Most of the vehicles that are iconic of the U.S. Postal Service are in desperate need of an emergency delivery. The vehicles were designed with a 24-year life cycle, and are simply getting old. Agency reports say that replacing the entire fleet with similar vehicles would cost $4.2 billion. Is replacement the only option?
Postal service LLVs
The right handed delivery trucks that the postal service uses are known as LLVs — Long Life Vehicles. The trucks were designed with a 24-year lifecycle of daily driving. That 24 year lifecycle is coming to a close. The Postal Service Inspector General has said that, over the next eight years, the Postal Service would spend more repairing the vehicles than replacing them.
Price of repairing USPS vehicles
In fiscal year 2009, the U.S. Postal Service spent $524 million on LLV repair. Generally, repairing the vehicles rather than replacing them has been a good financial decision. The average repair bill for each LLV is about $5,600, with some going as high as $40,000. The vehicles do not usually require specialized maintenance, though the right-handed driving setup can cause more expensive maintenance at times.
Replacing the LLV fleet
The cost to benefit comparison of continuing to repair the LLV fleet is quickly turning upside down. In the next eight years, the postal service will actually lose money if it repairs rather than replaces any vehicles that have a repair bill of more than $3,500. Straight-across replacement of the full LLV fleet would cost $30,000 per truck.
Testing Postal Service vehicle alternatives
The alternatives for U.S. Postal Service delivery vehicles are being heavily researched. The USPS has offered a $50,000 reward to five different firms for providing a working prototype of a USPS vehicle by August. Letter carriers in many other areas are testing three-wheeled electric vehicles, bicycles, and more traditional minivan-style vehicles for delivering the mail, rain or shine.