“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
Many people believe this is the official motto of the U.S. Postal Service. In fact, the quote comes from ‘The Persian Wars’ by Herodotus, who wrote about the diligence of Persian mounted postal couriers who operated during the Greek and Persian wars from 500 to 449 B.C.
William Mitchell Kendall, a fan of classic literature, was an architect with McKim, Mead & White. When his firm had the honor of designing the New York General Post Office on 8th Avenue, it was his idea to chisel the quote in the granite over the office’s entrance.
Apparently, the Persians never had to worry about postal trucks.
The USPS has more than 230,000 vehicles, including 190,000 local delivery vehicles. According to USPS spokesperson Kim Frum, more than 141,000 of those are Grumman Long Life Vehicles.
Grumman was awarded the contract to produce mail trucks – in 1987. From 1987 to 1994, the fleet of trucks were built on a Ford chassis with a body provided by Grumman. Promising a 24-year service life, the vehicles contain a four-cylinder engine that was supposed to be fuel efficient, but actually only gets about 9 miles per gallon. Plus, they were built without modern safety features, like airbags and anti-lock brakes.
After three decades, most of their heaters and air conditioners don’t work either, which can be dangerous in Wisconsin winters or Arizona summers. Earlier this year, a postal worker died from a heat stroke during a heat wave in California.
The vehicles are also prone to fires, with more than 150 bursting into flame to date. The Postal Times keeps track of these incidents, recording 19 of them already in 2021, including five in July.
According to Frum, “The current delivery fleet has reached a critical point where it is no longer cost-effective to maintain the fleet in order to provide reliable and efficient delivery service for citizens while meeting the needs of carriers.” As a result, the USPS invited competitive bids to build a new fleet.
Our own Oshkosh Defense won the bid in February for the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle, with the first deliveries set for late 2023. The initial contract for Oshkosh Defense was for $482 million for retooling and building out its factory, however, the value could result in billions of dollars if Oshkosh delivers the expected 165,000 vehicles over the next ten years.
Oshkosh Defense proposed to build a mix of more fuel-efficient gas and electric trucks with modern amenities like climate control and safety features like air bags, backup cameras and collision avoidance. The trucks are also taller, making it easier for postal carriers to retrieve and deliver packages and parcels, which have made up a greater portion of their deliveries, especially since the pandemic.
Workhorse Group also bid on the project, but ultimately wasn’t chosen. However, in June, Workhorse challenged the fairness of the bidding process. In its challenge, the Ohio-based company estimates the total contract value at up to $3.1 billion. Accordingly, with that much money at stake, the dispute might end up going to the Court of Appeals.
As a result, postal carriers won’t get their new trucks until well past Oshkosh Defense’s expected delivery date.
I had a great post office joke to include at the end of this article. I tried it out on my wife, but she told me not to use it. She said I needed to work on my delivery.