on Jul 28th, 2014 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 94 comments
 

What should the postal vehicle of the future look like? The U.S. Postal Service recently put that question to its carriers and vehicle maintenance personnel and is currently reviewing the feedback. It’s an important question because the delivery fleet is aging and the Postal Service needs to quickly replace it. In fact, our recent audit on the topic found the current fleet can only meet delivery needs through fiscal year 2017 – and that assumes no unexpected decrease in vehicle inventory or increase in the number of motorized routes.

About 142,000 long-life vehicles (LLVs) out of the 190,000-vehicle total delivery fleet are near or have exceeded their expected service life. Replacing these aging vehicles is daunting, particularly given the Postal Service’s financial constraints.

But fleet replacement isn’t just a major challenge; it’s also a big opportunity. Because the LLVs are up to 27 years old, they aren’t as fuel efficient as newer models. They also lack many of the safety features now considered standard for vehicle fleets, such as back-up cameras, front airbags, and anti-lock brakes. The next generation of vehicles can incorporate the latest safety and environmental bells and whistles, which will protect employees, cut down on fuel costs, and help the Postal Service meet its sustainability goals. Also, given the growth in packages, new vehicle designs could address the challenges of larger and irregularly shaped items.

The Postal Service has a short- and long-term vehicle fleet acquisition strategy, but we found the plan lacks details such as vehicle specifications and green technology features. Also, despite 3 years of effort, the plan has not been approved or fully funded due primarily to the Postal Service’s lack of capital. Given the urgent need to upgrade the fleet, we are encouraging the Postal Service to make some incremental purchases while formalizing a more specific long-term plan for the next generation of LLVs.

What are your thoughts on future postal vehicles? What should they look like? What safety and environmental features or other technologies would you like the Postal Service to add? 

94 Comments


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The new vehicles should have air and appropriate heat, better window defrosters, handle well in snow, have the same safety features required in all other cars, such as air bags, seat belts and also big enough to accommodate the ever growing parcel business.

Well said Renee Higgins!!

and should be all wheel drive!

Best idea I've heard in years.A little more$ .But no more then sliding into whatever happens to be downhill.Besides ,we're worth it.

Exactly.the biggest problems in the northern half of the country are lack of traction,heat in winter and blistering hot in summer..no a/c..we call them Unsafe At any Speed in rural country in the winter.

I think that all mail carriers should be provided an LLV or new vehicle... I would settle for a used one. I love my job more than anthing. Its hard, stressful, mainting a vehicle that might break down any second. Then the cost of knowing you have to have it up and running in the moring, or pray to god you have a backup.

I have just received an LLV this year and am from Maine and I do believe that if we are going to keep the same model of delivering all mail and packages everyday we need an all wheel drive. The LLV slides on as little as an inch of snow and can not get around well at all. Christmas time is a crutual time and stressful time for customers and they would like to see timely deliver for the packages and if we cannot get to them and they need to pick up, what kind of service are we offering to them.
The LLV does leak and the packages are always covered in dust and snow. Need to definitely have a more air tight compartment. As had been a carrier since 1997, I feel that the delivery space of the LLV could have been a little more organized and equipped with areas of storage of all things needed to be the best carrier that we can. Including space for pens, hold cards, forwarding cards, and all other forms to perform our duties. The large tray in which deliver from is okay but could use some enhancements so we could utilize the space underneath better. We definitely need some heat and as far as summer I haven't got there yet. There are a lot of things I would love to change, sometimes I feel I was more organized out of my own vehicle.

My thoughts for a new LLV: 4 wheel drive, A/C, issulated better, window at the rear, shelves in back, a walk way to the back, better mirrors, and a radio would be nice. I like to keep up with the local weather ( when storms are happening) and news.

Definitely retractable shelves! Window would be a good idea, but can't see the use for air. Most of us aren't IN the truck long enough for it to be enjoyed.

Sure..because you're a letter carrier...rural carriers aren't parked on the street corner while the carrier does loops.we are in them 5-6 hours a day!

Believe it or not, after a 27 year service life, USPS is right now installing a new shelving system in a limited number of LLVs. In my district about 15% of the LLVs will have them. Offices with the highest number of parcel deliveries were targeted to receive the shelves.

I would think they would try to put some kind of air conditioning unit. The temps get way above 120 degrees. And all we have is one fan that blows HOT air at you. Would be nice to have places that allows you to store the scanners, forms, pens and water bottle. Automatic beeping sound when the reverse lights are on that would be convent. Intermitting window wipers would be great. Caro nets to keep mail from sliding around in the back.

A.C.makes you comfortable and costs the bean counters $ in MPG/maintence.Ain't no way .I wish it would happen though.

I love the current ones, but of course it would be nice to have the regular amenities available in passenger cars, like AC. More importantly as a carrier who walks for 4 hours, I'd like to see all our routes become 100% mounted routes.

I think that the postal vehicles should have air conditioning in them. The carriers suffer out there in the heat. Not good. Do it right this time!!!!! Also a heater in the winter that actually works!
Grumman LLV sucked!!!

I don't work for the USPS or Ford, but I was thinking, wouldn't the Transit Connect work pretty well for a replacement? practically no modifications required that I can think of... just priced one on their website... with just about every option I've seen discussed here on it (except 4WD), plus a few others, it came out to 27k. that's for a custom build, I'm sure if the USPS went into a contract with them for 50,000 vehicles or more, they could get a pretty good deal, y'think?

Thanks for your comment. As mentioned further down in the comments, Canada Post has purchased several thousand Ford Transit Connects to use as a delivery vehicle in Canada. Additionally many other foreign posts use similar commercially available, fuel efficient vehicles, as their primary delivery vehicle. Regarding modifications though, one major consideration for the Postal Service in identifying a replacement for their LLV, is the availability of right-hand drive, as it is the most practical for collecting and delivering mail on most routes. The Postal Service uses right hand drive vehicles on curbside delivery routes to allow letter carriers to safely deliver mail directly to mailboxes without leaving their vehicles.

The Transit Connect is available in worldwide markets as a right hand drive vehicle, as are most current-generation commercial vehicles from most major manufacturers.

I used a 2012 Ford Transit Connect on my mail route for about 32,000 miles and the brakes were terrible. The rear had the old type drum brakes and every other week I had to jack up the rear of the vehicle and adjust the shoes. I wore out the factory rotors and drums and replaced them with new ones two more times. In between I had each machined when replacing the pads and shoes before buying new ones. The vehicle handled great, was easy to maneuver and was comfortable. It was large enough to carry all of my packages and mail with ease. Bad idea unless Ford upgrades the entire brake system with better quality parts. I got so tired or working on the brakes I sold the van to someone that planned on using it to deliver something other than mail. I now have a Toyota Prius. My route is a 46K heavy volume, takes an average of 5 hours on the street to deliver 600 boxes and 44 miles and I use about $32.00 worth of gas in 4 to 5 days. This depends on how much driving around I do after work. I only wish the car was a little larger because of the increased package volume and package size.

I'm certain that at the volume the USPS would be purchasing, they could mandate upgraded brakes for the order. Additionally, like was posted earlier, this is available overseas in right-hand drive, so that's not an issue either.

Since you've Live tested one in field conditions, are there any other tweaks or wish-list items you'd recommend they mandate if they were to place an order?

The new vehicles definitely need a better air flow system. It takes for ever to heat the inside to a comfortable temperature to defrost windows for safety. During the summer months it gets extremely hot inside, even with the small side vents in the back open. To get to the rear, you need to be extremely agile, cause the trays are in the way. Need to get rid of the blind spot on the left side front from the drivers seat. The current LLV rear wheels do not track with the front wheels, meaning in snow, your pushing snow with all 4 wheels.

They fixed the blind side on the left with the FFV; there is a large window directly behind the tray side door. Believe me, it helps a LOT!! And the design they show on this article doesn't have that window [one of my complaints].

The new vehicles definitely need a better air flow system. It takes for ever to heat the inside to a comfortable temperature to defrost windows for safety. During the summer months it gets extremely hot inside, even with the small side vents in the back open. To get to the rear, you need to be extremely agile, cause the trays are in the way. Need to get rid of the blind spot on the left side front from the drivers seat. The current LLV rear wheels do not track with the front wheels, meaning in snow, your pushing snow with all 4 wheels.

All of the above, but primarily, and this cannot be stressed enough, AIR CONDITIONERS!!!! And windows--how many backing accidents would be prevented if the vehicles had rear windows, and even side windows. This is a no-brainer, really. Some older LLVs had more windows. An am/fm radio would be wonderful. Carriers could keep up with weather and traffic conditions as well as listen to music. Enough with the Spartan conditions!

They should have a suspension so every little bump doesn't bang you around. I fell on the ice one time while carrying mail and had some separated ribs. Every once in a while, they act up. Driving an LLV, especially on the crappy red brick roads people seem addicted to where I work now, is agony if you have any kind of back pain or something similar. That being said, I like the turning radius much better than the vans. Some of the LLVs we had in Pittsburgh when I worked there had a slide-out shelf in them so you could load two levels of mail. Something like that would be good for increased parcel volume perhaps. Any extra moving parts, however, adds to the number of things that can come off track or break and need to be repaired or replaced. I work in Florida now, so I am not concerned with heat so much these days. A good defroster is certainly a good idea--along with better weather sealing so the interior doesn't fog over so much. Main problem I always had in the cold was no way to blow heat on your feet. I used to stop an take my boots off and hold my feet up to the vents on my breaks. Obviously, we can't do what I want and build a bunch of right-hand drive Audi Q7s.

Thanks for your comment. Regarding the addition of shelves, the Postal Service may be listening to carrier suggestions, as they recently awarded a $2.9 Million Shelving Contract to provide 10,000 engineered shelving kits for use in the Long Life Delivery Vehicles (LLV). The contract includes an option to purchase up to 40,000 additional kits following the initial delivery.

Regarding the suspension and rough ride, evidently you were not a carrier when the old DJ5 Jeeps were in service!

I think in areas where winter is rough getting around the route some new postal vehicles should be 4WD option. This would alto be safe for carriers out trying to get the mail delivered.

The above items are essential, but the most important to me is Air Conditioning. This may sound strange ... But as a former Carrier the current vehicles are incredibly dangerous. The current design has virtually no air flow. It is normal for inside temps to reach 30 to 40 degrees hotter than outside the vehicles. The negatives to adding it would be cost and gas mileage. This would be offset by increased productivity and employee safety. One thing to remember, I've never seen a supervisor drive a car without AC , so why should the people who deliver the mail.

Canada Post bought a thousand Ford Transit Connects a few years ago.....What do they think of them? USPS could set up a mutually beneficial agreement between Ford and USPS. Offer right hand drive Transit Connects for sale at an affordable price to Rural Carriers. Let carriers evaluate them. Carriers win, Ford wins, USPS wins. This is too simple a solution....USPS will never go for it...

I was thinking about the Ford Transit Connect too. As of last year Canada had 4500, http://www.canadapost.ca/cpo/mc/aboutus/news/pr/2013/2013_csr_report.jsf. Although I think mail carriers need something with right hand drive.

http://www.ford.com/trucks/transitconnect/

Really? The Ford transit is way too small. With the letter volume going down, and packages going up there is no way that will be usable. It would have to go on something like the Dodge sprinter frame, like some of the FedEx trucks use. Not sure if you have seen the transit in real life but it would be smaller than an llv.

We have collaborated with Ford before; after all, the FFV is built on the Ford Explorer chassis. I'm sure if the postal service wanted another Ford vehicle, it would happen.

The new vehicles should have better heat, some air conditioning would be good, but most of all 4 wheel drive, as I cant get my parcels delivered if I cant get down the streets. should have air bags and maybe some type of shelves in the back to help with the extra parcels or a way to store the fss flats

What about the MVS fleet??? Our trucks have well over 350,000 miles on them we have more RYDER trucks in our fleet then postal because of the breakdowns. Our Tractors one has over 600,000 hard miles on it all these truck do hard city mils not all highway , just my 2 cents .

I think the US POSTAL SERVICE should,,start ,converting current fleet to natural gas or propane .
All other major industries, are already moving in that direction.

Thanks for your comment. This may surprise you, but the Postal Service currently has about 500 compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles in their fleet. Many of these vehicles are located in Texas.

The vehicle should have bathroom it's not fair that we work so hard no time for lunch nor bathroom we should have bathroom and air conditioning

The new vehicles should be environmentally cleaner. The scenario seems perfect for electric, which are of course better for the environment. Many electric vehicles with the size of a sedan must be recharged after given the small delivery area, which is probably comparable to a delivery driver's area.

I run an ecommerce store and ship with USPS every day.

Unfortunately, most carriers don't have a small service area. We have carriers who do 40 miles or more every day; when you talk about a heavy vehicle full of heavy mail, you're not going to get much mileage out of an electric engine. Maybe a hybrid like a Prius, with both self-generating power and gas; or, to improve upon that, solar panels on the roof like the highest models of Prius. [Not that I think we should buy Toyota, but that's a good model to work from.]

My last route was about 20 miles per day [not including carrying extra mail off of other routes], a minimum of six hours on the street; the one before that was about 12 miles plus carrying extra, a minimum of seven hours a day. Both of them were strictly mountainside. We don't all do in-town driving.

Thanks for your comment. With the range of different types of routes carriers deliver, maybe the Postal Service needs to consider purchasing several different types of vehicles, instead of buying one vehicle that must meets the needs of every route.

Just my 2 cents on he electric idea.... We could put solar panels on top of the vehicles to continually recharge throughout the day. I know it isn't much, and you'll have days that aren't sunny as well, but that would cut down on charging costs at the offices. Only have them plugged in at night....

I think the USPS has been totally ignored. What
A shame if the government allows an iconic part
of America to just DIE! It would be awful not to have the option to "mail" letters and packages throught the us postal system because the government won't fund the vehicles. Congress has made it impossible for them to function in today's economy, because they are required to have unrealistic monies put aside for pension of people who do t even work there yet. I would love to know where all that pension money is being kept and who exactly has access to it!! I'm just saying!!

1st and foremost, the USPS in not government funded. Income for the USPS is from stamps, parcel sales ect....
Postal employees believe the money has been used for the pet projects of the GOA/gov agencies...including the wars which is why it is so hard for them to think of trying to return the monies back to the USPS.

Any excess money the post office earns [profits, the pre-funding, whatever else] is subject to the whims of Congress. They have always taken the profits and used them for their own pet projects; I'll bet they're using the mandate for another piggy bank.

IMHO I can't understand why the USPS isn't the cheapest delivery option for businesses. You go to the same addresses everyday so why wouldn't you offer cheaper prices than either Fed-Ex or UPS? Both Fed-Ex and UPS sometimes have to drive miles between deliveries yet THEY ARE BOTH PROFIT MAKING COMPANIES. Grow the USPS business by offering BIG discounts based on volume, just like Fed-Ex and UPS. Once the business is expanded, LARGER more efficient vehicles with air conditioning would pay for themselves from the additional revenue.

We are not allowed [by Congress] to run at a profit, meaning any excess monies received wouldn't go toward a new fleet... they'd go toward Congress' pet projects. As far as giving a deep discount goes, we already do that for bulk mailers [who are keeping us afloat], nonprofits, and mail for the blind and handicapped [free shipping]. We also provide free shipping from our troops to the United States. There comes a point when reductions are too overwhelming.

As far as FedEx and UPS being cheaper, I don't have a clue where you came up with that. Virtually all of our prices are lower [sure, we don't ship over 70 lbs] and we deliver free on Saturdays. When you comment on them being profit making companies [which the post office can't be], you don't realize that we do last-mile shipping for both of them. That means that a FedEx or UPS truck pulls up to a post office's dock and offloads pallets of THEIR packages for our carriers to deliver. How can they be cheaper than us when they're paying us to deliver their packages?

Tanya I assume you work for the post office but I'm not sure in what capacity. I will try to address each of your comments.
1. Congress does not allow a profit.... That will not be a problem for A LONG TIME since USPS is running at over 9 BILLION dollar deficit per year.
2. deep discount goes, we already do that for bulk mailers....That's for envelopes less than 3.5 oz. I'm talking about discounts to Large Retailers who ship packages, not mail. Both Fed-ex and UPS NEGOTIATE their rates with EACH company. NO RETAILER pays the Fed-ex and UPS listed rates. Even I get negotiated rates and I'm a home based business.
3. last-mile shipping... I'm very familiar with Fed-ex Smart-Post and UPS solution. How can they be cheaper? Here's an actual 5 lb package I shipped today. USPS Parcel Select cost: $14.28 My Fed-Ex Smart Post cost $11.32 That's OVER 20% less than USPS. Fed-Ex and UPS DON"T WANT HOME DELIVERY, they want business to business. If the USPS went after BB they would be able to undercut both Fed-Ex and UPS rates sins USPS ALREADY GOES TO THAT BUSINESS EVERYDAY. (They probably even hold the door open for the Fed-Ex and UPS drivers as they pick-up/deliver their packages. meanwhile USPS is delivering 1st class mail)

Perhaps Congress is the problem, maybe it's time to privatize USPS or Spin off everything except first class mail. Just my opinion.

#1 Seriously consult active carriers on the requirements. By this I mean actually ask , take the suggestions and implemement them into the design. WE are the ones with the experience and the knowledge of what is needed.

AMEN!!!!! That monstrosity they show proves they didn't take anyone's input into consideration.

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