Photo of exising USPS vehicle via Wikimedia.

Photo of exising USPS vehicle via Wikimedia.

The U.S. Postal Service will meet with automotive manufacturers in Washington, D.C., this week to field questions about its proposal to replace its aging delivery fleet with a next-generation vehicle, according to federal records.

The Feb. 18 meeting follows a "request for information" released by the USPS on Jan. 20 that included detailed specifications about the new vehicle, which will replace the Long Life Vehicle (LLV) that entered service in 1987.

The USPS plans to replace the majority of its fleet of more than 200,000 vehicles that includes 180,000 light-duty carrier route vehicles. Replacing up to 180,000 LLVs would cost between $4.5 billion and $6.3 billion. The USPS hopes to place the new vehicles into service in January of 2018.

General Motors contributed core components to the LLV including the Chevrolet S-10 chassis, 3-speed transmission paired with rear-wheel drivetrain, and 2.5-liter four-cylinder Pontiac engine. The vehicle was assembled by Grumman in Montgomery, Pa., until 1994.

"GM listens to the needs across a wide range of customers," said Robert Wheeler, communications manager for GM Fleet & Commercial. "The U.S Postal Service is an important customer, and we are early in the process of exploring potential solutions that would work for their needs."

A Ram Truck spokesman acknowledged receipt of the request for information, and a Ford spokesman said the company does not "speculate on potential customer orders." Automotive manufacturers must respond by March 6.

The USPS has said it will give out a single award for the replacement fleet by early January of 2017. Suppliers would submit prototype vehicles for testing by February of 2016.

The existing USPS fleet vehicles average about 5,000 miles per year with an average speed of 15 mph. The higher-mileage units can accumulate 20,000 miles per year. Some of the units can average more than 600 stops per day.

As part of its specifications, the USPS is asking for several requirements, including right-hand steering with a two-wheel drive and a four-wheel drive option; heavy-duty automatic transmission with traction control; enclosed, van-style body with integrated cab and cargo compenent constructed of aluminum alloy or composite materials; sliding driver door and separate cargo side door; 1,500-pound payload capacity; and rear-view camera with monitor.

The next-generation vehicle should be no longer than 230 inches, no taller than 106 inches, and no wider than 85 inches, according to the specification documents.

By Paul Clinton