on Jun 18th, 2010 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 43 comments
The U.S. Postal Service’s current fleet of more than 219,000 vehicles includes approximately 146,000 delivery vehicles, most of which are long-life vehicles (LLVs). The first LLVs were produced in 1987, and they average about 10 miles per gallon. The vehicles are right-hand drive to accommodate drivers delivering numerous mailpieces to curbside mailboxes. These iconic right-hand drive delivery trucks are nearing the end of a 24-year life cycle and are costly to maintain. In a recent audit, we noted that it cost the Postal Service about $524 million to fix the LLVs in fiscal year 2009. More than 40,000 trucks required more than $3,500 each in maintenance and another 19,000 of these required an average of $5,600 in repairs consecutively in 2008 and 2009. At this rate, for the high maintenance segment of the fleet, repairs in the next eight years will cost $342 million more than it would to buy new trucks. Considering the growing costs of maintaining this unique but aging fleet, what are your thoughts on a cost-effective, but practical replacement delivery vehicle fleet? To read the full report go to http://www.uspsoig.gov/foia_files/DA-AR-10-005.pdf.
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This time, let the Letter Carriers design it. After all, they’re the ones who use it. The current LLV design is not built for proper fit of trays, where to place the satchel, and has more blind spots than my 12 year old dog Arnold. Of course, you could have some upper echelon exec design it who said they carried mail and still remember how.. from like 30 years ago.. and it could be just as annoying as our current LLV’s and FFV’s. Or do something smart, hand it to the Carriers and have them involved where the rubber hits the road.

I agree with another guy who managed large fleets for over 20 years and perhaps the Postal Service should hire him as a consultant. He says his conclusion after 20 years was irrefutable - minimize the maintenance costs which become deadly after 3 years by replacing 1/3 of the fleet each year with new vehicles and wholesale off the oldest ones. Attempting to maintain vehicles over a 24 year life cycle is absurdly ridiculous and cannot work. He may have a point!!!!!

I believe the Postal Service should explore ways to reduce maintenance costs on aging LLV's. How about contracting out the repairs, has this option been explored?

Because the Postal Service is operating in a financial deficit, I think a practical method to acquire vehicles is to acquire vehicles as needed, case by case, by implementing the recommendations for ensuring the form 4587, “Request to Repair, Replace, or Dispose of Postal Service-Owned
Vehicles”, is submitted for district management approval before the repair is made. Only repair a vehicle, if the cost of repair does not outweigh a predetermined percent of the cost of a new vehicle (A practical percentage should be established).

Why not ask Ford to make their transit delivery vehicle in right hand drive. Local dealerships could handle maintenance and repairs. At 20 grand they've got to be cheaper and better than the current clunkers.

Sirs, A number of options spring to mind. In no particular order:
1) The USPS paid far too much for sheet metal boxes with an engine in the first place. Take the politics out of purchasing and monitor pricing.
2) Make purpose the primary factor in design. How can we accept a delivery vehicle without shelves in the rear and "pockets" for forms and equipment in the front. Vehicle Maintenance has complained about rubber bands on the gear shift lever for thirty years, and yet no alternative has been offered.
3) We recently bought Chevy Uplanders, apparently to replace LLV's. In an era where the carrier routes are planned to be larger, perhaps by a third, the USPS bought smaller vehiucles than the ones we already have. Who was responsible for that? In addition, the vehicle requires the carrier to get out on the traffic side at every stop instead of just stepping out onto the sidewalk, forces you to open too many doors at every stop, has no rear defroster or wiper, and has no front tray, forcing the carrier to go to the rear for dismounts or switch vehicles.
The issuing of these vehicles is another glaring reason of the seperation upper management from the field. Wneed better management closer to where the work is done, not neccessarily in headquarters. Come back to the ground level and see where the work is actually trying to be done, frequently more in spite of management than because of it.

In the cities, put the relay boxes back on the street corners and change park and loop routes back to foot routes.

all you have to do is reduce the management ranks and you will have the money to pay for new delivery vehicles.

the current ratio is 6 workers to one manager!

And don't forget FSS flats. Supposedly vehicles will need to be retro-fitted to accomodate the FSS flats. How much will that cost?

The only thing that made the LLV a "Long Life" vehicle was somebody at headquarters DECIDED it would be a long life vehicle. It was built with low bid parts, and we were FORCED to use lower quality parts to maintain them. The 4587 prcess goes way beyond a joke.
We spend waay too much to repair hopeless vehicles, against our advice, because replacing them would force the people above us to do something besides signing a form.
I am also sick and tired, of hearing how much it costs the VMF to maintain vehicles. There is so much paperwork, and obsessive clerical procedures, that work order might not be in the file until 6 to 8 months after the truck has left. If you have a recurring problem, there is no way to know what has already been done.
We all worked in "The Real World" for garages that made money. The only difference is your crazy rules and regulations.
Of course I'm sure the "solution" will mean more LAYERS of paperwork.

We have been having serious problems with the LLV for years but most recently with the cut backs within our district area. This has come from alot of different areas. Several years ago, the postal service quit coming out to the smaller towns to pick up and repair vehicles. Now it is subcontracted to small bussinesses. We supply the parts but it still cost the USPS $175.00 for a oil change, tune up and clean the vehicles. The quick lube place we used advertise oil change for $19.95 but I have never seen one of our vehicles return without a bill in excess of $400.00 and that is a fact. Each vehilce that I personaly use has all had problems with key ignition, door locks etc. Seems to me that we could save big bucks by refurbishing these vehicles but instead we are fix-patching everything within the USPS.

Agree with a earlier post..........Time for a change within the management structure from the top-down.

Best of luck to all.

The problems you have with locks are going to happen even with a new vehicle.
It is just a reality of the type of job being done.
Keyless entry helps a little. But because of the contant locking and reopening that is going to fail as well.
The "elephant in the room" are the everyday failures, that only seem to happen to a company car.
Running out of fuel. Keys locked inside. Driving into curbs till the tire explodes. Driving with a chronic problem like overheating or red warning lights on till the engine is destroyed. Bulletholes, and vandalism. I don't care how new your vehicle is, or how well it is maintained, nothing is going to change that.
The accounting system we have does not have any "codes" for dumb stuff. To the HQ it looks like bad maintenance.

Contrary to implication of report, it is HQ and Area, not District and local VMF, who insist on repairing vehicles at excessive cost. Our district has submitted numerous PS4587 for LD vehicles in the several thousand, or even $10,000 plus range, with recommendation for disposal, and been overruled by Area/HQ, who direct us to repair instead.

HQ recently developed a vehicle reduction plan with a goal to reduce Light Delivery vehicles by 15%. That is about 22,000 nationwide. Even subtracting the 9000 RHD vehicles committed to rural routes, that leaves an excess of 13,000 vehicles. Why are we repairing these junkers? Who in the Postal Service needs a 12 year old Ford Windstar?

As for contracting, higher level management pressure to reduce work hours has led to HIGHER costs for vehicle repairs. Despite VMF labor being significantly less expensive (even at OT rates) than contracting, hiring requests to fill vacant VMF positions are rejected, and VMF managers have been directed to cut OT to meet the magic plan numbers. The result? more contracted vehicle repairs at higher costs. Well, at least hour work hour reduction numbers look good. Who is kidding who?

How often does this happen?
When we were hired, we had to have worked in successful, moneymaking facilities.
Someone actually called up our former employers.
But once we got here every single thing we did was micro-managed from above, to the molecular level.
If we got more productive, they knew we were cheating.

Doing it your way was too expensive.

Now it's our fault?????

Seemingly, this cost saving initiative program targets the carriers?

Based on anticipated future quantities, and volumes
of deliverable mail, including account-ables, to current and future customers, there may be an option for consideration.

Why not invest in bicycle mobility, then the carbon credits and fuel saved can be applied to the debt load
of pre-funded RHB obligations, as identified in the current model....

Each carrier can pick up their daily mail at a local
wireless-ly monitored secure drop point, within subject carriers respective delivery footprint.
And, drop received or undeliverable at each respective wireless-ly monitored secure drop point(s) based on route specific logistical requirements.

If a route is not delivered on any given day due to some circumstance (sick leave, light duty, annual leave, etc...), an alternate carrier(s) can cover
portions of the route as necessary.

You simply must integrate technology and energy savings into this mail system.

off subject comment....

Which leads me to another pressing question....

What possessed this organization to eliminate the drop box in which the customer did all of the work???????

Perhaps the DHS requirements were the cause, but maybe you should have considered these external assets
before you removed them?

I don't really think that repairing the trucks is what costs so much. It seems that we fix trucks in our spare time. The most important work, the only thing that must be done is paperwork. Fire ext. inspections, safety talks, totally irrevelent training, checklists, declining balances, plastic recycling.
If I am fixing a truck, I can't help worrying what "important stuff" is being neglected.
And here's an idea, let's have a "closeout". An accounting practice so complicated that you basically takes a week. And let's do it EVERY MONTH! So that every month you have one week where we are in closeout mode.
If we do it often enough, maybe we will find out why we keep falling behind.

If maintenance cost for an aging fleet is not commensurate to replacing the fleet with a less maintenance hungry maybe - "electric hybrid ?" fleet , the why is this not done? Is the bureaucracy that slow to enact measures that will eventually lessen cost?

" Is the bureaucracy that slow to enact measures that will eventually lessen cost?"

Hello Vehicle Wraps Los Angeles

You must be new here?
There's a lot of wringing of hands going on here.
It's probably why carpal tube syndrome is so common.

Let me respond again in a less grumpy mood;
The PO has historically been at the forefront of experimenting with new technology;


They test it. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it doesn't.
As much as everyone wants electric cars to work, there are still problems. Just because you don't see exhaust fumes coming out of your outlet, you can't be sure that electric power is that much cleaner. Coal is still used many places, and everybody has an opinion on nuke power. The charger to recharge an electric truck pulls as much wattage as a 30,000 BTU air contitioner. Some PO's have 60+ vehicles. Local supply systems simply aren't ready for that.
Lead is cheap, till every vehicle need banks of batteries. Goodbye oil crisis, Hello Lead crisis.
One of this countries biggest proponents of electric cars stood beside the battery he developed. It was 6 ft. long, weighed 2,000 lbs. cost over $10,000, and hopefully lasts 3 years. "This" he said, "does the job of 2 gallons of gasoline."
There are lots of salesmen are "holding the microphone" these days. They have "the solution to all our problems". None of these solutions is perfect. Some of them are going to be disaters. As frustrated as I normally am with the pace of Postal bureacracy, this time they really have to be careful.
The electric truck could save us, or sink us.

I'm Back, and I've got my "grump" on.
How Dare You complain about how much it costs to maintain these vehicles:
When you force us to use "preferred suppliers" that cost 4x more than what any shmoe on the street pays, and 5x the wholesale price we used to pay.
When you brag how cheap contracting out is, but you still "need" the obsessive clerical recordkeeping, and it's done by the VMF.
When you brag how great the contractors are. And a lot of them are. But the fact is, a lot of shops wouldn't do work for the Post Office, and never will. We are constantly looking for new contractors, and most shops aren't interested.
When HQ's insist we use certain brand parts, {like ignition modules, or starters} that fail more often, and when they fail, consume parts they interact with.{flywheels and ignition coils}

why do we need to bring our own trucks the local service center for MINOR repairs. EX. fix wiper blades,fix a fuse, add windshield wash,anti-freeze,etc. When, if we had our uwn supply at each station, we,a manager, or someone, could do the repair. The cost would be NOTHING.WE can do it, and then ther carrier (hopefully)will know that the job was done RIGHT in the first palce.WE are throwing away money,letting the local service,and/or gas station do the repair.Yes, keep them for the major jobs,but the little ones we can do, and save big bucks, in the mean time.

Well George, we could buy the bulbs in packs of 10 for 60 cents each, but we couldn't save any money. Why! YOU MIGHT STEAL THEM! So, you will have to do an off-catalog E-Buy, that will be approve 1st by somebody hundreds of miles away. They might approve it. But mor likely than not, one of the 4 people that have to approve it will shoot it down because you used the wrong code #. So you redo it as instructed. One of the other approvers doesn't like that code#. So you do it again. The 1st guy refuses it because you used the "wrong" code#. So even if you do get them, have you filed an approved job safety analysis with step by step procedures for this task? I'm telling you now so when some guy with a cilpboard comes through a year from now you won't hear what a bad employee you were.
Then, do you already have a spreadsheet to track the use of these $.60 bulbs. If one truck uses more bulbs than the other did you investigate how this could have possibly happened?
Anyway a year from now, somebody with a clipboard will come through and confiscate your bulbs as unauthorised. Six months later a different guy with a clipboard will come through and demand to count them. He won't believe your "story" about somebody confiscating them. Make you all kinds of gung-ho to help this place save money doesn't it?

George, your idea and and willingness to take personal responsibility for your vehicle is commendable. The reality, however, is that USPS negotiated away the authority to hold letter carriers to this level of responsibility. Under their CBA and Postal policy, they cannot even be required to check the oil on their vehicles, let alone add a quart or replace a wiper blade! All postal vehicle operators are required to perform a safety check of their vehicles before driving, but it is primarily a visual inspection. The only action required of the driver is to report defects to management. And if a carrier or manager DOES perform some minor repair, they are opening themselves up for a possible grievance over crossing craft.

OK, I've given it some thought. You could probably do an on catalog E-Buy for a single light bulb, and it will probably come in in a week. Of course that means that you will have to do without your vehicle for that week. Or drive a week without functioning turn signals. Not an easy choice. But it makes the bulb counters happy, and how can you put a price on that.
Plan "B" would involve doing an E-Buy for 10 bulbs before you need them, Of course, then you would have to do it as a declining balance, and go in as you use each bulb. and "receive" them one at a time using the vehicle number. Of course, at the end of the fiscal year, you would probably have to return the unused bulbe to the vendor for a refund, Then order 10 more for the next fiscal year.
I'm waiting for someone to jump in and say "you don't have to do all that for items less than $1. But I guarantee you. Some one just slightly above you will insist you do. Why? Because it "makes them feel better."
How do you put a price on that?

Bertie, I myself have often been humbled by the mighty Postal bureaucracy, but in this instance it is not as bad as you say. Minor repairs like wiper blade and lamp replacement, anything up to $250, can be paid for with the vehicle's Voyager card, at the discretion of the Postmaster or Manager where the vehicle is domiciled. The Voyager program requires no additional requisitions or approvals, though I suppose a DM or Area VP could issue local restrictions. Policy is that the VMF must be consulted for repairs over $250. Voyager cannot be used to purchase parts only, they must be in conjunction with a service or repair. (Oil, washer fluid, PS fluid, and other lubricants are OK though) But, parts like tires, starters, bulbs, flashers, etc. CAN be ordered through the VMF and kept on hand at post offices for installation by local shops. Unfortunately FTR carriers cannot add oil, change light bulbs, etc. without violating current collective bargaining agreements. At some offices, VOMAs, willing custodians, PTF carriers, or even supervisors or PMs do these minor repairs, though the latter risk generating a grievance from MV craft. I'd love to see that changed during the contract negotiations this fall. Both NALC and APWU would have to agree.

Quote from VMF Manager;
"though I suppose a DM or Area VP could issue local restrictions."
That's the point I'm trying to make. But it's not a DM or VP that decides, it's someone much lower. They set up their own procedures. And if you don't do it their way, you don't get what you need.
At one point, we were not even allowed to carry bulbs in our service truck. Drive out, see what you need, then come back and get the part. Forty mile round trip? "So what, you're on the clock, Do what I say."
I should point out that it was a modular trailer bulb, that cost $7 but would fit nothing except our trucks.
And lets be honest here. A big part of the problem is the level of scrutiny our people can expect from the Inspection sevice, and now the OIG. I personally have never had to deal with that. But it sure changes the people that did! They come through, ask some questions, then things start to go weird.

Good morning,
I understand the LLV’s are having problems with the rear tail lamp plug (vehicle side) and the only fix has been to replace the complete harness. I offer the correct Packard plug (vehicle side) with 6” of 16 gauge wire. This eliminates the need to replace the complete wiring harness.
I have already provided a few to a Harrisburg VMF with great results.
Can anyone help me get the word out to other VMF’s to save a ton of money.
Email me at don@levineautoparts.com

Before we go making another 500,00 or so more LLV'S(which I personally believe to be substandard to begin with), has anyone thought about a nationwide asking for improvements to the vehicle. I can think of a few. the problem is, the person with the power to give the go to have more of the present ones made has probably never been inside one.

hey Guy, remember,if your LLV'S are like the ones we have, we have 300 lbs of concrete block in the rear for that "added traction" in winter.

Unfortunately, a 60 cent light bulb which a carrier could buy on his own will cost the government at least $6.00 each do to the fact they have to be made to government specks and can not be just purchased off the shelf. I used to take a minimum of 20 to 30 percent out of every potential government contract I auditted. Then the contracting officer would add back in at least half of what I had taken out if not all of it. Even after my 20 percent was taken out, everything was still way over priced.
Would they buy bulbs in quantities of 100 and keep them on hand and if not used by the end of the fiscal year, change out all those that had not recently been changed out and were going to go bad within the next couple of months, no. That makes too much sense.
Same way just paying less for the retirement plans makes more sense than arguing with congress about it until you are once again even and can pay the right amount into the retirement plan.

We have a technology that could give the LLVs new life. We have attempted to get in touch with our postal center, the postmaster general as well as our senator to discuss this option - but have been referred to a variety of people that tell us it is the wrong avenue. It is low cost - reuses equipment and increases the fuel efficiency by over 30%. We are more than serious regarding this concept and would willingly & openly discuss it.

OK Mr. Ringler, 30% increase in efficiency.
I am intrigued. What do you got?

I believe the this Service should explore ways to reduce maintenance costs on aging LLV’s. How about contracting out the repairs has this option been explored?

Quote from Big Monster Trucks;
"How about contracting out the repairs has this option been explored?"

Explored is putting it mildly!
We have been using contractors extensively because with a reduced starting salary, we could not hire mechs for many years. In the time it would take to find 2 new mechs, you would lose 5. Often they were NOT retiring, but going to better jobs. Any time the job market changed, and mechs were looking to work for us, we'd have a "hiring freeze".
As for the contractors, many are good, many are so-so, and some defy explanation. Even the best contractors are reluctant to do work that doesn't pay well. So it falls back on the VMF. If you don't have a VMF to check, it probably won't get done. So something minor like a hard to reach coolant hose causes an engine failure. Contractor now replaces the hose, when he replaces the engine.
Are we saving money yet?

I am dissapointed in the way the Delivery Vehicle Replacement Strategy audit was recently reported on the main web page. It still implies that VMFs and District management was responsible for excessive spending on vehicle repairs, when it has repeatedly been shown that Area and HQ personnel are the people who REQUIRED VMFs to make these repairs. The new VMB does make the Area VMPA more accountable than in the past, as he now has to explicitly sign and overrule local recommendations for disposal, whereas in the past it would just be sent back to the VMF with an email or phone call directing us to fix the vehicle instead.

Also, while I fully agree that USPS would be better off in many cases replacing vehicles rather than repairing, I have questions on the figures reported. 19257 vehicles times an average cost of $5600 plus, lets round it up to %5700, equals about $110 million. How then does that jump to the $342 million your home page article states the USPS could have saved by buying new vehicles?

The intent of the report was not to imply VMFs and District management was responsible for excess spending. The policy at that time only required the signature of the VMF manager and District Mangager/representitive. We understand,although unwritten at the time, Hqs was responsible for approving the disposal of a vehicle.

The monetary calculations were provided in the report along with the assumption, which included fuel consumption, increases in Maintenance costs...

Technology could give the LLVs new life.

Well the unions should take some concessions and peel back some of the fat surrounding the postal service. They need to figure out a way to save on costly Tires and repairs!! I would hate to lose the US post office to this decline

The PO gets great value out of small owner operators seems like the they would want to expand on their small business success by turning over the 219,000 vehicles to those who bring great value, the star route contractors. What I have heard is they want all contractors to be big, the ones who bring little value to the P O. Why do away with the independants, they say do to much admin. I am not sure they understand value in D C

The llv has served it's purpose. Not perfect but good for what it was designed for. A twenty plus year old vehicle used like these are. Will definitely need repair. Cheaper to repair than new vehicles. Purchased. And think of the nightmare of trying to work on new technology in the. Under equipped. Vmfs of the postal service

The LLV is the best delivery truck the PO invested in. The right hand drive and entry is the safest thing for carriers in big cities and rural routes. Trying to get in and out with traffic or opening doors in tight areas. The tray works as a desk to help divide needed mailings as you go. The enclosed cargo area keep packages and pay checks unseen by passer byers.
Installing the shelving gives more room and easier access, making less time on deliveries.
The Chevy vans are terrible. Transmissions, door locks and body are pitiful. Chevy Uplanders are the worst. only thing good about them is the air conditioner.

An alarming number of FFV trucks have worn/defective ignition switches that allows the key to be removed while the engine is running and allows the key to be removed while the vehicle is still in DRIVE. This can result in rollaway vehicles.

If the vehicle fleet has already served its purpose then time to let it rest. Purchase new delivery trucks that are designed by those who will use it because they know best what will serve them best in their job.