USPS sued by states, climate orgs, UAW over inefficient mail trucks

The U.S. Postal Service is being sued by 16 states, two large climate organizations and the United Auto Workers union in an effort to block the purchase of more than 140,000 new mail delivery trucks. The groups primarily cite their potential environmental impact and the USPS choice to pay Wisconsin contractor Oshkosh to begin production without first conducting a thorough climate-based analysis of the decision, The Washington Post reports. 

Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed the suit alongside attorneys general from Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, the District of Columbia, New York City and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Post reports. Oshkosh’s announcement that it would build the new mail trucks in South Carolina rather than a union state prompted the United Auto Workers union to join the suit. 

“The Postal Service has a historic opportunity to invest in our planet and in our future. Instead, it is doubling down on outdated technologies that are bad for our environment and bad for our communities,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta in a statement announcing the suit. “Once this purchase goes through, we’ll be stuck with more than 100,000 new gas-guzzling vehicles on neighborhood streets, serving homes across our state and across the country, for the next 30 years. There won’t be a reset button. We’re going to court to make sure the Postal Service complies with the law and considers more environmentally friendly alternatives before it makes this decision.”

The U.S. Postal Service’s fleet comprises more than 230,000 vehicles. That includes 190,000 local delivery vehicles — and more than 141,000 are the older vehicles, made by federal contractor Grumman.

While the new vehicles would improve working conditions for USPS staff considerably by including air conditioning and heating, improved ergonomics, and advanced vehicle safety technology including air bags and 360-degree cameras, they would not provide significant improvements in fuel consumption or carbon emissions. USPS’ existing fleet averages 8.2 miles per gallon; the new trucks would return an average of 8.6 mpg. The EPA challenged the move in February.

In its letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, the EPA said the Postal Service plan to replace its aging fleet of mail trucks and other delivery vehicles represents “the single largest federal vehicle procurement in the foreseeable future.” The postal fleet is likely to stay in service for decades, making the decision of how to replace it an “unparalleled opportunity for the federal government to lead by example on climate and clean energy innovation.”

USPS went ahead with its order in February despite the EPA protest. “The men and women of the U.S. Postal Service have waited long enough for safer, cleaner vehicles,” DeJoy said in a statement released when the purchase was authorized. However, in March, DeJoy appeared to backtrack, offering to double the share of EVs in the Postal Service’s proposal

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Byron Hurd