August 16, 2022

You Have Mail and Fresh Air

Forget Amazon delivery, it could be the humble, reliable US Postal Service that carries us all into the electric future. Besides 200 billion pieces of mail a year, electric USPS trucks can also bring clean air benefits to every neighborhood—that is, if the postmaster changes course after the popular outcry for electricity.

We often talk about the “low hanging fruit” as world justice seeks to accelerate the transition from dirty energy to clean energy. These are the transitions that will be the easiest to accomplish and will bring the most benefit. The fruit couldn’t be more ripe when it comes to exciting the nation’s postal fleet. Mail trucks are first class for electrification. They travel short distances each day (around 20 miles on average), tend to idle as we cross our streets, and park in a central location at night which will make recharging a breeze.

So what does it take to make this happen? This should be a no-brainer for the federal government and an easy win to protect our lungs and the climate. Last year, President Biden even issued a statement. executive order to get only zero-emission federal vehicles in the coming years. But that same month, the Postal Service (still run by a postmaster general appointed during the administration of former President Trump) released its final environmental analysis for its plan to purchase up to 165,000 vehicles, 90% of which are fossil fuel-burning vehicles.

USPS mail trucks make up more than 30% of the federal government's vehicles.

USPS mail trucks make up more than 30% of the federal government’s vehicles.

Brian Brown / Getty Images

The proposed design got a lot of attention, and some laughed at its looks (if you squint, you can see Donald Duck’s face), but it should have been criticized for something far more sinister in its design: 90 percent Postmaster General Luis DeJoy, burning fossil fuels and more than the Ford F-150. wants to have a bad fuel economy.

Mail trucks operate for decades—so they can either provide clean air with zero-emissions technology, or they can darken our climate future and damage our lungs long enough to affect several generations of Americans.

It would be ridiculous and hilarious if it weren’t for such a tragic missed opportunity for the country. If the federal government decides to shift its fleet to electric delivery, it will be one of the largest electric vehicle contracts in the world. Given the size of this contract, it could create enough manufacturing jobs to put a state like Wisconsin on the map for electric vehicle production.

US Postal Service carrier John Graham packs his mailbag after parking a 28-year-old delivery truck on July 14, 2021, in Portland, Maine.

US Postal Service carrier John Graham packs his mailbag after parking a 28-year-old delivery truck on July 14, 2021, in Portland, Maine.

Mail trucks make up more than 30% of the federal government’s vehicles, so an electric fleet could save neighborhoods in this country from a staggering amount of air and climate pollution. We would prefer to burn 135 million gallons of fuel every year if we could electrify our nation’s mail trucks (and 110 million gallons if we reverse DeJoy’s current purchase plans). Electrifying the USPS will save us from burning between 2 and 4 billion gallons of fuel for 20 years.

Whether we use public transport, drive, or cycle around, we receive mail deliveries. An almost universal feature, an everyday experience for all Americans. An electrified Postal Service fleet will benefit us all.

Earthjustice and our environmental justice, environment, and labor partners filed a series of lawsuits against DeJoy and the Postal Service in April, shedding light on the fundamental flaws in DeJoy’s environmental review. Meanwhile, Earthjustice supporters sent more than 125,000 public comments to the Postal Service and pushed for an electrified postal fleet.

We’re starting to see the needle move in the face of this turmoil, as the USPS switched from 10% electrified to 50% electrified next major purchase in July. These tens of thousands of additional EVs are a significant win for our lungs and climate – but the fight is not over.

United States Postal Service Next Generation Delivery Vehicle.

United States Postal Service Next Generation Delivery Vehicle.

Now, a new climate treaty in Congress aims to pump $3 billion to electrify the Postal Service’s delivery fleet. Funding in the Inflation Reduction Act is a historic investment and further undermines DeJoy’s flimsy excuses to buy polluting, gas-burning mail trucks. The Postal Service should have promised 100% electric vehicles earlier this year, but this law underlines how important and popular mail fleet electrification is and should make DeJoy see the light in electric mail trucks. It’s time to step into the modern age of EVs and fresh air.

This fall, President Biden and the Senate should also play the long vote and quick approval of two new Postal Service board members. It’s clear that Louis DeJoy needs more oversight to act in the public interest, and with open-minded leadership on the Board of Governors, the agency can chart a visionary future.

more than a century agoThe USPS first experimented with electric mail delivery and found that an electric truck could outperform horse-delivery. But a century-old obsession with polluting internal combustion engines intervened and distracted us. It’s time to turn the humble mail delivery truck into hero status and electrify it.

This blog was originally published in February 2022. Updated.

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