Postal Updates

Postal Service balked at electric delivery trucks in 2009

Apr 18, 2022, 3 PM

Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister

There is nothing new about Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s reluctance to plunge into the electric truck market.

At an April 5 hearing of the House of Representative’s Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., disclosed that he and another postal official tried without success to get the United States Postal Service to seek federal stimulus dollars for new delivery trucks in 2009.

To Connolly and Ruth Y. Goldway of the Postal Regulatory Commission, it seemed like an easy solution to the obvious need to replace an already aging fleet of ironically named “longlife” postal vehicles.

Connolly said the postmaster general at the time was having none of the idea, reportedly saying “We don’t want to be a guinea pig.”

John E. Potter was the postmaster general at the time, according to Goldway. She had floated the idea of electric delivery trucks in an opinion column published Feb. 9, 2009, in The New York Times.

Citing an Obama administration plan to put 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015, she thought the plan should include “plugging in the Postal Service.”

“So why not spread the stimulus to every community in the country by investing in the Postal Service?” she asked in the 2009 column.

“Potter called me up the day the piece appeared and complimented me and said it was a great idea,” Goldway recalled in an email to Linn’s Stamp News.

“But then I didn’t hear from him for a couple of months. When he spoke to me again, he said USPS wasn’t ready to experiment,” she said.

Goldway said Potter had visited with the leaders of General Motors in Detroit. “USPS engineers have been resistant to change for a long time but this romance with the combustion engine has been going on for much too long,” she said.

Goldway continued to press for change at the USPS. One of her projects was the forever stamp, implemented in 2007.

Potter, who now heads the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority, said in an interview there were “no viable” electric trucks available in 2009 for the Postal Service’s needs.

His meeting with General Motors was about the need for trucks with steering on the ride side that were made in the United States — not about the electric truck issue, he said.

There was also pressure from Congress for propane-powered postal vehicles, Potter said, adding that neither electric nor propane vehicles were viable at the time.

Potter declined to offer an opinion on the current congressional debate over electric postal trucks, saying that was a matter for the lawmakers to decide. He also said he didn’t know where the guinea pig remark referred to by Connolly came from.

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