scary numbers: the USPS has about 190,000 delivery vehicles, and 142,000 of them will reach the end of their life expectancy during or before 2017. The oldest members of the fleet are 27 years old, lacking safety features that are now standard or required. Yes, the postal service could keep repairing them into perpetuity, but the basic problem is the same one that many consumers have: often you’re better off buying a new car with better fuel efficiency rather than continuing to pay for repairs to an old one.

According to a USPS Office of the Inspector General report, designing and replacing vehicles to replace the current familiar postal vans could take up to a decade and cost $5 billion. The postal service has maybe three years to complete the replacement, and their continuing budget problems made even buying a few thousand vans as a stopgap measure difficult. The most recent rate increase was projected to bring in almost $3 billion in additional income, so that might help cover part of the expense of replacing the vehicles. Or the plan could just get shelved again, like it has repeatedly for the last decade.

Check out the comments in the Office of the Inspector General blog post: today we learned that mail carriers really, really would like air conditioning in their vehicles. We can’t say that we blame them.

The Road to a New Delivery Fleet [USPS]
USPS’s Aging Delivery Fleet to Conk Out in 4 Years [ECommerceBytes]

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  1. Liberal says:

    I write letters, they are more effective than an email. Letters are safer from prying eyes, at least the contents are. The envelopes data is tracked just like our email, but, not the content. Buy some stamps so they can replace those trucks. They should start that bank program mention earlier because banks make money. No reason for the hand wringing.

  2. Airwave says:

    Please mark my words: Airwave, 7/29/14.

    Mail trucks are the prime examples of vehicles that should go electric. There is this thing called a milk float in England. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milk_float). Think about it, USPS vehicles never go very far from their post office home base, hence low mileage and close to rechargers. Win/win!

    • Thorzdad2 says:

      “…USPS vehicles never go very far from their post office home base…”

      You obviously don’t live outside an urban area. Out where I live (a semi-rural neighborhood) our USPS carrier operates far away from home base for hours and hours, traveling country roads. Definitely, though, a good deal of the USPS fleet should be electric.

      But, as with almost all things USPS, their ability to do anything is hamstrung by Congress’ control of the purse strings. A fact which, time after time, Consumerist ignores, opting instead to lazily heap barely-disguised scorn on USPS.

  3. CzarChasm says:

    I don’t understand the need to DESIGN a new vehicle. Of course that’s going to be expensive, but wouldn’t it make more sense to just use the same thing as UPS, Fed EX, and everyone else?

    • Thorzdad2 says:

      UPS and FedEx operate relatively large vehicles designed for a job completely different from what the USPS does. For one, the USPS delivery vehicles is much smaller than, say, a FedEx van. This is because the USPS vehicle operates along the side of the road, stopping and starting constantly. FedEx and UPS don’t operate this way. The small size also allows traffic to pass a stopped USPS vehicle much more easily than they could a stopped van.

      USPS vehicles are also right-hand drive. The side windows on the USPS vehicle are a lot larger than normal, allowing easy access through the window to mailboxes. The doors also slide open, making ingress and egress easier, and avoiding the safety hazard of swinging a door open into passing traffic.

      The USPS delivery vehicle has evolved into what it is over decades of use and experience. It’s actually a pretty practical design that works well for the job at hand.

      It may well be that there exists a vehicle already being manufactured that would work well for USPS. If I had to guess, it might be in the UK. But, can you imagine the howls from Congress if USPS started importing “not made in America” vehicles? FOX News would have a hey-day with it.

      • CzarChasm says:

        “The USPS delivery vehicle has evolved into what it is over decades of use and experience. It’s actually a pretty practical design that works well for the job at hand.”

        You have a lot of nice, and understandable things to say about the current design, unfortunately, the USPS appears to disagree, otherwise they wouldn’t be spending money designing a new vehicle. Or maybe they would, they are a government agency after all.

        • Thorzdad2 says:

          “the USPS appears to disagree, otherwise they wouldn’t be spending money designing a new vehicle”

          No, the USPS says that the current fleet is very old and needs to be replaced. Old vehicles become very expensive to keep running, especially given how many miles get put on these things in all manner of weather. So, if you need to replace your fleet, it makes perfect sense to update the design as well. Better technology, better materials, more fuel-efficient, better comfort, better safety, etc. It’s what any business would do.