May 17 2011
WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee with jurisdiction over the U.S. Postal Service, highlighted a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that details the declining state of the Postal Service's vehicle fleet and the Postal Service's difficulty managing and modernizing its fleet due to its current financial challenges. The GAO conducted its work at the request of Sens. Carper, Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Scott Brown (R-Mass.).
In its report, GAO found that the Postal Service's capital expenditures – including those related to vehicles – have decreased from $2.7 billion to $1.4 billion over the past five years, even though the number deliveries it makes has increased by about one million addresses each year over the same time period. According to the report, the Postal Service's ten-year financial stabilization plan, released last spring, did not include any formal plans to modernize its vehicle fleet.
Currently, the Postal Service's delivery fleet is largely composed of custom-built, right-hand-drive vehicles designed to last for 24 years. The fleet includes about 141,000 gasoline-powered vehicles, which are 16 to 23 years old, and 21,000 flex-fuel vehicles capable of running on gasoline or 85-percent ethanol (E85), which are about 10 years old. Delivery vehicles travel about 17 miles and use the equivalent of about 2 gallons of gasoline on average per day.
"Today's report on the state of the Postal Service's vehicle fleet provides a valuable case study," said Sen. Carper. "The report details the negative impact that financial uncertainty and the well-meaning but sometimes harmful dictates from Congress have on postal operations, specifically its expansive and essential vehicle fleet. I believe it's unacceptable that the Postal Service has no official plans to date to begin replacing its aging fleet, perhaps with more fuel efficient and cost effective vehicles, the purchase of which in large numbers could help commercialize important new technologies. But it's also unacceptable that the Postal Service has been placed in this position financially, in part due to acts of Congress. I will continue to call for a shared sacrifice from postal management, employees, customers, Congress and the Administration to make the hard business decisions that are needed to save the U.S. Postal Service. I will also continue to push for much needed reforms so we can prevent the Postal Service from going broke by the end of the year."
The GAO also found that despite the generally low cost of maintaining the Postal Service's right-hand-drive delivery vehicles, a growing number of individual vehicles have much higher costs due to their advanced age. More vehicles over time are sidelined for unscheduled maintenance and the state of the fleet leads to more breakdowns and higher overtime costs. The report also describes instances of severe maintenance problems with some vehicles that go unresolved either due to a lack of resources or because of an increased reliance on contract vehicle maintenance personnel due to the Postal Service's hiring freeze.