Mail's Here: USPS Picks Oshkosh Defense NGDV

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
mail s here usps picks oshkosh defense ngdv

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has revealed its new mail truck after a 6-year competition, selecting the duck-billed option from Wisconsin-based defense contractor Oshkosh. Its Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV) will officially replace the Grumman Long Life Vehicle (LLV) starting in 2023. Though the LLV spent the last 20 years being gradually supplanted by anything large enough to haul a bag of mail, it’s technically the last vehicle commissioned for use by the USPS.

Sadly, the postal service’s decision also represents a major loss for Ohio-based Workhorse. Its battery electric W-15 seemed to represent the government’s greener ambitions and was capable of 80-mile journeys before a gasoline-powered range extender kicks on. While a smart design, we think the manufacturer would have been better served by having ties to the military, like Oshkosh and Grumman. Workhorse’s share price has been falling ever since news broke that the USPS wouldn’t be needing its services, however analysts are under the impression that it will eventually rebound.

Meanwhile, things are going pretty well for Oshkosh. The company added added 3-percent to its share price yesterday after a 6-percent gain immediately after news about its decade-long deal with the USPS broke on Tuesday.

From the USPS:

Under the contract’s initial $482 million investment, Oshkosh Defense will finalize the production design of the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV) — a purpose-built, right-hand-drive vehicle for mail and package delivery — and will assemble 50,000 to 165,000 of them over 10 years. The vehicles will be equipped with either fuel-efficient internal combustion engines or battery electric powertrains and can be retrofitted to keep pace with advances in electric vehicle technologies. The initial investment includes plant tooling and build-out for the U.S. manufacturing facility where final vehicle assembly will occur.

The contract is the first part of a multi-billion-dollar 10-year effort to replace the Postal Service’s delivery vehicle fleet, one of the world’s largest. The Postal Service fleet has more than 230,000 vehicles in every class, including both purpose-built and commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) vehicles. Approximately 190,000 deliver mail six, and often seven, days a week in every U.S. community. The NGDV, along with other COTS vehicles, will replace and expand the current delivery fleet, which includes many vehicles that have been in service for 30 years.

Despite looking a little goofy, the NGDV is designed in a way that maximizes interior volume and outward visibility for drivers who will be required to move against traffic in pedestrian-heavy areas in order to make deliveries. It was also tall enough for a postal worker to stand inside while organizing parcels. Those aspects were shared by most of the concepts vying for the USPS contract. But a lot of them also possessed some form of electrification, which the NGDV doesn’t appear to prioritize.

Instead, Oshkosh plans on running with low-emission, internal-combustion engines with a plan to add battery power later on. Apparently the platform makes retrofitting incredibly easy, even if that sounds exactly like something a company seeking government contracts would say. USPS head Louis DeJoy stated that something like 10 percent of the first order from Oshkosh would possess any electrification, suggesting that it would take another $3-$4 billion dollars to go battery-electric. Frankly, we weren’t positive that electric mail trucks would be a good fit for rural communities anyway, so it might be better to wait for the technology to mature a bit.

The NGDV has a few questionable design choices that likely reduce production costs but don’t seem particularly safe. Its singular, low-mounted reverse light feels a bit low rent and we might say the same about the turn signals. We imagine those will be improved after enough people complain. But some of the assumed risk will be offset by the vehicle’s 360-degree camera, automatic emergency braking, and collision avoidance systems.

While we like the old Grumman boxes, they’re long past retirement. The USPS is already operating a fleet of over 100,000 long past their two-decade best-by date, and they lack creature comforts like air conditioning. If that doesn’t bother you and you’re in the market for a cheap, no-frills beater with loads of character, they’re bound to start appearing in government auctions the minute Oshkosh starts rolling out their replacements.

“Our century-long history of delivering products to customers, operating in some of the most demanding and severe conditions on the planet, uniquely positions us to bring exceptional reliability, safety, and maintainability to USPS’s Next Generation Delivery Vehicles,” John Bryant, Executive Vice President, Oshkosh Corporation, and President, Oshkosh Defense, said in a statement. “Partnering with trusted suppliers, we have developed a purpose-built solution to support the current and future needs of the USPS.”

[Image: Oshkosh]

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8 of 34 comments
  • Russycle Russycle on Feb 25, 2021

    "Its singular, low-mounted reverse light feels a bit low rent ..." Stupidest cost cutting ever. I've had two vehicles with that "feature", a 2009 MINI (really, for what you guys charge we only get one backup light?), and my 2008 xB. I believe the 08s are the only year with one, props to Toyota for rectifying that idiocy. I just put an LED in mine and the difference is, well, night and day.

    • Sayahh Sayahh on Feb 26, 2021

      Toyota NX in some other countries have the reverse light on only one side. Idiotic and unsafe if you asked me. Penny wise, pound foolish. Pretty sure this postal truck will have features added/removed/improved once it goes into production.

  • Rpol35 Rpol35 on Feb 26, 2021

    Hopefully, this goofy-looking thing will find a way to deliver the mail faster than what is currently occurring.

    • See 4 previous
    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Feb 28, 2021

      @Art Vandelay The USPS IS making money on packages, that's why they're buying bigger trucks than the old ones. Where they lose money is being forced to keep old post offices open, and letter and parcel rates Congress won't let them raise. San Diego's 50 year old central post office was replaced with a bigger, more centrally located one, and the building sits empty - Congress won't let the USPS sell the property. There are also over 100 charming 19th and early 20th century rural post offices that are more museum than post office, but the USPS has to pay thousands monthly to maintain them and much more for postal workers to keep them open. We pay 55 cents for first class postage. Germany charges 96 cents equivalent, France $1.14, and the UK $1.19. Meanwhile, Parcel Post is making money, despite Congress keeping rates down so low that Amazon and FedEx use it during busy periods for overflow. Parcel Post delivers more parcels than Amazon, FedEx, and UPS combined.