Postal Updates

USPS says it needs congressional support for all-electric truck fleet

Mar 17, 2021, 3 PM
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy wants taxpayers to help fund the costs of the U.S. Postal Service’s next generation delivery vehicles.

Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister

In a dramatic change, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has told Congress he wants to make the United States Postal Service’s new delivery fleet all electric.

That’s a reversal of his earlier prediction that only 10 percent of the so-called next generation delivery vehicles would be electric.

But there is a catch to DeJoy’s change: He wants taxpayers to help fund the costs of the new trucks.

“We are very, excited about having an electric fleet,” he told the House of Representative’s Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government on March 11. This subcommittee is part of the House Committee on Appropriations.

Rep. Michael Quigley, D-Ill., raised the issue, saying the costs to create charging stations for the postal fleet were the agency’s concern.

DeJoy, who had spent most of the hearing fending off complaints about poor mail service, said that he would “welcome the help” of Congress to pay for an all-electric fleet.

On Feb. 24, a day after the USPS awarded Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Corp. a 10-year contract for production of the new delivery vehicles, DeJoy told the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that the financially strapped USPS could not afford the added costs of making the entire fleet electric powered.

Some House Democrats, citing the Biden administration’s plan for all government vehicles to be powered by electricity, were upset by DeJoy’s comments.

They are planning legislation to require the Postal Service to make most of its trucks electric.

The Oshkosh contract has the potential to be valued at $5 billion or more, according to industry estimates.

In a statement provided by the USPS before the March 11 hearing, there was a suggestion that the USPS was planning for an all-electric fleet all along. 

“When the U.S. Postal Service selected the supplier for production of its next generation of postal vehicles, we imagined an electric vehicle future, committing $482 million at contract award to prepare for it,” USPS spokeswoman Kimberly Frum said.

“The challenge remains the Postal Service’s billions in annual operating losses, which is why we welcome and are interested in any support from Congress that advances the goal of a Postal Service vehicle fleet with zero emissions, and the necessary infrastructure required to operate it,” she said.

“With the right level of support, the majority of the Postal Service’s fleet can be electric by the end of the decade,” Frum said.

After the hearing, the USPS released a letter about the truck purchases that DeJoy sent to the Senate Homeland Security Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

In the letter, DeJoy said “the initial ten percent electric vehicle quantity” was “a floor — not a ceiling” as some media outlets have reported.

“With the right level of congressional support, we can commit to a majority of the Postal Service’s fleet being electric within ten years,” the letter said.

The letter put the additional cost for moving more quickly to an all-electric fleet at “approximately $8 billion.”

At the March 11 hearing, DeJoy made the first appearance of a postmaster general before the House Committee on Appropriations in almost 20 years, according to Quigley, who chaired the meeting.

In his prepared remarks, DeJoy dealt with his agency’s request for $320.5 million for free mail for the blind and overseas voting, two small areas of postal operations that Congress still funds.

The issue of the new mail trucks did not emerge until Quigley raised it during the final round of questions.

Until then, DeJoy had remained on the defensive, peppered with questions about slow mail service and a long-promised 10-year plan for the USPS.

The postmaster general, who took office June 15, 2020, defended his actions, saying that the Postal Service’s mail network was insufficient to handle a holiday surge of mail last year. 

“Our network has been eroding for years,” he said.

He also blamed a large number of COVID-19 illnesses in the Postal Service’s workforce for mail delays that he acknowledged were unacceptable.

He did say that some projections warn of another 35 percent to 40 percent decline in first-class mail in the next 10 years, while package volumes will continue to climb.

“We need to organize ourselves,” he told the panel.

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