- the u.s. postal service announced last spring that it would buy around 150,000 new mail trucks from oshkosh defense, and that they would be gas-powered instead of electric.
- the epa asked the usps to pause the contract and take a more serious look at evs for these daily work trucks that follow a known route and return to a centralized location each night.
- the usps is independent of the executive branch and so doesn't have to follow the epa's request, and it has decided to go ahead with the original plan.
update 2/23/22: the usps announced today that it will move ahead with its original plan to purchase a fleet of gas-powered replacements for its aging mail trucks. in a statement, the agency acknowledged the pushback it received from the epa, which previously urged further consideration of ev trucks rather than the inefficient internal-combustion oshkosh defense trucks chosen for the replacement contract. in response to the epa's pleas, postmaster general louis dejoy noted that "the process needs to move forward," suggesting that there is no legal reason to delay the existing replacement program. the usps did say that it plans to put 5000 electric delivery trucks into service starting in 2023 and claims that there is room for more evs to be added to the mix "should additional funding become available."
upgrading the u.s. postal service’s truck fleet has been a long and controversial process, and we're not done yet. as a quick recap, the usps started looking for replacements for 150,000 or so grumman long life vehicles (llvs) in around 2015. for a while, it looked like the new fleet might be made up of mostly electric vehicles, but when the contract for the new mail trucks was awarded to oshkosh defense in the spring of 2021, the usps said only 10 percent of the new mail trucks might be electric. one of the contenders for an electric truck, workhorse, sued the usps last summer over the deal.
now the government is asking the usps to pause on the $11.3 billion contract and reconsider the gas-powered truck purchases in the face of climate damage.
the biden administration and the epa told the usps, which operates independent of the executive branch, that the new oshkosh trucks are just 0.4 mile per gallon more efficient compared to the outgoing llvs—8.6 mpg versus 8.2 mpg for the older vehicles. it also said that the environmental impact statements (eis) the usps conducted as it decided where to award the contract were not conducted correctly.
the epa sent a letter to the usps yesterday that said that the whole reason to buy new mail trucks was to make them cleaner, better, and safer. the epa said last fall that it had a problem with how the usps conducted an earlier eis about the truck purchase and that “the final eis remains seriously deficient.”
"specifically," it went on, "the final eis does not disclose essential information underlying the key analysis of total cost of ownership, underestimates greenhouse-gas emissions, fails to consider more environmentally protective feasible alternatives, and inadequately considers impacts on communities with environmental justice concerns," the epa letter said. the epa or the biden administration could also sue the usps to reconsider the truck purchases, something that adrian martinez, an attorney for the environmental law firm earthjustice, thinks could work.
“it is hard to predict what courts will do, but the postal service’s work here is just so embarrassingly flimsy,” martinez told the washington post. “they don't reveal the source of the information for many of their conclusions, instead dismissing electrification outright.”
powering the usps's standard mail delivery trucks with electrons instead of gasoline would go a long way to hitting president biden’s january 2021 executive order that would replace the federal government's current fleet of vehicles with evs as part of an expanded buy american act. the federal government had more than 645,000 vehicles in its fleet in 2019, about a quarter of which would be replaced by the 165,000 new trucks the usps is looking to buy over the next decade.
too expensive, says usps
the usps's defense is that it would simply be too expensive to buy tens of thousands of electric vehicles.
"while we can understand why some who are not responsible for the financial sustainability of the postal service might prefer that the postal service acquire more electric vehicles, the law requires the postal service to be self-sufficient," a usps spokesperson told the post in a statement.
president biden's social spending package proposal unveiled last year included $6 billion for the usps to purchase new vehicles, but that proposal is still being debated in congress. in late january, the california air resources board asked the usps to hold a public hearing about its vehicle purchase plans, and the epa joined that call in its letter yesterday. epa officials told the post that even if the usps goes ahead with the gas-powered vehicles this year, there may still be time to shift the bulk of the purchases to electric in the coming years.