Message Delivered: USPS Charts a Course for an Electric Mail Truck Fleet
Today, the White House and U.S. Postal Service (USPS) announced plans to shift to predominantly electric mail truck purchases between 2023 and 2026, and committed to make mail truck purchases electric after 2026. The USPS fleet is roughly a third of the entire federal civilian fleet, and a shift to an electric future will deliver clean air benefits in every neighborhood in the country.
“Every neighborhood, every household in America deserves to have electric USPS trucks delivering clean air with their mail, and today’s announcement takes us almost all the way there. The Postal Service’s shift to only purchasing electric mail trucks within five years is the marker of a sea change in the federal fleet as the country looks to an electric future,” said Adrian Martinez, senior attorney on Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign. “Ultimately, this shift will buffer us from volatile gas prices, spur the growth of clean energy jobs, and have us all breathing easier. In the course of a year we’ve gone from a USPS plan to buy trucks with the fuel economy of a late 1990s hummer to a visionary commitment to modernize mail delivery in the United States with electric trucks. We’re grateful to the Biden administration for stepping in to put us on course for an electric future."
Of the 106,000 mail trucks USPS plans to purchase in the next few years, 75% of 60,000 Next Generation Delivery Vehicles will be electric models, and 46% or more of 46,000 commercial off-the-shelf mail trucks will be electric models. After 2026, all USPS mail truck purchases will be electric.
Earlier this year, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act with historic levels of funding for clean energy, healthy homes, and electric transportation – including a monumental $3 billion for zero emissions USPS mail trucks.
“Finally we’re seeing the common-sense decision to move the government’s largest fleet of vehicles to all-electric, a massive win for climate and public health,” said Katherine García, director of the Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All campaign. “Instead of receiving pollution with their daily mail packages, communities across the U.S. will get the relief of cleaner air. The way we get to a 100% electric fleet matters – these vehicles must be union-built and made with materials from a clean supply chain.”
“We’re pleased the Postal Service has listened to community and environmental justice organizations clamoring for zero emission mail trucks,” said Beto Martinez with CleanAirNow, an environmental justice organization based in Kansas City. “We look forward to working with USPS to ensure communities hardest hit by pollution get these trucks on their streets first.”
In 2021, the Postal Service made plans to purchase up to 165,000 vehicles, replacing a large swath of its fleet of over 200,000 trucks with a new model that gets a harrowing mileage of 8.6 mpg with the air conditioning on. Per those plans, 90% of the new trucks would be combustion vehicles with a worse fuel economy than a gas-powered Ford F-150 and worse mileage than the 1988 Grumman postal truck model when new. Under those plans, the United States would fall further behind as countries like France, Germany, and Japan have begun to adopt electric mail trucks, and it would have been missed climate opportunity, leaving the bulk of nearly 13 million metric tons of annual greenhouse gas reductions and billions in fuel savings on the table.
The Postal Service began to shift its stance on zero emissions mail trucks after a lawsuit filed in April by environmental justice group CleanAirNow and Sierra Club represented by Earthjustice, in addition to the Center for Biological Diversity, and a series of lawsuits from the United Auto Workers (UAW), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and over a dozen state attorney generals.
The American public weighed in on USPS’s dated, polluting plans with thousands of messages: Earthjustice supporters alone sent in 161,976 public comments to USPS protesting the postal service’s plans to procure polluting mail trucks with a harrowing mileage, and urging USPS and its Board of Governors to instead invest in an electric fleet. Today’s announcement shows their message has been received.
Litigation will continue to be necessary as the USPS needs to unwind the actions taken earlier this year that environmental groups and states allege were unlawful. The Postal Service has indicated that it plans to release a new draft of its proposed plan in May of 2023 and finalize its new commitments by the end of August 2023. Earthjustice’s clients will continue to monitor these actions to make sure the Postal Service is living up to its commitments and making decisions based on sound science.
Mail trucks are especially prime for electrification, as they travel short distances each day (averaging around 20 miles), they tend to idle as they traverse our streets, and they park at night in centralized locations making charging them easy.
For more background, see “You’ve Got Mail – and Clean Air” on the Earthjustice website.
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