‘Lift Gates’ Could Pose Serious Danger

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(This article appeared in the May/June 2005 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Bob Pritchard Motor Vehicle Division Director

The APWU has received numerous reports of serious problems with the Leyman lift gates on the new 9- and 11-ton postal trucks that have been deployed throughout most of the country. A total of 240 trucks with Leyman rail-type lift gates have been removed from service, and management has issued instructions that the Leyman tuck-under lift gates on 416 other trucks should not be used.

Hydraulic system failure seems to have caused a rail-type Leyman lift gate to collapse during operation in San Francisco in late November: A Motor Vehicle Operator was dropped five feet to the ground, along with a general-purpose container full of mail. Fortunately, the container got wedged between the loading dock and the lift gate, allowing the driver to escape serious injury.

In other cases, reports indicate that the Leyman tuck-under lift gates have defective welds that break.

The Motor Vehicle Division officers believe these incidents demonstrate the potential for serious injury or death, and we are vigorously pursuing this matter with the Postal Service.

In January Leyman began replacing the “C” valve on the rail-style lift gates on at least some of the trucks. Leyman also made support brackets that could be attached to the tuck-under lift gates. The brackets should be visible and no Leyman tuck-under lift gate should be used unless it has the support brackets.

In the Pacific Area, management removed trucks with Leyman lift gates from service. In other areas, USPS officials at the local level have been directed to test Leyman rail-type lift gates, and to keep motor vehicle operators informed about the safety issues.

We believe the tests may be inadequate and should not be relied upon to identify and correct the problems and ensure the safety of our members. We believe all trucks with the Leyman lift gates should be retrofitted and repaired.

We have sent a letter to union representatives in the field asking for information about this issue. New information is coming to light slowly, however, so please be sure to inform us of any problems you may experience concerning these trucks. Some problems may be localized or occur only intermittently due to weather or terrain. Other concerns may prove to be widespread.

If you experience trouble with the lifts (or any other problems) on these trucks, please contact your local Motor Vehicle Director and steward to document and address the issue immediately at the local level. The director should send us a letter and relevant documentation that identifies and describes the nature of the problem. We will also pursue the matter at this level.

Change of Plans for Craft Conference

Plans for the union’s craft conferences have changed significantly since we reported on them in the last edition of The American Postal Worker. The conferences are now set for Aug. 8-10, at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas . A contract dispute forced the APWU to change the plans.

We’re hopeful that the new date and location will turn out for the best and we regret any inconvenience caused for people who already had made arrangements to take time off from work in order to attend.

Las Vegas was chosen because it was the only city where we could find a hotel big enough to provide all of the meeting space we need for the conference without using a convention center. The location we had planned to use could not accommodate the Clerk Craft general session, which typically has more than 2,000 participants. (Delegates to the union’s national convention last summer voted to save the union money by holding the three craft conferences at the same time and in the same city.)

While it’s unfortunate that the size of the Clerk Craft conference limits the number of sites where we can hold the craft conferences, holding all three conferences at the same time means that more extensive training can be offered to attendees from all three divisions. A complete list of the courses being offered is forthcoming.

The MVS Tradition

The Motor Vehicle Craft will follow our traditional program: There will be a day-and-a-half of training and a day-and-a-half to discuss general business, with the focus on the upcoming contract negotiations.

The conference will take place approximately two weeks before the first negotiating session with the Postal Service. Therefore, we will use it as an opportunity to fine-tune our proposals and to make any necessary adjustments. The craft has been very clear on what we hope to accomplish in contract negotiations, but we must prioritize our goals. At headquarters, we began discussing negotiations internally in January.

BPI Reviews Still a Concern

Breakthrough Productivity Initiative management teams are still out in the field, but at a more reduced level than in the past. Their impact, however, can still be devastating. We remind everyone that if a BPI Review is scheduled or you find out that a BPI team is coming into your facility, make sure you contact your National Business Agent. The Motor Vehicle Division has advocates who can help you review operations and identify recommendations affecting your installation.

BPI teams may come into your area under another title. Don’t be fooled if your local manager calls the BPI Review something else and tells you not to worry; that almost assuredly means you should worry more.

The teams still perform the same functions as before: They start out with “zero basing” of the truck routes and take it from there. They almost always make recommendations to cut the hours of operation, as well as to reduce manpower and equipment at a facility. The new teams are under the authority of the local, district, and area management. They do not seem to have the same constraints as when they were being supervised by headquarters management.

State Conventions

The Motor Vehicle Division officers traditionally attend state conventions and local training sessions throughout the country. However, APWU President William Burrus has instituted a new policy that limits travel by national officers. The policy, designed to cut expenses, permits officers to attend only five conventions or training sessions per year, plus one event in the officer’s home state.

Because attendance by Motor Vehicle Craft members at state conventions typically is low, we intend to focus our travel on Motor Vehicle training sessions. If locals or regions organize Motor Vehicle Craft training sessions, we will be more than willing to attend – we plan to save our five or six annual trips for occasions such as these, where there will be a large number of Motor Vehicle Craft employees in attendance.

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