The U.S. Postal Service has almost 80,000 rural delivery routes serviced by some 133,000 rural letter carriers. For some of those routes, USPS provides the vehicle; for others, the carrier uses a private vehicle and receives a maintenance allowance from the Postal Service for wear and tear. In fiscal year (FY) 2020, the Postal Service paid out nearly $583 million in maintenance allowances — a rise of $71 million, or 13 percent, over FY 2015.

Not long ago, the Postal Service started converting some private-vehicle rural routes to USPS-vehicle routes, estimating the change would save $888 million over six years. For a recent audit, we reviewed a sample of these completed conversions nationwide as well as future conversions, and found that the Postal Service’s strategy for these changes was generally effective. We also discovered a few shortcomings.

For instance, maximum savings weren’t realized because USPS wasn’t implementing conversions in a timely manner, and we determined that some of the future conversions wouldn’t be the most cost-effective. We made a couple recommendations to improve the process, and Postal Service management agreed with both.

Are you a rural letter carrier, or do you know one? How does a USPS-vehicle route compare with the private-vehicle route? Does one seem more cost-effective from your point of view?

Comments (188)

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  • anon

    I retired last May as rural carrier of 30 years. All POV. I liked using my own car, but the 1st 8 years I reached across. Nearly ruined my left hip. Get car companies to make RHD That makes all the difference

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I was one route that went from pov to a metris van. My route was only 23miles. I was losing money every month with ema vs vehicle basic maintenance. I also view the use and conversion of pov vehicles to rhd a safety issue that the usps has ignored.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I am a rural mail carrier. While having the headache of vehicle maintenance land on my shoulders can be daunting, I MUCH prefer knowing that my safety is in my hands. I have seen carriers with bald tires, carriers whose vehicles catch on fire or literally have wheels fall off in the postal provided vehicles. I am able to make sure I have everything in good working order. I am able to have 4 wheel drive, good snow tires, bright headlights, good interior lighting, and have the set up that I want for loading my vehicle. The new vehicles have a large cage which prevents you from getting packages from the front. No 4 wheel drive is a nightmare in the winter and spring (I have seen postal employees stuck on flat ground in the postal metris). If the post office wants to change rural delivery vehicles, they need to INVEST in good options and continue to invest in top notch maintenance. Our safety relies on it. Heating and cooling are not luxuries- they are necessities. 4 wheel drive is a necessity in many areas. Whatever happens I hope cost isn't prioritized over safety.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    It is getting harder and harder to find RHD vehicles of adequate size for packages, and the cost of them can be inflated because of the need for them. I think it would be easier to hire RCA's if a postal vehicle was supplied. Maintenance costs on a POV add up real quick. Tires, frequent oil changes, brakes, and gas are a constant and costly need. Then you have the surprises like sensors going bad, ball joints, wheel bearings, transmission issues, just to name a few. Its very stressful. Plus we have to use multiple vacation days to get vehicle fixed, if we have an RCA to cover our route. So now USPS is paying 2 people plus EMA for me to get my POV fixed. I feel having a USPS supplied postal vehicle for all routes would be financially beneficial to everyone involved.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I like the fact I don't have to maintain a work vehicle and do not have to take vacation time to fix. Also a lot less stress. So company vehicle is my choice. Can't wait to get behind the wheel of a Metris.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    Some rural routes are not cut out to have a LLV assigned to them, It's a safety issue. They tried a LLV on mine we had the postmaster ride along in the winter time ....needless to say it was change back to a POV immediately! Your article is comparing 2020 to 2015.....we all know when the covid hit everything on the planet went up in price. Not really a fair comparison. I would choose my 4x4 any day of the week.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    Wouldn’t give up the safety of a 4wheel drive. I wouldn’t get a quarter of my route done in the winter with a mail truck!!!

    Feb 13, 2022
  • anon

    My recommendation would be to have all wheel drive vehicles. This would eliminate towing expenses greatly and may help prevent slide offs and things that occur with rear wheel drive on icy/snowy roads. The all wheel drive would increase street time efficiency due to increased traction/mobility . Thanks for allowing input.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I can tell you I dread the day they kick me out of my POV. They DO NOT KEEP UP MAINTENANCE ON THESE VEHICLES THEREFORE THEY ARE NOT COST EFFECTIVE. Pay me to drive a safe reliable vehicle.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I agree with the fact that they don't keep up the maintenance on the LLV's. The mechanics are lazy, management doesn't care. They leave it up to the regular carriers and they don't want to take the time to write the trucks up and risk not having a mail truck while it is being fixed. So often the mechanic says he fixed it but he didn't. If it wasn't for Amazon, I would actually like a pov if it were equipped with RHD. USPS should pay more for the pov conversions, and make the routes a little smaller. So many POV's are stuffed to the top. They cannot see out of the windows. They are putting mail and pkgs on the roof. They have to make second trips. If I didn't have an LLV, I think I would have quit already.

    Jun 09, 2022
  • anon

    I liked using my vehicle. It had 4 wheel drive for winter. Rarely ever was there anyplace I couldn't go and never had as many issues breaking down. Now that we have vehicles provided I wouldn't want to ho back to all the wear and tear. I can see it isn't cost effective for the post office and they sure know how to waste $$. We got the new metrics and not even 2 years battery issues bc water from our feet are seeping through the floor onto battery. Who was the genius there? And Power windows failing.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I dont feel the usps vehicles holds up better to a pov vehicle. Rural county roads are very hard on vehicles.. First they get stuck in the mud more often than a personal vehicle. Second they go through tires more. If you have trouble with the usps vehicle we have to call for someone to come fix it. We have to get a sub to finish route depending what the issue is. Where as our own vehicle if we have a flat we change it ourselves.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I’ve had a POV route for 33 years, the cost is overwhelming for most rural carriers. The time on our days off to fix and maintain our vehicles is difficult at best. I believe forcing a new employee to provide a specialized vehicle on their first day on the job is a deterrent to most people taking the job.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I'm a rural carrier for 6 years and using my own vehicle this long. It's very difficult for me to find parts for my rhd or even to find another vehicle to use as a back up per my post master. We should all have government vehicles it saves us alot of time for taking off work to get our own vehicle fixed etc. I would take an llv if they had no other new ones to give out. I was promised a metris but our office never got anymore when we were told we would by end of 2021.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    My route was assigned a Metris December 2020. Before that it was a POV route. My POV was not a RHD, but I was able to accommodate all my mail and packages, even thru the Pandemic. My POV was kept up to proper route specs. I like the Metris. I do not like how the maintenance on the vehicle is maintained. I drive 121 miles a day. I go thru tires quickly, because low grade tires are used on these vehicles. I have to constantly fight to get my brakes changed, to the point where they have to replace the rotors as well as the brakes because they don't "have the parts". It takes me over 20 minutes to fuel up each day as there is an issue with the Metris that Mercedes claims is not thier fault, but then why do so many of the Metris' have the fuel issue? If I had run my POV on bald tires and bad brakes it would have been flagged as unsafe and not route worthy, but it seems to be a double standard when it comes to the vehicles that are provided to us. Personally my vehicle was safer.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I think that some people like their own vehicles but personally I want a postal owned vehicle. It is hard to balance work and family. I get so tired of worrying about my vehicle, who will fix it, new tires, breaks, transmissions. It most times makes the job overbearing. Also as a trainer the number 1 problem is new hires having a vehicle to deliver from. Most people do not want to supply a vehicle when the pay wages dang near equal any job in America. I have a very Large route and the rcas always get a LLV because of volume but I have to constantly make more than one trip. Its time to get with the times and catch up to all other delivery services and sell the brand thru vehicles and good service.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I have a 70 mile route. A lot of My roads are dirt and out in the country. Roads are Not kept up during the winter. If I didn’t have a 4 wheel drive vehicle mail Would not get delivered most days in the winter. The metris is not ideal for a lot of Rural deliveries

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I am a Rural carrier who was assigned a Metris in 2021. It is nice to have a right hand vehicle you don’t have to worry about doing the repairs on. A Metris isn’t a good vehicle for a rural route in my opinion. They should be 4 wheel drive . The chains cost $140. a set and don’t last long. Maybe a week if your lucky . They are harder to maneuver in some areas . The tires wear out fast and the breaks shoes too. Rural carriers should have more input in the type of vehicles we need. Thanks

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    Since receiving the metris we have a hard time getting tires to hold up. Sensors on doors and bad, vehicle will not fuel up righr because of a filter. I could change a tire in 10 minutes now stuck waiting for tire changes. I put good tires on my Jeep and mail service never stopped. Since May this has been such a stressful issues having this metris. All parts come from Germany and LLV are not safe on my roads due to rock roads and 18 wheelers.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    The idea is great. I'm on a route that was converted from POV to GOV, metris van. I love not having to worry about maintaining the vehicle or providing gas. I just don't believe the meteis van was the right vehicle to use to deliver mail. It wasn't designed with delivering mail in mind. Overall the good outweigh the bad.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I would say it would depend on whether your area has a wrecker service or a VMF if you was to put a government vehicle on my route I am about an hour or so from the post office and the nearest wrecker is 2hrs away we are in a very rural area it would take forever to get to us so in these cases it would not be beneficial

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    Personally I Love using my POV. I would like to keep using my own vehicle. But something needs to be done to help Rural Carriers and RCAS get a vehicle. $500.00 and $1000.00 isn’t enough money anymore to help get RHD installed. Thank you!

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    All routes need to have goverment vehicles no more POV'S. This would improve hiring new employees. POV'S are getting harder to find that can accommodate someone to sit on the right side and deliver and are more damaging to the body reaching and stretching, unsafe because most carriers sit in the middle with no seat belt. The ema is not enough to keep up the pov's, transmissions go out you have to spend thousands at once or go buy another car. The ones you can buy are older and usually have over 100 thousand miles on them. A new hire will not invest in a car to work only guaranteed 1 day a week. I think this is the major problem on getting new employees.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I believe all routes should be converted to government vehicle. The POV routes and hard to get subs to want to deliver. Not many subs can go but vehicles just to deliver out of. And the EMA isn’t really worth it if you have a vehicle that you have a payment on. I think it would be easier to get employees to stay on routes when a vehicle is provided. I had a pov rhd wrangler and put 197,000 miles on it in 3 years! I finally got a promaster on my route. Couldn’t be happier! And I never could have fit the parcels I get daily in my wrangler. I have all cbu route

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I just finished a horrible day. I have a Metris. It is rear wheel drive! It's unrealistic to expect me to finish an over burden route in my evaluated time on snowy, treacherous roads. I love having a gov vehicle but you need to buy at least front wheel drive.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I am a rural carrier. I have my own rhd Jeep for my route. On the roads that I drive, my Jeep is best. The postal owned vehicles are NOT made to drive on these gravel back roads throughout the year. There are many times that I NEED my 4x4 to be able to reach all of my customers on my route, especially in the winter, spring and fall. The postal vans they are wanting us rural carriers to use are not beefed up for rural use. If I had a postal van on my route, there will be a lot of customers that I wouldn’t be able to make it to. How is that a good thing for customer service? They would be better off putting them on city routes that have those very outdated LLV’s. I understand that they are trying to save money but they should go about it another way.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I think it would help retain RCAs which would be more cost effective in the long run. If we had postal vehicles and did not have to keep up our own RCAs would be more likely to stay. That saves time and money not having to train new hires all the time.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I am a regular carrier in rural Oklahoma. In my opinion, changing these rural routes to GOV vehicles would be catastrophic. These rural roads are not all weather roads, we must maintain a 4X4 vehicle with 10 ply mud grip tires to just make it thru our routes anytime the weather is bad. Not to mention to get thru not only mud and snow, but also deep dry sand and rough terrain. Our EMA doesn’t actually cover all the extra maintenance and repair cost we actually incurr on a monthly basis. It would definitely be a grave mistake financially if the postal service went all GOV routes in the rural areas!

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I don’t believe putting postal vehicles on all routes is cost effective for the post office. I have a rhd Jeep. In one week I had four flat tires. That would mean giving me wait time for sitting there waiting for someone to bring me a tire. I’ve had a government vehicle before and the wait time can be over an hour. I also have had to use my four wheel drive on my route. None of the government vehicles that have been proposed have four wheel drive. That means sending a tow truck out to get me along with wait time. My route is 69 miles long. While I think it’s good in theory I don’t think it’s appropriate for all routes.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I believe every route needs a government supplied vehicle. It would make hiring and retention a lot better for the rural side. The biggest downside for the rural carrier position, is having to supply a vehicle for the route. It would also cut down on multiple trips, because it’s almost impossible to find a private vehicle that can handle the new workloads.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    As a retired rural carrier who had a POV route my whole career, I can say that USPS did not provide enough EMA to cover the costs of owning, operating, and maintaining a POV for delivery, leaving the carrier to spent tremendous costs out of pocket over a career. Plus most carriers had to keep a second, or back-up vehicle. However, with the current fleet of worn out LLVs, it is hard to believe using these is cost effective as they are in a constant state of disrepair.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I think USPS vehicles would help us be able to hire more RCAs for rural routes, its very hard for someone to come off the street and have to find a vehicle they can deliver in, as for my self, a 22yr Rural carrier, I would love to not have to worry about keeping up a vehicle for the post office.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    The post office needs to provide vehicles for every route. It is becoming almost impossible to find a pov to use unless you by a rhd and the jeeps are to small for the package volume. Imports are already 25 years old.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I am a rural carrier and I would like my own vehicle because the roads I travel on my route in the winter are horrible and I have a 4x4 Jeep RHD.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    The metris vans they propose would never make it on my rural route!! I think it would cost them more in the long run.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I would have to say, a USPS provided vehicle for rural carriers would be a major plus for us carriers. Many times, cost of a vehicle, insurance, maintenance all the way around for the carrier far exceeds the allowance. Not to mention, having to use annual leave to repair our delivery vehicle.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    I believe it would be cost savings not for just the post office but the carriers because of the additional need to have right side drive setups installed and most the time on the carriers cost and the cost of maintenance in a LLV is much cheaper then those in a modernized vehicle some of the routes in WV still use our own vehicles and I hope to someday have a LLV for my route

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    Good job

    Feb 07, 2022

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