Six OEMs chosen to build USPS next generation prototype vehicles

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USPS rendering of what its Next Generation Delivery Vehicle may look like.USPS rendering of what its Next Generation Delivery Vehicle may look like.

Not that anyone’s keeping score, but the United States Postal Service has gotten an average of 25 years of service out of its daily delivery fleet.

Grumman Long Life Vehicles (LLVs), which have been delivering the nation’s mail since 1986, were originally built to last at least 20 years.

Though USPS is often criticized for budget issues, it has managed thus far to squeeze an additional five years on average out of the iconic vans. Many have been on the road for 30 years!

Now, the Postal Service is setting out to find a replacement for their daily drivers.

AM General recently announced that it was selected by USPS to design and build Next Generation Delivery Vehicle prototypes. Five other companies selected from a pool of 15 are Oshkosh, Utilimaster, VT Hackney, Karsan (made in Turkey) and Mahindra (made in India).

A total of 50 prototypes will be delivered by these six companies to USPS by next September. Half of the vehicles will have hybrid or alternative fuel powertrains, reports.

Design requirements from USPS for its Next Generation Delivery Vehicle make it taller and longer than Grumman’s LLV. Once completed, prototypes may more closely resemble UPS vehicles in size.

A Next Generation Delivery Vehicle needs to be right-hand drive, have sliding curbside doors, a payload capacity of 1,500 pounds, interior height of six feet four inches and an overall length of 19 feet. By comparison, the Grumman LLV is 14 feet, 8 inches long and has a payload capacity of 1,000 pounds.

Van bodies have to be constructed of either aluminum or a composite material and provide significantly improved fuel economy and emissions than the LLV, which averages about 10mpg.

Prototypes will be subjected to tough testing conditions, which will include varying climates and roads.

In 1985, prototype vehicles vying for a lucrative USPS contract were subjected to 24,000 miles of road testing, which included cavernous, manmade potholes.

Any vehicle would be hard-pressed to complete the tests which, according to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, included the following:

  • Drive 5,760 miles on a closed loop 5-mile-long paved road at 50 to 55 mph
  • Drive 11,520 miles over a gravel road at 30 to 45 mph
  • Drive 2,880 miles over a road with a shoulder, stopping every 250 feet and accelerating to 15 mph in between
  • Drive 960 miles over cobblestones that ranged from 3 to 4 inches high at 10 to 14 mph
  • Drive 960 miles over potholes at 10 to 14 mph
  • Haul a 1 -ton pound load during one half of the road test
  • Haul a man and a 400 pound load during one half of the road test
  • Drive over potholes ensuring that each wheel hits a pothole 35,000 times
  • Make one hundred consecutive stops from 15 mph

After the dust and clanging subsided (see 1985 road test video below) Grumman and GM claimed the roughly $1.1 billion order for 99,150 LLVs, making it the largest order of vehicles at that time that the Postal Service had ever placed.