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USPS new-truck.jpg USPS
New Postal Service trucks would be deployed in 2023.

Lawsuit Targets Purchase of U.S. Postal Service Vehicles

Environmental groups contend the contract is weighted toward high-emissions gasoline-powered vehicles, while the UAW is contesting contractor Oshkosh Defense’s plans to build the vehicles in South Carolina with nonunion labor.

The United Auto Workers, the Natural Resources Defense Council and attorneys general from 16 states and the District of Columbia are asking a federal court to block the U.S. Postal Service from going forward with the purchase of tens of thousands of gasoline-powered trucks.

The lawsuit claims USPS “failed on multiple levels” when evaluating and finalizing a contract for next-generation postal trucks with Oshkosh Defense and asks the court to block production of the trucks ordered by the postal service.

The USPS announced in March it had placed a $2.98 billion order with Oshkosh Defense for 50,000 delivery trucks – only 10,019 of them electric-powered. The postal service doubled its order for battery-electric trucks under pressure from the Biden Admin.

President Biden in December signed an executive order setting a target of carbon neutrality throughout the federal government, which critics of the contract say would be severely complicated if the USPS – operator of the single biggest federal fleet – does not transition to renewable energy.

The UAW and NRDC allege the USPS is failing to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act in its acquisition of new postal trucks, referred to as Next Generation Delivery Vehicles, and is failing to consider where, when and how the vehicles will be produced.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include EarthJustice, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, as well as the attorneys general of California, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. 

New York City and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in California also have joined the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

The groups claim the NGDV contract is based on a deficient environmental analysis prepared after the USPS decided to move ahead with the contract, which calls for building trucks with gasoline engines and minimal fuel-economy improvements over existing trucks (pictured, below).

USPSUSPS Grumman LLV-Mail-Truck.jpg

Grumman LLV, first deployed in 1987, is Postal Service's most common vehicle.

Deep-seated mistrust of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was named to the position by the USPS Board of Governors – all of them appointed by former President Donald Trump – is also fueling the lawsuit over the postal vehicles.

The lawsuit alleges a draft report prepared by the USPS failed to disclose the vehicles would be built at a non-union site in South Carolina rather than at Oshkosh’s unionized plant in Wisconsin.

“With this contract, USPS and Oshkosh Defense abandoned the Wisconsin workers that built the company and failed taxpayers with a sham process to evaluate the environmental and community impacts of these vehicles,” says UAW President Ray Curry. “The USPS’s Next Generation Delivery Vehicle is an opportunity to reverse course and make real investments in both a cleaner future and good union jobs.

“UAW members and our partners in the environmental movement are united in a vision for the future where public dollars support good union jobs and invest in a clean future,” he says.

Robert Lynk, president of UAW Local 578 in Oshkosh, notes Oshkosh Defense and the union have a longstanding relationship: “We can and should build the postal vehicles here in Wisconsin.”

Oshkosh has said it will refurbish a vacant warehouse in South Carolina and build the trucks there after failing to find a suitable site in Wisconsin. Production is to start in 2023.

“Let’s be frank: The Postal Service can save money and cut pollution by investing in electric trucks. The Postal Service must undertake the accurate and thorough environmental review it should have done the first time. Its error-filled, flimsy analysis should be returned to sender,” notes Britt Carmon, federal clean vehicles senior advocate at NRDC.

“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,” adds California Attorney General Rob Bonta, a Democrat.

“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,” he says. “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 lawsuit alleges the USPS based its purchase on inflated battery costs and underestimated gas prices. It also claims the analysis was conducted before the recent surge in gas prices and was based on a projected gas price of $2.19 per gallon – roughly half the current national average – while projecting just 70 miles (112 km) per battery charge. BEVs available in 2021 got a median 234 miles (377 km) of range, according to the EPA.

TAGS: Vehicles
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