Today, 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 (see broader Earthjustice statement on the IRA). The funding comes at a decisive time, as the Postal Service is planning its next generation of mail trucks and has strayed far off course from President Biden’s executive order to shift the entire federal fleet to zero emissions. The Postal Service has a fleet of over 200,000 vehicles, roughly a third of the entire federal fleet. The federal government is the single largest fleet operator in the United States.
“The best time to electrify this country’s mail trucks was ten years ago. The next best time is now. One of the immediate impacts of the Inflation Reduction Act should be that USPS charts a course for zero emissions mail delivery in every neighborhood and on every delivery route in the country,” said Adrian Martinez, senior attorney on Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign. “We do remain concerned about rumors of a bait and switch from Postmaster General DeJoy, where he fails to use these funds to increase commitments to electric vehicles, and instead uses these funds to comply with past promises. This would be an absurd betrayal of Congress’s trust.”
“It’s time to scrap the Postal Service’s plans to acquire gas-guzzlers with the fuel economy of a late 1990s hummer. Investing in any number of new combustion trucks at this point would be misguided, locking us into dirty air, dated technology, and volatiles gas prices. Postmaster General DeJoy didn’t have an excuse before this three-billion windfall for electrification, and he certainly doesn’t have an excuse now. We want clean air and climate benefits delivered with our mail. Twenty years from now, there should be a clean, quiet electric mail truck on every route in the United States.”
“The billions for zero emissions mail trucks in the climate deal should spur nothing short of a wholesale transformation of USPS’s delivery fleet,” said Beto Martinez with CleanAirNow, an environmental justice organization suing USPS over its combustion mail trucks plans. “Our community wants to breathe clean air, after being burdened by years of filthy transportation pollution — and our health demands nothing less.”
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. Under those plans, 90% of the new trucks could 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. The United States would fall further behind as countries like France, Germany, and Japan have begun to adopt electric mail trucks.
The Postal Service began to shift its stance on zero emissions mail trucks after a lawsuit filed in April by environmental groups CleanAirNow and Sierra Club represented by Earthjustice, as well as 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. Earthjustice supporters have sent in over 125,000 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 a clean electric fleet.
Last month, the Postal Service announced that it would be making 40% of its next mail truck purchase battery electric, up from the agency’s plans for 10% earlier this year. While that progress was promising, the plan would still burden most communities in the country with polluting combustion mail trucks.
If the Postal Service does not chart a course to a fully electric mail fleet, it’ll be a major missed opportunity for the country, leaving the bulk of nearly 13 million metric tons of annual greenhouse gas reductions as well as billions in fuel savings on the table. Not to mention the smog-clearing, clean air benefits those communities stuck with the new gas-guzzling model would be missing out on. 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 vehicle charging easy.