AM General Tops Reader Poll for Next USPS Mail Truck

May 14, 2018 by Ryan ZumMallen, @Zoomy575M

The U.S. Postal Service isn’t saying which of five prototype vehicles will win a $6-billion contract to become its next mail truck. But readers favor the offering from AM General.

The USPS is seeking a replacement for about 180,000 trucks in its aging fleet. The program is called the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle, or NGDV

The design from the South Bend, Ind., manufacturer garnered the most support in a more than 35,000-vote reader poll by The AM General truck collected nearly 13,000 votes, or 36 percent of the total. The vehicle is powered by an internal-combustion engine with fuel-efficient start-stop technology.

Its nearest competitors were Indian manufacturer Mahindra, whose truck earned 29 percent of the total vote, and a joint venture from Karsan and Morgan Olson at 21 percent.

One truck from Oshkosh and another from the team of VT Hackney and Workhorse Group each collected 7 percent of the votes.

In reviewing more than 100 comments left by readers, as well as interviewing dozens of current and former letter carriers, analyzed what fueled the preference for each of the prototypes.

AM General enjoys an established name in the commercial sector. There are also many ways its vehicle relates to the current Grumman LLV mail truck that has been in operation since the 1980s

The shape of the AM General truck is similar to the Grumman LLV, giving it a familiarity to both carriers and the general public. The AM General model is essentially an updated version of the nimble Grumman LLV. Its compact size works in tight urban corridors, and new USPS requirements — such as optional four-wheel drive and increased storage capacity — better suit the truck for suburban and rural routes.

The AM General truck also isn’t equipped with hybrid or electric powertrain technology, eliminating the need for a potentially costly infrastructure overhaul at USPS facilities. Its familiarity and uncomplicated advancements may tip the scales in its favor.

But the prototype has some detractors who said it appears small for modern mail delivery. That may explain why the Mahindra truck garnered enough votes — more than 10,000 — to come in second.

The postal service requires minimum dimensions that guarantee each prototype will offer similar storage space, but images captured by photographers make the Mahindra appear well suited to handle the increasing number of packages that letter carriers are required to haul today thanks to expanding e-commerce. The Mahindra vehicle is powered by a 2.5-liter engine from General Motors that comes with start-stop technology and a hybrid option.

Nearly 7,300 votes were cast for the Karsan/Morgan Olson entry, a boxy truck with plug-in hybrid capability, likely attractive for its green features. Numerous commenters and carriers expressed a desire for electric drive. Mail trucks make hundreds of stops each day and typically travel short routes of less than 80 miles. A vehicle running on electricity can drastically cut down on emissions and extend its range with regenerative braking.

The entry by Workhorse and VT Hackney offers environmental benefits, too. The truck runs on an electric battery pack with a small generator to extend its range when juice runs low. Though the Workhorse/VT Hackney vehicle enjoyed ardent support among online commenters and carriers who spoke with, it attracted the second-lowest number of votes with about 2,500.

Commercial manufacturer Oshkosh entered a retooled Ford Transit van for the contest. The Oshkosh received overwhelmingly favorable reviews from commenters due to its attractive shape and spacious cargo area. Carriers also liked the promise of being able to stand up inside the rear section. However, its relatively large size had carriers wondering whether they could pull up to mailboxes at the curb. That may explain why it tallied the lowest number of votes at just over 2,300.

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