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Clean Transport

USPS Inspector General Study Favors Electric Vehicles

The Inspector General for USPS weighs in on the new vehicle contract.

The Office of Inspector General for the USPS has conducted an exhaustive review of the proposed contract to replace the current post office delivery vehicles — some of which are nearly 30 years old — with modern vehicles that will deliver the mail through snow, rain, and gloom of night for the next two decades.

The US Postal Service is a favorite whipping boy for Republicans, who loathe anything and everything to do with government (they are happy to accept the free health insurance and extravagant retirement benefits that accrue to them when elected to Congress, however). A few years ago, the reining potentate sitting president appointed one of his biggest campaign donors to run the post office. So far, his major initiatives have led to slower deliveries at higher cost, proving the truth of the Republican mantra that government can’t do anything right — especially when it is run by Republicans!

A contract to build the next generation postal delivery vehicles — which will be the largest vehicle purchase in history — has been in the works for almost a decade. The new guy did finally get that task done and chose to hire a defense contractor with no experience building commercial vehicles to design and build a fleet of between 30,000 and 160,000 postal delivery vehicles, 90% of which would by powered by good old fashioned gasoline engines. Oddly enough, that same company is recommending electric vehicles to the US military. It’s true. We can’t make this stuff up!

At a time when postal services around the world are transitioning to electric vehicles to save money on fuel and maintenance costs, the US is poised to take a giant step back to the 1950s, a move that is antithetical to the need to reduce carbon emissions so the Earth doesn’t get so hot humans can no longer survive on this tiny blue lifeboat on the far edge of the galaxy.

In a capitalist economy that places no value on sustainability, the choice to stick with 120-year-old technology may make some sort of twisted sense, but if the harm done by burning fossil fuels is factored in, it is one of the dumbest decisions by a government agency since the FAA decided to allow Boeing to do its own safety analysis for the 737 Max.

An Extensive Report

The OIG report is extensive and you can read it all online, if you so desire. Boiling it down to its essence, it states nearly 99% of all postal delivery routes within the United States could be served reliably by battery-powered vehicles and that they would cost less to buy, fuel, and maintain than a conventional vehicle over their projected 20-year useful life.

The report does acknowledge that the batteries in those vehicles will likely need to be replaced after 10 years and figures the cost of doing so into its calculations. However, it points out that battery recycling will be commonplace 10 years from now, so those batteries will not be simply discarded once removed from the vehicles.

According to Autoblog, the OIG  “identified several clear benefits of adopting electric vehicles into the postal delivery fleet, including improved sustainability and environmental impacts,” and found, “Electric vehicles are generally more mechanically reliable than gas-powered vehicles and would require less maintenance. Energy costs will be lower for electric vehicles, as using electricity to power an electric vehicle is cheaper than using gasoline. Our research confirms that electric vehicle technology is generally capable of meeting the Postal Service’s needs.”

In the conclusion to its study, the OIG says, “As the Postal Service prepares to acquire a new delivery fleet, electric vehicles may be a good option for deployment on many postal routes. Operating many of these vehicles would have important environmental benefits, decreasing the Postal Service’s carbon emissions and encouraging growth in the electric vehicle market in the United States. The agency can, as it has in the past, take a leading role in advancing the adoption of new transportation technology.

“Foreign posts and private companies have already incorporated electric vehicles into their fleets, demonstrating that the technology is currently viable for a variety of uses. As the technology has evolved, there is no longer any question that electric vehicles can serve the functions necessary for postal delivery.”

USPS Infighting

A war of words has broken out between partisan supporters of current USPS head Louis DeJoy and the Office of Inspector General, with each pointing fingers at the other and accusing it of distortions, deception, and chicanery. A report in Government Executive this week says,

“Postal management took significant issue with the IG’s analysis, calling for corrections and further clarifications. It estimated, for example, that each charger would cost $18,000, whereas the IG said it would only be $7,300. The IG failed to consider the need for operational flexibility when suggesting the vehicles did not always need to stay fully charged, as well as the impact of postal-specific driving on a vehicle’s drivetrain. The IG stuck by its analysis, saying no changes were necessary.”

Earlier this month, Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia introduced the Green Postal Service Fleet Act, a bill that would block the postmaster general’s contract by requiring at least 75% of new USPS vehicles be electric or otherwise emissions-free. Connolly has called the contested USPS contract a “flagrant contradiction” to President Joe Biden’s goal of a fully electric federal fleet as well as “a devastating blow to our climate, to our effort to lead the world in green technology, and to our beloved Postal Service.”

A bill to provide the extra funds needed to purchase more fully electric vehicles for the USPS is being held up by alleged senator Joe Manchin, who has never met a campaign contribution from a fossil fuel company or pressure group he didn’t like. The upshot is, while the rest of the world embraces electric vehicles, DeJoy is holding a figurative gun to the head of Congress and demanding, “Give me more money or our postal vehicles will be spewing out carbon dioxide and deadly toxins until nearly mid-century and it will be all your fault!”

The Takeaway

That no consideration whatsoever is given to the health and well being of the citizens of the United States when choosing what vehicles the USPS should use to deliver the mail for the next 20 years is testament to the flinty-hearted nature of the reactionaries who fly the flag of the former president. They ain’t worried in the slightest about you. Their only concern is how to protect themselves and their generous friends.

America has the best government money can buy. This catastrophe of a contract proves it.

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Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


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