U.S. Postal Service solidifies commitment to electric trucks
By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has doubled the percentage of electric trucks he is willing to buy for the United States Postal Service’s new delivery fleet.
But that’s not enough for Democrats in the House of Representatives who still demand the Postal Service make most of the trucks electric.
The Postal Service disclosed March 24 that it is planning to make at least 10,019 of its initial order of 50,000 trucks electric.
That’s 20 percent, double the 10 percent that the USPS previously announced as its target for electric delivery trucks.
There were hints, however, from DeJoy and Oshkosh Defense, the truck maker, that the number could go higher.
“While I am happy to see the Postal Service increasing the number of electric vehicles it is purchasing, it is still not enough,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
“The Postal Service must prioritize the acquisition of electric vehicles or it will be stuck with outdated technology that further pollutes our environment for decades,” she said.
DeJoy, who had maintained that 10 percent was a good number for an agency with financial troubles, had come under fire from Congressional Democrats who want to make the USPS truck purchases adhere to President Joe Biden’s plan to put the federal government firmly behind electric vehicles.
At $2.98 billion, the USPS truck order is one of the largest purchases in recent history.
The new trucks will replace an aging fleet of 190,000 postal delivery vehicles, many of which are more than 30 years old and prone to catch fire.
What changed DeJoy’s mind?
First, the Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General told DeJoy that despite their higher costs, the electric trucks could be a bargain in the days of soaring gas prices and offer lower maintenance costs.
Second, House Democrats are pressing legislation that would block the USPS from buying a fleet of new vehicles unless 75 percent of them are electric or emission-free.
Finally, to pay for the almost $3 billion in vehicles, the USPS is likely to need some taxpayer funding.
In a March 24 news release, DeJoy seemed to retreat from his stance favoring gasoline-powered trucks.
Citing the Postal Service’s research, DeJoy said, “We have determined that increasing our initial electric vehicle purchase from 5,000 to 10,019 makes good sense from an operational and financial perspective.”
“Today’s order demonstrates, as we have said all along, that the Postal Service is fully committed to the inclusion of electric vehicles as a significant part of our delivery fleet, even though the investment will cost more than an internal combustion engine vehicle,” he said.
Oshkosh Defense, which will build the trucks at a new plant in South Carolina, also noted in its announcement that the USPS “Next Generation Delivery Vehicles” contract “allows the flexibility, when funding is provided, to increase the percentage of BEVs [battery electric vehicles] to be produced even after an order is placed.”
The opening of the Spartanburg, S.C., plant has been controversial among House Democrats.
They have questioned whether Oshkosh Defense, a subsidiary of Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Corp., moved the assembly plant south to avoid its unionized workforce in Wisconsin.
The company said it has begun work on its new plant and is hiring workers for the facility. The first trucks are due to roll off production lines there in 2023.
Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations, which handles postal issues, was among the Democrats unhappy over DeJoy’s action.
“This is still woefully short of what the USPS should do in transitioning to the clean EV [electric vehicle] fleet of tomorrow,” Connolly said. “It’s time to be bold and visionary, not settle for a band-aid on this problem.”
Connolly and 70 other House Democrats are sponsoring legislation that would prohibit the USPS from purchasing any new delivery vehicles unless at least 75 percent are electric or otherwise emission-free.
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