New postal truck sought by USPS

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The USPS is in the market for a new postal truck. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The USPS is in the market for a new postal truck. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

A new postal truck is being sought by the United States Postal Service. The previous model, the Grumman LLV, is well past it’s sell-by date and a new car is being looked into.

Grumman LLV to be retired as standard postal truck

The current postal truck, the Grumman LLV, is being eyed for delivery into retirement. The LLV – or “Long Life Vehicle” made by the otherwise aircraft-intensive Northrop Grumman Corporation, is a Northrop Grumman designed body, according to the Wall Street Journal, riding on a Chevrolet S-10 chassis. Some 163,000 were made between 1987 and 1994.

According to the fountain of all internet knowledge, Wikipedia, the powertrain is by General Motors, namely a three-speed auto (!) and some still run the GM Iron Duke four-cylinder, and those went out of style with Members Only jackets.

The average age of the LLV today is 24 years old, according to the Washington Post. Fuel economy is often 10 miles per gallon. Parts are harder to come by and repair costs for the USPS vehicle fleet, according to Car and Driver were at $452 million per year, averaging $3,000 per vehicle.

It’s about to time for a new car.

But can they afford one?

Of course, a new postal truck is going to be costly. The USPS is shooting for a per unit cost of $25,000 to $35,000, but the agency has exhausted all available credit and has been running billions of dollars in the red for years. The total bill is expected to be more than $5 billion, money the USPS doesn’t have.

Granted, most of that is down to a capricious law after sufficient members of Congress were lobbied (by which we mean bribed) by FedEx, but one digresses.

Given that the bulk of the postal service’s business these days is packages, a larger van-style body is desired, to accommodate more cargo, along with easier rear access and a minivan-style sliding side door. Right-hand drive is naturally a requisite.

Naturally, a replacement for a vehicle called the Long Lived Vehicle has to be engineered for a lifecycle of 20 years or more. It’s projected that the new vehicles may enter service by 2018. A number of automakers have expressed interest, including Nissan, General Motors, Ford and Fiat/Chrysler.

Nor dark of night

Current postal trucks are certainly barebones and these are not supposed to be like passenger vehicles. That said, surveys of current mail carrier complaints don’t paint a great picture of life in these vehicles.

One of the most common carrier requests in surveys of mail carriers was adjustable seat belts – and shoulder belts. Car makers couldn’t sell a car without a driver shoulder belt in 1987.

Car and Driver quoted an anonymous postal carrier, who also reported that since NGC put the tailpipe on the driver side, carriers sample daily the exquisite perfume of eau de 20-year old car exhaust. There is also no air conditioning and while most LLVs have heaters, not many work.

Why shouldn’t the USPS get into the 21st Century?

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