Legal action could delay replacement of aging postal fleet | News, Sports, Jobs


PORTLAND, Maine – Postal workers, excited to deliver in modern, comfortable and environmentally friendly vehicles, persevere in their aging, spartan trucks.

The main fleet of vehicles – dating from 1987 – was due to be replaced under a new contract, but the winning bid for the new trucks is contested. This means that the delivery of new trucks scheduled for 2023 could be delayed.

“The longer it drags on, the more lives are in danger”, said John Graham, a postal carrier who operates one of the older vehicles in Portland, Maine.

Most workers don’t care what model they get. They just want something safe.

More than 150 of the current vehicles caught fire. They lack adequate heating and cooling, they offer low fuel consumption, and they become difficult to maintain.

The Grumman Long Life Vehicle lived up to its name. They entered service from 1987 to 1994 with a 24 year lifespan promise. The oldest of these have survived about 34 years of grueling use on the daily postal routes from snow-capped Maine to sunny California.

Most postal carriers will tell you they weren’t that great, even in their prime.

They’re built on a General Motors chassis with bodywork supplied by Grumman and they’re powered by a four-cylinder engine that was supposed to provide fuel economy – but actually delivers around 9 miles per gallon (4 kilometers per liter) on routes. in stop-and-go. Modern safety features like airbags and anti-lock brakes are missing.

A glaring flaw in Maine’s cold winters is inadequate heating.

Worse yet, the lack of air conditioning which allows temperatures to soar to dangerous levels inside vehicles on hot summer days. A postal worker died of heat stroke earlier this summer during a heat wave in California.

Fires have become a frequent danger. The Postal Times keeps a tally with photos on its website. They were 19 so far this year, including five in July.

In Florida, Kathleen Shunstrom saw one of them catch fire. She opened her blinds to see her local carrier’s mail truck ablaze in her neighbor’s driveway in Niceville on the Florida Panhandle.

The transporter noticed that his vehicle was smoking after delivering a package. By the time someone dialed 911, it had caught fire. No one was hurt.

“It was scary to see” said Shunstrom, who captured video of the flames on July 24 on his cell phone. “It went up so fast. “

The US Postal Service has more than 230,000 vehicles. That includes 190,000 local delivery vehicles, of which more than 141,000 are Grumman LLVs, USPS spokesman Kim Frum said.

“The current delivery fleet has reached a critical point where it is no longer profitable to maintain the fleet in order to provide a reliable and efficient delivery service to citizens while meeting the needs of carriers” said Frum.

A tendering process was supposed to be a turning point.

Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Defense won the tender in February for the next-generation delivery vehicle, with the first deliveries slated for late 2023.

It is a greener vehicle with modern amenities like air conditioning and safety features like airbags, rear view cameras and crash prevention. Trucks are also taller to make it easier for postal carriers to pick up packages and parcels that made up a much larger portion of their deliveries, even before the pandemic.

But a losing bidder, an Ohio company called Workhorse Group, challenged the fairness of the decision in June.

There is no deadline for protest decisions, but research suggests that contract challenges typically take around four to five months from filing to decision, according to David Ralston and Frank Murray, attorneys for Foley & Lardner. Washington-based LLPs.

The original contract for Oshkosh Defense was $ 482 million for the completion and testing of the final design, as well as retooling and building its plant to produce gas and electric versions. But the value could reach billions of dollars if Oshkosh delivers 165,000 vehicles over the next decade. Workhorse Group estimated the total contract value at $ 3.1 billion in its contract challenge.

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