It takes a lot of vehicles to move 154 billion pieces of mail each year. And a lot of fuel to power those vehicles.
While the Postal Service’s Postal Vehicle Services (PVS) fleet is a small part of the entire fleet — about 4,300 vehicles made up of cargo vans, tractors, and smaller tractor-trailers known as spotter vehicles — it is a crucial part. PVS vehicles move mail between processing facilities, inner-city delivery offices, and local businesses and mailers. Their usual travel distance is about a 50-mile radius.
The Postal Service plans to replace nearly all the cargo vans and spotter vehicles in the PVS fleet over the next two years and has been testing and analyzing potential replacement vehicles, including alternative fuel options.
We recently evaluated the Postal Service’s fuel costs and consumption strategies for the PVS fleet to see how effective they are and how they might be improved. Our audit report found a number of opportunities to bolster its strategy, particularly around how the PVS fleet might reduce its reliance on petroleum-based fuels.
While USPS has initiatives in place to reduce PVS miles driven, it doesn’t have a specific plan for how it will reduce the PVS fleet’s reliance on diesel fuel and its emissions of greenhouse gasses, or increase its use of alternative fuels, our report found. We also conducted an analysis on using compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles for part of the fleet and our results differed from the Postal Service. We determined CNG vehicles would provide a return on investment by saving on fuel costs over the life of the vehicles.
We also recommended the Postal Service integrate a telematics system, which collects, records, and transmits vehicle data to improve fuel efficiency. We recommended USPS include telematics technology in the global positioning system (GPS) tracking devices it puts on PVS vehicles.