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USPS Requests Vehicle Prototypes for Testing

October 22, 2015, by Paul Clinton - Also by this author

Photo by Paul Clinton.
Photo by Paul Clinton.

The U.S. Postal Service has requested prototypes from 15 qualified suppliers for a purpose-built delivery vehicle that would replace its aging fleet of Long Life Vehicles (LLVs).

In its Request for Proposal (RFP) posted to on Oct. 20, 2015, the USPS is asking for a delivery vehicle that must meet a series of specific criteria and capabilities rather than purchasing a commercially available van or truck now offered by manufacturers. Suppliers must respond by Feb. 5.

The request asks for six purpose-built prototype vehicles that will be tested during a 26-week evaluation period. The supplier must support vehicle testing with on-site maintenance, trouble shooting, and required repair support within 24 hours, according to the documents.

At least one organization monitoring the USPS' initiative to begin purchasing its next-generation delivery vehicle criticized the approach, which is similar to the one the agency took in 1987 when it adopted the LLVs, which lacked safety features such as airbags, intermittent wipers, and anti-lock brakes.

"Unfortunately, today is 1987 all over again, with this new RFP issued by the Service spelling out in plain English its intent to repeat the very same mistake, holding on to its next fleet of purpose-built vehicles for at least another two decades while the world passes it by," said Robbie Diamond, president and CEO of Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE).

Diamond's group issued a report in late September urging the agency to use off-the-shelf vehicles rather than a purpose-built vehicle, and to upgrade its vehicle more often than every two decades.

In its RFP, the USPS is asking for capabilities such as a walk-in cargo area, cargo area ventilation, and the ability to heat the vehicle cabin to 65 degrees Fahrenheit in temperatures as cold as 30 degrees below zero. The vehicle must reach a daily driving range of 70-miles during an eight-hour continuous operating period with at least 600 stop-starts.

The six prototypes would include standard and smaller size vehicles in two-wheel and four-wheel drive.

The USPS plans to replace the majority of its 180,000 Long Life Vehicles (LLVs) at a cost of up to $6.3 billion.

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  1. 1. David Ehrman [ October 22, 2015 @ 11:30AM ]

    As a taxpayer, I might agree with the assessment that they should use mass-market vehicles for these LLVs. However, as a specification analyst in the fleet management field, I have to think that the LLV needs to have certain features and attributes that no mass market vehicle could offer, such as: side window height and opening size for reaching out to curb mailboxes; expanse of glass for street visibility; and so on. Ever since the AM General "Jeep" vehicles and before, the postal route vehicles have been specialized...and at a cost. Just like other large fleets, if a certain vehicle specification is needed and can be justified financially and operationally, I see no reason to change why and how you achieve the goal. There may be other ways for their fleet management to change to save costs; however, a drastic change to the primary job tool may not be the way. I have to believe they have already reviewed this in-depth and have come to the best decision.

  2. 2. Rehan M [ October 22, 2015 @ 12:00PM ]

    I agree with purpose built, application specific vehicles in this case. It's a good idea to have twenty year usability planned.
    Has anybody seen/ read the RFP? I am curious about what other future automotive technologies are specified in the RFP. On board communication and control systems? we certainly are going to get to some sort of self driving needs in next twenty years, can that be supported by future FW update (ala tesla today). Are there any other future automation components envisioned in this RFP? Just curious.

  3. 3. brian currie [ October 23, 2015 @ 02:11AM ]

    there is nothing wrong in a purpose built vehicles providing the required people are involved in the procurement with the amount of stop starts hinged opening doors is a non starter,Hey will not that preclude all mass of the shelf sure will. Have the tool for the job, future proof as best you can with the ability to rework cost effectively and your away.BC

  4. 4. Brian Reynolds [ October 27, 2015 @ 11:05AM ]

    LLV for the application are a good idea if the specifications are made with updates and upgrades in mind. Operations of this specific agency may make the case for a specific purpose vehicle, but the technology changes we see in the automotive world are happening so rapidly that it would be tragic if they repeat the mistakes of twenty years ago and do not include opportunities for upgrades or improvements in the spec package.


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