Those boxy long-life Grumman trucks that have been the United States Postal Service’s primary residential delivery vehicle for almost 30 years may finally be getting a replacement.
The USPS called potential manufacturers to a Washington meeting in February.
The Postal Service would like to get prototypes of a new truck that it could test next year.
The idea would be to begin production in 2017 and have the first of the new trucks in service by 2018.
Postal officials have repeatedly said the Grumman trucks, which went into service in 1987, have managed to stay operational well beyond their expected lives.
But the problem has been that the financially pressed agency does not have the funds for the new trucks.
Estimates for the 180,000 trucks it needs suggest the USPS could need $4.5 billion to $6.3 billion.
The trucks could cost between $25,000 and $35,000 each, according to a federal website that says the sale could be one of the biggest fleet purchases ever.
To get that type of money Congress would have to act on the agency’s long-pending request for financial aid.
The problem with the current fleet is two-fold. First, the Grumman trucks are old and costly to maintain. Second, they are not ideal for the package mail that is now being carried by the agency.
That calls for a larger truck much like the delivery vans used by FedEx and UPS.
The trucks must have right-side drives and be built to last 15 years.
Deliveries would be phased over several years, which means that the long-life trucks must have an even longer life.
New coalition: ‘Save Our Postal Service’
When lawmakers get around to addressing the Postal Service’s pleas for changes in its mission, they will find there is a new player in postal politics.
A coalition of postal unions and activist groups has formed under the banner of the “Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service.”
Its website proclaims: “The United States Postal Service is a wonderful national treasure, enshrined in the Constitution and supported by the American people.”
“But the USPS and postal jobs are threatened by narrow monied interests aimed at undermining postal services and dismantling this great public institution,” it adds, accusing “some postal executives” of aiding the destruction of the agency.
Those arguments are the same as those voiced by rural legislators and union officials who have been critical of the Postal Service’s plans to close 82 more mail processing plants and to slow mail deliveries in an effort to cut costs.
More from Linns.com: