U.S. Postal Service isn’t getting better; its old trucks are burning

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By James Raia

For more than six years, the truck most susceptible to fire isn’t a newfangled high-technology machine with lots of electronics that can go wrong. The vehicle with the most potential danger is likely the most unsuspecting — United States Postal Service delivery trucks.

According to Motherboard, the investigative component of Vice.com, more than 400 USPS trucks have been damaged or destroyed by fires since May 2014. It’s an average of about one fire every five days.

US Postal Service trucks are burning at an alarming rate.
US Postal Service trucks are burning at an alarming rate.

The website’s reporter, Aaron Gordon, received a tip on a handwritten letter that read: “File an FOIA with USPS for LLV truck fires.”

Long Life Vehicles (LLV)) are the delivery trucks synonymous with the postal service. FOIA stands for Freedom of Information Act.

Motherboard reported LLVs are built to last an estimated 24 years. Current trucks, according to Gordon, average from 26 to 33 years old. The USPS estimates about 141,000 vehicles are in its fleet.

According to the 3,954-page fire investigation report, 125 of the 407 LLV fires were so thorough investigators couldn’t determine a probable fire cause.

TheDrive.com reports LLVs are based on the Chevrolet S-10 chassis. Many are powered by General Motors’ underpowered 2.5-liter four-cylinder Iron Duke engine. Later trucks got a 2.2-liter GM inline-four with an iron block and aluminum heads. That technology is 26 years old.

“Of the remaining 282 fires where investigators could identify a likely cause, the only pattern was that there was no pattern,” Gordon wrote. “The fires occurred in hot and cold climates, at the beginning and ends of shifts, in the battery compartments, dashboards, and fuel pumps, and in vehicles that had both been recently maintained and were overdue for a check-up. They occurred on rural routes and city streets all over the country.”

Nearly a decade ago, the USPS planned to replace its old LLV fleet. It didn’t occur, but the USPS now says, via a spokesperson and according to Gordon’s report, it will select a vehicle by the end of 2020.

James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: james@jamesraia.com.

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Tom
3 months ago

I worked for and drove these vehicles for USPS and watched as a delivery truck bring back a overhauled vehicle wouldn’t start to unload it from delivery truck. Back to the vendor to get worked on again. I also had to drive the older Jeeps the had before the LLV became the one of choice. Bare bones vehicle. Hotter then heck in summer colder than … in winter.

Ex postal employee
3 months ago

over 31 years in the postal service and I have seen a lot of things that are unbelievable. Retired now but stood at the loading dock and watched a brand new LLV catch on fire and burn 2 days after it was delivered. Biggest problem with the postal service today is the same problem that was there 31 years ago. Favoritism and nepotism are EVERYWHERE. When you put unqualified people in positions of authority there are consequences. We are seeing now and have seen over the past decades the results of those consequences and it’s bound to get worse.

Julia
3 months ago

Yet another ‘nail in the coffin’ making it’s slide into the deep.
Serious, serious exposed trouble abounds everywhere now.

Joe
3 months ago

Just great, let’s tie this in with yesterday’s poll of the day. 1 fire every 5 days makes me wonder how many votes will be lost!

Tbloesch
3 months ago

I retired from the USPS after 35 years, Bob p. is correct, it is not govt. funded. Actually, about 7 years ago the Feds decided that USPS should prefund retirement for employees not yet hired. In other words, money was taken from the USPS for no reason.

These vehicles are falling apart, I had suspension parts break while driving, a coworker had the dashboard start flaming. Many will get a new battery, then a month later it is toast. These LLV’s should have been replaced many years ago. At my last office, the vehicles were older than half the employees.

NOTFUNNY
3 months ago

The USPS is SO POORLY Managed, it is not surprising these things happen!
And now Congress is supposed to give them a 75 Billion dollar cash infusion to keep the USPS running.
Simply Poor, Incompetent Management by another Government Agency!

I would personally Love to see the USPS disbanded and hand over Mail Delivery Services to other Companies that have their “””””” in order! Like FEDEX or UPS.

Bob p
3 months ago
Reply to  NOTFUNNY

The USPS is not a government agency, they are a stand alone private organization regulated by the feds. It’s been that way since the 70s, yes it’s mismanaged by Washington cronies.

Gman
3 months ago
Reply to  NOTFUNNY

Bob p beat me to the punch, Your not funny due to your misguided opinion, Besides, the article was about Postal trucks(LLV’s) burning. How is mismanaging the blame for trucks burning? Thorough investigations were performed, “only pattern was no pattern”. Mismanagement was also not found.

Don
3 months ago
Reply to  NOTFUNNY

If you’re a rural USPS customer, you’re in for a huge shock if they’re disbanded. The profitable high-density routes heavily subsidize the rural customers. If they’re commercialized, rural routes will either disappear or costs of delivery there will skyrocket. What’s needed is to get Congress and the Administration OUT of the management of the Postal Service.

Bigboy123
3 months ago

While I enjoy reading “bad news” stories as much as the next guy, we should keep these stats about USPS truck fires in perspective. If the USPS experienced a total of 407 trucks fires since 2014, that’s an average of 68 trucks burned per year. In a fleet of 141,000, that’s a little under .0005 (5 hundredths of one percent). That’s actually a lower rate than for all vehicles on the road in the US: according to government sources, in the same period there were about 171,500 vehicle fires per year in the whole US, out of a total number of registered vehicles of about 270,000,000 per year. That’s a vehicle fire rate of a little over .0006 (6 hundredths of one percent).

BoinLV
3 months ago
Reply to  Bigboy123

Bravo, Bigboy! Question ALL spoon-fed data

Core
3 months ago
Reply to  Bigboy123

That is what is some what wrong , you shouldn’t try to put logical figures to a problem getting worse . The vehicles need replacing that’s the bottom line . Nobody drives a vehicle that old ,that hard everyday and expect it to hold up . Mechanics 101 it is a machine and will wear out 👍!!!!

Marty chambers
3 months ago

The fact is that the vehicles are worn out and need to be replaced but those who plan the demise of the USPS won’t allow it. The want to destroy postal service as we know it and replace it with more expensive privately owned corporations.

Julia
3 months ago
Reply to  Marty chambers

Thought it was privately owned – since 70’s?