The year is 2020. It is a new decade and a lot has and is already changing. The world is dealing with a global pandemic that has kept us locked away in our chambers like Repunzel in her tower. Feeling as isolated as she was, we too are in distress and long for human connection. However, unlike her, we do not have to grow out our hair to insane lengths so that someone can climb it in order to reach us (although with hair salons and barbers closed some of us may very well be doing so). We are fortunate enough to connect with our friends, families and other loved ones through electronic means. We have several options in order to see each other’s face via one of the many video calling platforms, or can share thoughtful ideas, the latest dance craze, or funny anecdotes via one of the dozen new social media platforms that seem to pop up overnight. If this were to happen a few decades ago, we would be limited to writing each other letters via the mail.
Yes, the mail. Remember that box that sits outside your house or apartment? The thing that with a simple flick of a flag can indicate to a person who is scheduled to come by your house everyday (except Sunday), that you have friends. Well, that has not changed in decades unlike everything else. Have you noticed that? Likely the same person, in the same truck, comes by your home at a similar time everyday to give you pieces of paper you most likely do not care about. If this system is going to continue to exist, I think it is time it caught up with the present. What can change though, and how? I think it is time the United States Postal Service (USPS) took a (virtual) page from technology advancement and roll out a fleet of electric mail trucks.
Think about it. It makes sense. Mail trucks do not have routes that exceed 200 miles per
day, they sit unused overnight, and yet they are driven each and every day throughout the United States. Think about all the carbon emissions we could be saving. Obviously, this would put the energy strain on the electrical grid to charge this fleet of trucks, but large post offices or the lots that store these trucks could easily adopt solar panels to help reduce the strain on the grid.
Now, you may be feeling weary and nostalgic about losing the sound of the inline-4 engine out of the current truck that is the Grumman LLV, or Long Life Vehicle. The Grumman has surely lived up to its name, having been the truck of choice for USPS since it was first produced in 1987. Production of this truck ceased in 1994, but have remained in use since then. The Grumman is essentially a Chevy S-10 Blazer underneath its iconic boxy shell. With a low-geared 3-speed Turbo Hydramatic 180 automatic transmission, it can haul around 1,000lbs of your junk mail. However, even with its 2.5L “Iron Duke” four cylinder engine, which was built during the US oil crises by GM as a economic alternative to the V8, the Grumman only averages 16 miles per gallon (mpg). Remember though, with the weight and constant stop-and-go nature of mail delivery, the Grumman is not as efficient as it could be. Ultimately, it actually tends to average only 10mpg.
USPS is said to own over 100,000 of the Grumman’s, of which USPS spent nearly $524 million to repair in 2009. That is however, a fraction of the cost it would take to replace its fleet. At the time, it was estimated to cost upwards of $4.2 billion to replace the entirety of the fleet. Despite the enormous undertaking of this initiative, bids for a newly designed fleet were in fact made in 2015, and with six manufacturers granted the contract in a joint-venture in 2016. The new fleet is rumored to feature “green” technologies, such as hybrid systems and even alternative fuels. That is a step in the right direction, but supposedly only half of the new fleet will outfit these systems.
That is simply not good enough. It is better than nothing, but with major companies making greater initiatives to be “greener”, it makes the USPS look as slow as its mail. Amazon, for example, has recently announced that it will be carbon neutral by 2040, and includes rolling out a fleet of 100,000 electric delivery trucks produced by electric start-up Rivian. USPS has several years to try and make themselves modern and relevant, but yet they still keep trucking in the past.