In fiscal year (FY) 2020, the U.S. Postal Service had about 133,000 rural letter carriers and associates delivering mail on over 79,500 rural routes. A rural route can be a government owned vehicle (GOV) route where the Postal Service provides the delivery vehicle, or an equipment maintenance allowance (EMA) route where the carrier provides the vehicle and receives fuel and maintenance reimbursement. That same year, the Postal Service paid rural letter carriers almost $583 million for more than 36,900 EMA routes.

What We Did

Our objective was to assess the Postal Service’s strategy for assigning GOVs to EMA routes. Specifically, we assessed whether related Decision Analysis Report acquisition plans were effectively implemented and whether future acquisition plans will be cost effective. For this audit, we reviewed a random sample of 135 GOVs acquired by December 31, 2020, to convert EMA routes to GOV routes. In addition, we reviewed nationwide EMA route conversions completed from May 9, 2020, to January 1, 2021, and evaluated the remaining EMA routes suitable for conversion under future acquisition plans.

What We Found

The Postal Service’s strategy to permanently assign GOVs to EMA routes was generally effective. However, the Postal Service did not maximize cost savings related to EMA route conversions in two primary ways: it did not implement conversions timely, causing EMA payments to last longer than anticipated and it did not always correctly prioritize EMA route conversions. This occurred due to a lack of written guidance from headquarters and a nationwide tool or report to promptly identify timeliness issues or changes to preselected EMA route assignments.

While the Postal Service took corrective action during our audit, including developing a dashboard to monitor deployment progress and requiring approval of changes to preselected EMA route assignments, the lack of written guidance on expected vehicle deployment and utilization timeframes may contribute to future delays.

Finally, we identified that the proposed plan for future EMA route conversions would not be the most cost-efficient option. Although Postal Service officials acknowledged that conversion of some EMA routes would not maximize overall cost savings, they noted the importance of other benefits of the acquisition, such as increased safety. While we recognize the collective benefit of the other considerations, potential cost implications warrant a separate analysis for future vehicle purchases.


We recommended management develop and issue written guidance establishing expected timeframes for new vehicle deployment and utilization on rural routes and analyze and include the potential financial impact associated with rural route conversions that would not result in cost savings for consideration in future Decision Analysis Reports for vehicle acquisition.


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Comments (8)

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  • anon

    I am a Rural Carrier Assistant in South Carolina and have been driving my EMA for 1 1/2 years and promised that my route will get a postal mail vehicle for over a year now. I have to make 2 runs almost every day because of the package load. Plus, I am one of only 2 subs that are made to have an EMA. It's 2022, you would think the Postal Service would be better managed and equipped. I pay more for gas each month than what I am reimbursed, not counting vehicle payment, car insurance, and wear and tear on my vehicle. Something needs to change with this issue.

    Feb 01, 2022
  • anon

    How old were the vehicles? What kind of route were they tested on? What kind of weather? We have been assigned LLV's (1987) on our rural routes, dust gets in, rear wheel drive (horrible in the snow and ice) no heat and too many things in disrepair. Hearing Metris is not much better. If you want to cut out EMA those things need addressed. I will take my 4 wheel drive over LLV any day!

    Jan 23, 2022
  • anon

    Metris vans. They have ac and heat. Handle much better than llv in the snow but are still rear wheel drive. Really need to make them in a 4wd for most rural routes.

    Feb 09, 2022
  • anon

    I drive my own van on an EMA Route. It would take years for the post office to break even on assigning me a vehicle, based on what I receive in EMA a year. The up front cost of the new van, having to pay for fuel, and all maintenance/broken parts on the vehicle, and having to pay the mechanics for the upkeep equals a lot more than the $7500 or so I get in EMA.

    Jan 20, 2022
  • anon

    I drive a metris. This is the most dangerous vehicle I have ever drove in bad weather. Rear wheel drive was a horrible idea. So dangerous in the snow. The seals on the doors are so bad that the dust on my gravel roads pours in the side doors so bad at times I can't even see in the cab. I have bought a leaf blower to blow out the dust every 3 days but the dust is so bad I get sick almost every day the roads are dry. Mine has 16000 miles I have had fuel pump issues, door lock issues, window issues, fan issues, fueling issues, door sensors issues, traction control issues, door open while driving issues, I burn through tires every 5000 miles. Vmf can't keep up if one goes in they tell us they don't have a back up. The Mercedes dealer says one week to 3 months to repair one. Most carriers have to use their old pov when one breaks or during bad weather. I find theses Mercedes are not designed for true rural routes. I don't believe mine will last many years even with a warranty. I don't believe this cost analysis is accurate.

    Jan 19, 2022
  • anon

    Ema is nothing for carriers providing their own vehicles! We are not exempt from anything...we have to pay for our own insurance, fuel, taxes and licensing! Ema is nothing! Why do we have to pay for all that? USPS doesn't....we also have to have inspections and if it does not pass we have to pay for repairs so it does...USPS doesn't! So why? We are not individual contractors, we work for USPS not ourselves it is not fair and no one should have to lose their job just because they can NOT afford all that with a guarantee of just one day a week! I had to sell my home in order to keep my job! WHY? this is why they cannot retain people! Things need to change... we work for USPS and you should provide the vehicles for us to do the job!

    Jan 19, 2022
  • anon

    This was done solely for not paying out ema allowance anymore. The fact that the new vans are rear wheel drive is a safety issue for anywhere there is bad weather. USPS should’ve issued all wheel drive vans instead. What these vans are costing in maintenance isn’t really cost effective.

    Jan 19, 2022
  • anon

    How old are the vehicles?

    Jan 19, 2022