The United States Postal Service is getting new mail trucks, a modernized fleet it initially said would be only 10 percent electric. But in a new 10-year plan issued Tuesday, the USPS said it could make a “majority” of the new trucks electric, if only it could get billions from Congress.
Here is the key paragraph from the report:
Importantly, with the right level of Congressional support, we can commit to a majority of the Postal Service’s delivery fleet being electric within ten years and a fully electric fleet by 2035. We welcome support from Congress that advances the goal of a Postal Service vehicle fleet with zero emissions and the necessary infrastructure that will be required to support it. An additional investment of approximately $8 billion is needed to electrify our delivery vehicle fleet to the maximum extent that is operationally feasible. We will be communicating our estimate of vehicle mix for our first order to the supplier in July 2021 to be followed by the delivery order in February 2022.
Now, $8 billion is not nothing, and surely some good-government conservative types will convince themselves that actually we might be able to come up that much purely by cutting costs and reducing inefficiencies within the USPS, the ostensible reason for today’s plan in the first place. The report also outlines how the USPS will ship more mail on the ground and less through the air, and make $40 billion in capital investments.
But the thing about the USPS is that none of this had to be this way to begin with. I invite you to read my former colleague Aaron Gordon’s reporting on the matter in Vice. The tl;dr is that Congress handicapped the USPS in 2006 and could just as easily unhandicap it with new legislation, and also maybe throw in $8 billion for electric mail trucks while they’re at it.
Our current Postmaster General’s obsession with making the USPS a break-even enterprise is not something we ordinarily ask of government. Part of the deal with paying taxes is that you expect governmental services in return, not that your taxes are an investment in some kind of business; if I wanted to invest in a shipping business, I would simply buy stock in UPS.
Making the mail fast, reliable and secure is a basic function of any modern country, and if that’s not worth spending tax money on I’m not sure what we’re doing here. Does the USPS really need $8 billion for electric mail trucks? Maybe not. But also: For the federal government, that is a drop in the bucket. Ball’s in your court, Congress.