Photo courtesy of  Wikimedia.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

A federal bill introduced in late January would authorize the U.S. Postal Service to use energy savings performance contracts to improve the efficiency of its fleet of delivery vehicles.

The bill, HR 3963, is known as the Federal Leadership Energy Efficient Transportation (FLEET) Act. Reps. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) co-sponsored the proposal.

ESPCs allow companies, governments, and other organizations to finance projects based on the expected energy savings over a 25-year time frame. The contracts are usually used for infrastructure improvements.

Using these contracts could help the USPS, which operates the nation's largest civilian fleet, save about 150 million gallons of fuel a year, according to Huffman.

During fiscal-year 2012, the 212,530 USPS vehicles consumed 148.8 million gallons of fuel and traveled 1.28 billion miles. The USPS spent $1.7 billion on more than 650 million gallons of fuel in 2010, includes fuel for aircraft and contracted vehicles, according to USPS data.

About 80 percent of the USPS' fuel costs stem from contracted transportation services to move mail by truck, airplane, ship, and rail, USPS data shows.

The FLEET Act would require the postal service to reduce its petroleum consumption by 2 percent a year for the next 10 years. The more than 141,000 USPS Grumman LLVs average 10 miles per gallon, according to Huffman.

"The Postal Service is crippled by an inefficient, outdated fleet, and the vast majority of these vehicles are reaching the end of their operational lives," Huffman said. "The FLEET Act will help us invest in a modern, efficient Postal Service fleet. Our nation's largest civilian fleet should serve as a global leader in efficiency and innovation."

Most of the Grumman LLVs are between 18 and 25 years old with an expected life cycle of 24 years. It costs $1.168 per mile to operate USPS vehicles, which includes maintenance costs, according to the 2012 Federal Fleet Report.

The FLEET Act would also set tailpipe emissions standards for new fleet vehicles at 34.1 mpg; require USPS to replace aging vehicles requiring costly maintenance; and require USPS to incorporate new technologies to reduce tailpipe emissions.

Editor's note: View an excerpt of Rep. Huffman's speech from the House floor announcing the act here.