WASHINGTON — Pending multi-billion-dollar acquisitions of delivery vehicles by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), with changes in vehicle design motivated by e-commerce and other considerations, could mean big changes in the postal service's light truck tire purchases.
Precisely what those changes will be, however, is still anybody's guess.
"The Postal Service is in a multi-year process of conducting research and testing as a part of our efforts to operate a future class of delivery vehicles that will incorporate new technology to accommodate a diverse mail mix, enhance safety, improve service, reduce emissions and produce operational savings," a USPS spokeswoman said.
The agency completed testing in March on New Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV) prototypes from five potential suppliers, and it expects to award the contract for vehicle production later this year, according to the spokeswoman.
- This article appears in the Aug. 5 print edition of Tire Business.
However, the USPS cannot comment on the suppliers or on any potential subcontractors, including tire makers, she said. Among those known to have submitted prototypes for testing are AM General L.L.C., Oshkosh Corp. and Mahindra Automotive North America.
Most of the prototypes competing for the NGDV contract are larger than the ubiquitous "Long Life Vehicles" (LLV) the USPS has been using for nearly 30 years and are outfitted with tires larger than the 14- and 15-inch diameter tires used now.
Among the design/performance criteria the USPS has outlined for the new-generation delivery vehicles are a service life of 18 to 20 years, right-hand steering with two-wheel drive, a van-style body with integral cargo and cab compartment, sliding side doors and a minimum 1,500-pound payload capacity with 330 to 400 cubic feet of cargo space.
A July 2018 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office stated that the Postal Service projects expenditures of roughly $821 million annually from fiscal year 2018 through 2028 on vehicles, primarily new delivery vehicles starting in fiscal year 2019.
The USPS operates a fleet of more than 200,000 vehicles throughout the U.S. and its territories, approximately 163,000 of which are LLVs purchased between 1987 and 2001. In addition to LLVs, the USPS uses vans, 2-ton vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles and tractor trailers.
The USPS is looking to replace up to 180,000 aging mail trucks, according to various sources.
"(The) USPS plans to take a number of steps to ensure that the vehicles best meet the organization's needs," the GAO report said. It designed the multi-year acquisition partly to avoid large cash outlays in any given year and partly to take advantage of technological changes such as advanced fuel technologies, it said.
USPS officials told the GAO that they were considering vehicles that enhance operational efficiency, such as taller vehicles that would better allow carriers to handle packages and trays of mail. They also said they may consider different vehicle designs for different market needs.
The agency estimated its total capital outlay for new delivery vehicles at about $5.7 billion, the GAO said.