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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.