The Post Office Is Getting a New Truck, and Here’s One of the Prototypes ""

By | November 6, 2017

Mahindra US Postal Service Truck

Your mortgage statement will arrive one day in air-conditioned comfort because the generic-faced van you see here is one of six prototype delivery vehicles meant to take the U.S. Postal Service—and its hot, sweaty mail carriers—into the modern era. This particular black-and-white van is built by Mahindra, the Indian automaker that bought Italian design house Pininfarina and failed to import its crude pickup trucks to the United States just a few years ago. Mahindra, which established a reputation for building the Willys Jeep in India following World War II, is just one of six manufacturers the Postal Service selected as part of its Next Generation Delivery Vehicle bid that began in January 2015.

Mahindra’s Troy, Michigan, division is behind this effort. Other contenders are Hummer builder AM General of South Bend, Indiana; MRAP maker Oshkosh of Oshkosh, Wisconsin; Utilimaster of Bristol, Indiana; VT Hackney of Washington, North Carolina; and the Turkish firm Karsan Otomotiv. Roughly 50 prototypes from all six companies are now running on postal routes in southern Michigan (our spy photographer found the Mahindra in Flint), northern Virginia, and Arizona. Each will be driven for at least six months before the Postal Service chooses a winner. The whole process will take at least another year.

Mahindra US Postal Service Truck (spy photo)

These trucks can’t come a day too soon for mail carriers driving the dated, decrepit Grumman–General Motors Long Life Vehicle (LLV) in your neighborhood. In addition to driver conveniences, such as air conditioning, cupholders, charging ports and automatic locking doors, and safety measures we take for granted in cars—including an airbag, anti-lock brakes, and stability control—the next-gen postal vehicle will be taller and longer to better ship packages, which has become the postal service’s most lucrative revenue source. Many current trucks don’t have shelving or any way to secure packages, which may be why that glassware keeps arriving broken. Despite all the side- and rear-mounted mirrors, our local mail carrier told us—as we both inhaled exhaust vapors that exit on the driver’s side of the LLV—that executing certain turns is done entirely on blind faith. Cameras and blind-spot monitoring will almost certainly be on the list of improvements, as will sliding side doors.

Fuel-efficient engines, such as the Mahindra’s expected 2.5-liter GM-sourced inline-four, will be on the roster along with possible diesel, hybrid, and even fully electric powertrains. The last LLV rolled off Grumman’s Pennsylvania line in 1994, completing the Postal Service’s $1.1 billion order for 99,150 vehicles. Grumman did name it a Long Life Vehicle, but the newest ones have now been in service for 23 years, and maintenance has become a serious problem. The new $6.3 billion contract calls for 180,000 right-hand-drive vehicles that will sell for up to $35,000 each. Before testing is completed, the Postal Service also will have converted more than 12,000 left-hand-drive Ram ProMaster vans for parcel deliveries and for use in areas where mail carriers typically stop and park. When the final vehicles arrive, the old LLVs will be about as useful as the Pony Express.

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