The Postal Service’s mail delivery vehicles are in dire need of replacement, but the agency doesn’t have enough money to buy a new fleet.
In a new report, the USPS Inspector General said the agency’s current fleet will only allow it to sustain delivery operations through fiscal 2017.
“The Postal Service’s ongoing financial constraints have limited its ability to implement delivery fleet replacement plans,” the report stated.
USPS owns nearly 200,000 vehicles that it uses to collect and deliver mail, 75 percent of which are long-life vehicles (LLVs). USPS’ current fleet of LLVs is between 20 and 27 years old. These trucks have an expected service life of 24 years.
The age of the trucks poses safety risks for drivers, the report said. Many of the vehicles do not have modern safety features, such as front airbags, seatbelt reminders or anti-lock brake systems.
The agency developed two plans in June 2011 to address the aging fleet issue. The short-term plan included acquiring 25,000 vehicles at a cost of $500 million “to meet operational needs and replace some of the aging fleet,” the IG report said. But the Capitol Investment Committee shot down the plan, because USPS lacked appropriations to implement it.
The long-term plan involved purchasing new vehicles beginning in 2017. USPS would buy 20,000 vehicles per year to replace old LLVs. This plan was not approved either, due to fiscal constraints.
Repair or replace?
As the vehicles become older, maintenance and repair costs increase. The Postal Service projected that nearly 13,000 vehicles would require repairs costing more than $6,000 per vehicle per year, for a total of more than $107 million annually.
Replacing the vehicles, in some cases, would actually be more cost-effective than the repairs. USPS retires about 1,300 vehicles per year “due to excessive repair costs or unavailability of parts for older minivans,” the report said.
The IG recommended that USPS update its long-term strategy to include “requirements, specifications and green technology features for the next generation of collection and delivery vehicles.”
“Growth in the package market could help dictate the design and technologies selected for a new vehicle,” the report said. USPS may need to acquire larger vehicles with greater capacity, in order to accommodate the growing package market.
The IG also asked that USPS consider “emerging vehicle technologies.” The agency should ensure at least 75 percent of the new vehicles use alternative fuels and are manufactured in the U.S. or Canada. It should purchase vehicles that include safety features lacking in the current fleet.
The report suggested using a GPS tracking solution, which would allow USPS to more closely monitor emergencies, rerouting or maintenance needs. The GPS could also monitor idling time, which in turn could help manage fuel consumption.
The Postal Service expects to have a strategy by Jan. 2015.