By Peter Fricke, DCNF
At the urging of congressional Democrats, the United States Postal Service has begun the process of modernizing its mail trucks at a projected cost of up to $6.3 billion.
The USPS will accept proposals between now and June for a “Next Generation Delivery Vehicle” which will replace the “Long Life Vehicles” that have been in use since 1987, Fox News reported Monday.
Starting in 2018, the Postal Service plans to purchase 180,000 NGDV’s over a 5-7 year period, with an expected price tag of $25,000 to $35,000 per vehicle. If those targets are met, the total cost of the upgrades should run between $4.5 billion and $6.3 billion.
“This is like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” Taxpayers Protection Alliance president David Williams told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The problem is not their fleet; it’s their business model.”
Williams noted the USPS is currently losing about $5.5 billion per year thanks to a congressional mandate that the agency pre-fund its pension obligations. That requirement is about to expire, “but spending $6 billion would put them right back in the dark,” he said.
The decision was finalized just days after Democrats introduced legislation in both the House and the Senate requiring the USPS to reduce fuel consumption by its vehicles. While the bills would not mandate a fleet upgrade directly, that would likely be the only way for the agency to comply with the law.
According to a press release from Democratic Rep. Jared Huffman, who is sponsoring the measure in the House, the Federal Leadership in Energy Efficient Transportation Act would require the USPS to reduce its petroleum consumption by 2 percent each year over the next 10 years.
Huffman points out LLV’s only average about 10 miles per gallon, resulting in a $1.7 billion fuel bill for the USPS in 2010. “Implementation of the FLEET Act would save the Postal Service an estimated 150 million gallons of fuel over the next ten years—about $350 million in cost savings,” he claims.
“We appreciate the fact that they want to save money,” Williams told TheDCNF. ”But when you spend billions to save millions, it just shows why the Postal Service is losing money.”
Williams said he is also skeptical of the motivations behind the bill, expressing concern that the Postal Service would “purchase the new trucks based on a green philosophy rather than getting the best bang for their buck.”
While the potential fuel savings represent only a fraction of the lowest cost estimate for upgrading the fleet, some supporters of the effort say additional cost savings would result from improving vehicle safety.
“New crash avoidance devices would have the potential to significantly reduce accidents, yielding serious cost savings as a result,” Democratic Sens. Cory Booker, Brian Schatz and Gary Peters claim in a letter sent to the postmaster general last week, according to Postal Reporter.
“Investing in proven safety technologies to reduce the rate of expensive accidents in the USPS fleet should be a priority,” the senators argue. “In recent years there have been over 20,000 motor vehicle accidents involving USPS vehicles annually.”