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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Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive (APWU)

Web News Article #:
05/04/2018 – The APWU National officers are asking members to actively support the 26th Annual National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive on Saturday, May 12.
Last year, carriers collected more than 71 million pounds of food. Donations were collected in over 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Postal customers across the country are asked to put non-perishable food donations in a sturdy bag and place the bag near their mailbox prior to their regular mail delivery on Saturday, May 12. Letter carriers will collect the donations as they deliver mail. Many USPS worksites also set out containers to collect contributions.
Volunteers can: organize donations as they come in; help transport contributions to local pantries; place posters and flyers about the food drive in public places; make sure family and friends know about the drive and how easy it is to donate, and spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Contact your local or state union representative for more information.
Tags: Community Support,Human Interest,Join/Stay Involved,Labor Solidarity,National Day of Action,Vice President,Human Relations,Protecting Service

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Mail theft ring targeted more than 500 victims in Anchorage

Stolen mail, identification and bank documents seized by investigators

By KTUU News |
Posted: Fri 8:28 PM, Apr 27, 2018 |
Updated: Fri 9:28 PM, Apr 27, 2018

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) – Three Anchorage residents have been charged in connection with a mail theft ring that victimized over 500 people in the Anchorage area according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The indictment alleges that 34-year-old Amber Hecker, 35-year-old Ronald Hecker, and 34-year-old Richard Hoglin used checks stolen from the mail, stolen identification and bank cards, and forged or falsely altered stolen checks that were used to make deposits into and withdrawals from fraudulently opened bank accounts over the span of a year or more.
According to court documents, on or around April 6, 2017, co-conspirators Amber and Ronald Hecker deposited a stolen and forged Bank of America convenience check for $950 from one victim into the Alaska USA account of another victim. Minutes later, the Heckers withdrew $900 in cash from the same Alaska USA account.
This was the first known instance of check fraud outlined in the case, though the indictment states the conspiracy may have started prior to that date.
A similar pattern of theft and fraud continued through April 3 this month.

The theft ring was uncovered as a result of overlapping investigations between multiple agencies. While Anchorage Police were investigating the incidents of bank fraud, Anchorage International Airport Police discovered a large bag of stolen mail, and the U.S. Postal Inspector made the connection between the bank fraud and the stolen mail.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Steward says the co-conspirators sorted and stored stolen mail for later use.
The scheme began to unravel in February, 2018, when Anchorage Police obtained a felony arrest warrant for Ronald Hecker on counts of burglary, theft, and forgery stemming from a 2016 burglary.
On March 2, APD arrested Ronald and Amber Hecker together in the parking lot of Fred Meyer on Debarr Road. Ronald was held on his existing warrant as well as the additional theft and criminal mischief charges.
According to APD, Amber initially gave officers a false name, and was in possession of a wallet and credit cards that did not belong to her. She was taken into custody and charged with providing false information, theft, criminal mischief, and fraudulent use of a stolen access device.

Online records show Amber Hecker posted bond on March 5. Two weeks later, on March 19, she and Richard Hoglin, the third co-conspirator named in the indictment, are alleged to have deposited a stolen and forged Bank of America convenience check in the amount of $2,500 into a victim Alaska USA account, withdrawing $900 in cash in the same transaction.
Hecker and Hoglin repeated the scam the following day, and again on April 3, the last instance documented in the indictment.
Court records show Hecker was in custody on or around April 13, charged with a scheme to defraud five or more victims.
Steward says Hoglin was taken into custody earlier this week.
The three co-conspirators are facing up to 30 years in prison, a fine of $1 million dollars, or both.
Prosecutors say the increase in mail theft appears to be linked to the rise of opioid and methamphetamine use in Anchorage.
Anchorage residents are encouraged to take steps to secure their mail, including using a secure post office box, or installing surveillance cameras to monitor their mail. Officials say putting outgoing mail in unsecured mailboxes should also be avoided. Additionally, citizens can request that their banks and credit card companies not send them convenience checks in the mail.

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Going the Last Mile

By Zach McDonald
Trump’s specious attacks on Amazon missed the real issue: the giant retailer is exploiting USPS workers to fill in the gaps of its own union-busting model.    It’s inevitable that a billionaire fixated on airing petty social grievances against his peers over Twitter would occasionally pick fights with the right enemies for the wrong reasons. Donald Trump’s recent call-outs of Amazon over what he claims is a one-sided contract with the United States Postal Service is just such an instance.
Trump has been taken to task in the media over his claim that USPS loses $1.50 on every Amazon package it delivers — a falsehood that likely originates in a Wall Street Journal op-ed written by a hedge fund manager with a heavy stake in FedEx. The president may or may not be aware that the Postal Regulatory Commission is charged with examining and confirming the profitability of the contract for USPS on an annual basis.
Rooted in poorly sourced talking points culled from the frothing enemies of all things public sector, Trump’s claims fit the well-worn conservative narrative of government largess rigged to exploit the taxpayer. Nevertheless, there’s a certain degree of truth to the insinuation that Amazon is getting the better end of its 2013 Negotiated Service Agreement with the Postal Service. In reality though, it’s not the federal balance sheet that’s hurting — it’s USPS’s thinly stretched, union workforce.

Going the Last Mile
The rise of e-commerce over the last two decades has been fueled by a private-sector “logistics revolution.” Led by companies like FedEx, UPS, and Amazon, networks of computer-directed hubs and SuperHubs allow shippers to move tens of millions of packages to individuals each day at incredible speed and cost-efficiency.
But while sophisticated optimization and coordination of delivery chains between hubs has been a major revenue driver for the corporations attempting to perfect it, improved efficiency and profitability in the so-called “last mile” of these chains is often far more difficult to attain.
Amazon operates more than one hundred so-called “fulfillment centers”— the final warehouse stop before goods reach the customer— in and around major cities. For customers living close to a fulfillment center, last-mile delivery is typically handled by part-time “Flex” drivers, who just have to download an app and pass a basic background check in order to jump into the logistics chain for as many or as few hours as they’d like to work.
The gigification of last-mile responsibilities is Amazon’s ideal scenario. But it’s only possible in areas where it’s profitable to run a fulfillment center. In many less-dense areas of the country, it simply isn’t profitable for logistics corporations like Amazon to handle last-mile deliveries themselves.
Instead, Amazon (as well as FedEx and UPS) frequently rely on USPS, which is legally bound to both remain profitable and guarantee universal nationwide service. This USPS mandate sharply distinguishes it from its private competitors — which only build delivery infrastructure and employ workers where it increases profitability.

USPS Workers Bear the Burden
In February, the Nation outlined the increasing toll the Amazon deal is taking on USPS’s sorters and carriers due to understaffing and aging delivery infrastructure designed primarily to handle paper mail. Since the 2013 Negotiated Service Agreement — which at the time was trumpeted as Amazon “saving” the Postal Service from insolvency — USPS has been forced to take on higher and higher volumes of packages without adequate funding to retool its operations for the changing nature of its work.
According to the National Association of Letter Carriers, the Amazon agreement puts added physical strain on clerks and delivery people, frequently leading to workplace injuries. Understaffed and crunched for time, individuals regularly lift heavy packages intended to be handled by multiple workers. For postal workers in areas of the country that Amazon can’t reach, the increased package load translates to added hours spent doing more physically rigorous work.
As part of the deal, USPS also agreed to begin delivering packages on Sunday for the first time in its history. To cover the extra hours, the Postal Service has increasingly hired lower-paid city carrier assistants, who aren’t entitled to the same pay and benefits as regular letter carriers. By accommodating Amazon’s demand for Sunday service and filling those shifts with lower-wage workers, USPS is playing by the lean, profit-driven rules of the private sector.

The Assault on Public Postal Services
Blame for the added strain placed on USPS workers by the Amazon deal can’t be pinned directly on Amazon — after all, it’s the responsibility of postal management to keep its operations fully staffed and modernized. But USPS has been forced to cut corners and to rely on the Amazon contract in the first place — by a “manufactured” budgetary crisis engineered in the halls of Congress.
The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 mandates that USPS cover the projected cost of its employee benefits seventy-five years into the future. The bill added $5 billion per year to the Postal Service budget, creating chaos for an agency that in the past had no difficulties remaining solvent. Under the pretext of accountability and fiscal responsibility, the law enjoyed support from both sides of the aisle. But the real intent behind PAEA seems to have been to promote the privatization of one of the United States’ oldest and most stable government agencies.
As a result, USPS has been forced to take on the difficult, last-mile delivery needs of the very same corporate interests that seek to replace it. From delivery drones to gig-economy “Flex” worker apps, companies like Amazon, FedEx, and UPS are working hard to eventually cut last-mile costs and eliminate their dependence on the USPS’s union workforce. Not only is USPS one of the largest middle-class employers in the United States — particularly for African Americans — it’s also legally mandated to serve residents in remote areas that private carriers may very well decide aren’t worth reaching. The privatization and marginalization of the Postal Service would be a national tragedy.
It’s a familiar narrative in the era of crisis capitalism and austerity. Government is called upon to provide services for the most expensive and marginalized segments of the population at the same time that it’s being cut out of potentially profitable market segments by privatization. In health care, Medicare and Medicaid are charged with caring for the poorest and most expensive patients. In education, charter school openings are frequently accompanied by public school closings. Many charters choose to eschew students with more expensive needs — forcing students to bus to the other side of the city to find a school offering a special education program.
Trump may have once again stumbled ignorantly onto a greater truth he doesn’t begin to understand — but don’t expect him to do anything about it. The right-wing think tanks that inspired the president’s dubious tweet storms didn’t raise these issues with the intention of alleviating the Post Office of its onerous and unnecessary prepaid benefit obligations. They’d like to see those benefits cut or eliminated entirely, followed by the jobs they’re attached to.

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