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 FedBizOpps.gov 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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