Bid for the best postal van

Con­tract for next-gen mail truck could be one of the most lu­cra­tive of its kind in re­cent times

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

THE U.S. Postal Ser­vice is seek­ing bids for a new ve­hi­cle that will be bet­ter suited to the job and re­turn bet­ter fuel econ­omy.

The con­tract for the next-gen­er­a­tion mail truck could be one of the most lu­cra­tive of its kind in re­cent mem­ory, ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try trade jour­nal Au­to­mo­tive News (sub­scrip­tion re­quired).

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions re­leased to bid­ders on Jan­uary 20 call for 180 000 new ve­hi­cles at $25 000 (R290 000) to $35 000 (R407 000) apiece — valu­ing the con­tract at $4,5 bil­lion to $6,3 bil­lion.

Of­fi­cials are also re­port­edly look­ing for more con­ve­nience fea­tures — like backup cam­eras — and greater cargo ca­pac­ity to han­dle the in­creas­ing amount of packages gen­er­ated by on­line shop­ping.

Like all pre­vi­ous postal ve­hi­cles, the new van will also have to be right-hand drive, so mail car­ri­ers can eas­ily place items in mail­boxes.

A group of bid­ders will be picked this sum­mer to build pro­to­types, which will un­dergo testing in 2016.

The fi­nal con­tract will be awarded in 2017, with the first de­liv­er­ies ex­pected in 2018.

Mod­els like the Ford Tran­sit Connect, Nis­san NV200, and Ram ProMaster City seem bet­ter suited to de­liv­ery duty than full-size, truck-based vans.

Nis­san told Au­to­mo­tive News it won’t bid on the con­tract, but other com­pa­nies haven’t made state­ments on the mat­ter.

Green Car re­ports the cur­rent Long Life Ve­hi­cle was built by air­craft man­u­fac­turer Grum­man, now part of Northrup Grum­man.

With its boxy alu­minium body and Gen­eral Mo­tors-de­rived chas­sis and four-cylin­der en­gine, the lit­tle truck doesn’t cut quite as heroic a pro­file as the fighter planes Grum­man built be­fore this brief foray into cars.

It also has a few de­sign flaws that have be­come ap­par­ent over the years. Ex­haust sys­tems are eas­ily scraped on curbs, and mail falls into crevices in the cabin. In real-world use, the ve­hi­cles of­ten strug­gle to re­turn their rated 14,7 km/100 km. The cur­rent fleet con­sumes as much as 583 mil­lion litres of gaso­line an­nu­ally. — Wit­ness Re­porter.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

U.S. Postal Ser­vice is on the hunt for the postal van of the fu­ture.

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