Review Sought on USPS Decision to Buy Gas-Powered Trucks

USPS Next-Generation Delivery Vehicle
A prototype of the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle scheduled to be built for the U.S. Postal Service by Oshkosh. (USPS)

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House Democrats are asking the U.S. Postal Service’s inspector general to investigate the agency’s decision to replace its mail-truck fleet with almost all gasoline-powered models, a move that paved the way for a contract with Wisconsin military truck maker Oshkosh Corp. worth as much as $6 billion.

The Postal Service violated legal environmental requirements in its decision to move forward with the plan, the lawmakers wrote in a letter March 14 to Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb. They asked for an investigation into whether the agency complied with national law in its environmental rationale underpinning the decision.

The letter, spearheaded by leaders on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, cited criticism of the independent agency by the White House Council for Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA faulted the environmental analysis underlying the Postal Service’s purchase plans, saying it underestimates greenhouse gas emissions, didn’t disclose economic assumptions and was conducted after its contract for the so-called next-generation delivery vehicles already was awarded.

“These significant concerns warrant an investigation by the OIG,” the lawmakers said in the letter. “It is critical that Congress understand whether the Postal Service properly met its statutory environmental obligations.”

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The Postal Service announced in February 2021 it was awarding a long-delayed contract to Oshkosh for as many as 165,000 vehicles over a decade to replace its fleet of outdated gas-guzzling postal trucks, rejecting a bid from fledgling electric vehicle specialist Workhorse Group Inc.

As many as 90% of those will run on gas instead of batteries, according to a plan completed by the Postal Service last month despite lobbying by top Biden administration officials and environmentalists to purchase an electric vehicle fleet.

The Postal Service has said it could buy additional electric vehicles if more funding becomes available.

“The main thing I want to happen is for us not to be stuck with a fleet of gas-guzzling clunkers,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, a California Democrat who signed the letter. “This is one-third of the federal vehicle fleet.”