USPS Pushes Ahead With Gas Mail Truck Purchase, Defying White House

The postal service is intent on purchasing gasoline-powered trucks from Oshkosh Defense despite the president’s misgivings on the deal.

byLewin Day|
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Last year saw the reveal of the US Postal Service's new delivery truck from Oshkosh Defense. As part of a 10-year, $6 billion deal, the USPS aims to purchase up to 165,000 new trucks to replace its aging delivery fleet. The Biden administration has been pushing for the deal to include more electric vehicles, as current plans are for just 10% to be electric. However, as reported by Bloomberg, the USPS has gone ahead with the deal anyway, finalizing the contract on Wednesday. 

The decision comes in the face of lobbying from the Biden administration and the EPA, both asserting that the contract should have more of a focus on climate-friendly electric vehicles. Vicki Arroyo, the EPA Associate Administrator, claimed the decision is a "crucial lost opportunity to be a leader in reducing the carbon footprint of one of the largest government fleets in the world.” It's a decision with long-reaching ramifications; the trucks are expected to serve for several decades like the Grumman LLVs they are intended to replace. 

The USPS's status as an independent agency means that the White House cannot directly intervene in the matter. However, previous decisions in the federal courts have determined that the USPS is still subject to the National Environmental Policy Act, which means that analysis is required for major decisions on policy. The contract for new vehicles is contingent on this process. 

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has come out in favor of the decision, noting the urgency of the fleet replacement effort. DeJoy noted in a statement that the USPS "will continue to pursue the acquisition of additional BEV as additional funding — from either internal or congressional sources — becomes available." If that name sounds familiar, it's likely because DeJoy was at the center of the 2020 controversy that saw sorting machines dismantled and postboxes removed immediately prior to the 2020 presidential election. The issue spurred lawsuits from over 20 states, amid criticism that the postal service was drastically compromised by the changes. 

The USPS has also been criticized for its analysis that led to its choice of primarily gasoline-powered trucks. Calculations were based on gasoline prices of just $2.15 a gallon, a price in stark contrast to the current average of $3.48 a gallon that Americans are now paying.  Congressman Tim Ryan also asked the SEC to investigate a $54 million buy of Oshkosh Defense stock that happened just hours ahead of the USPS's awarded the company the contract in March last year.

The Oshkosh Defense vehicles have also received criticism for their fuel economy of just 8.6 mpg during postal duties, a tiny improvement over the 8.2 mpg averaged by the outgoing decades-old Grumman LLVs. Critics argue that electric vehicles would have manifold benefits in the stop-start delivery role, where instant-on torque of electric motors and regenerative braking would net major gains in addition to the benefits of lower emissions.

While the USPS is pushing ahead, the move is likely to receive further legal challenges in court by environmental groups. The primary challenge is expected to concern the basis of the analysis used to justify the purchase of gasoline-powered delivery trucks. Meanwhile, the Zero Emissions Transport Association, an industry group for EV manufacturers, called on the USPS Board of Governors to halt the procurement process until the organization resolves issues with the environmental impact statement of the purchase. 

While opposition remains, the USPS is keen to press on and start replacing its fleet post-haste. "The process needs to keep moving forward. The men and women of the U.S. Postal Service have waited long enough for safer, cleaner vehicles," said Dejoy.

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