U.S. House panel sets hearing to press for electric postal vehicles

FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Postal Service (USPS) logo is pictured on a mail box

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A U.S. House of Representatives committee said on Wednesday it will hold an April 5 hearing on U.S. Postal Service (USPS) plans to purchase electric vehicles, where lawmakers expect to push for purchases of many more zero-emission delivery trucks.

Last week, USPS said it had placed an initial $2.98 billion order for 50,000 next-generation delivery vehicles from Oshkosh Corp. It said at least 10,019 of those will be electric vehicles (EVs), double its initial planned EV purchases, but some lawmakers feel that is not enough.

House Oversight Committee chair Carolyn Maloney said USPS “should be leading the way, not falling behind private companies that are already moving ahead to save money and curb climate change by electrifying their fleets.”

Previously, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy had committed to buying at least 10% EVs as part of a multibillion-dollar plan to retire 30-year-old delivery vehicles.

The hearing will include USPS Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb and Victoria Stephen, executive director of the USPS Next Generation Delivery Vehicle program.

Congress has considered awarding USPS $5.9 billion to boost EV purchases and charging infrastructure.

USPS in February rejected a bid by the White House and Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its plans to buy mostly gasoline-powered vehicles and hold a new public hearing on the environmental ramifications of the vehicle purchases.

In February 2021, the USPS announced an initial $482 million contract for Oshkosh and said it could order up to 165,000 vehicles over 10 years in a deal that could be worth $6 billion or more.

USPS estimates its total costs for buying and operating 75,000 new delivery vehicles over 20 years including fueling and maintenance at $9.3 billion for gasoline-powered vehicles and $11.6 billion for electric models.

In 2019, USPS operated 217,000 vehicles that traveled approximately 1.2 billion miles and spent about $706.2 million in maintenance costs for it fleet of 140,000 older delivery vehicles.

USPS said its commitment to “an electric fleet remains ambitious given the pressing vehicle and safety needs of our aging fleet as well as our fragile financial condition.”

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)