'Keep on Truckin' Baby Again

April 2, 2019

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(This article first appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine) 

By MVS Division Director Michael O. Foster

In early 2018, the USPS began deploying new cargo trucks and spotters, on a one-for-one replacement of the trucks in use at the time. The Postal Service continues to replace its aging fleet, and tractors are next in line. Many of the current tractors have over 1 million miles and are on their last leg.

On Jan. 29-31, in South Bend, IN, the APWU attended the First Article Testing (FAT) the Postal Service conducted on the Cab-Behind-Engine (CBE) tractor trailers, built by Navistar International Trucks, formerly International Harvester Company.

Several of our MVS Craft representatives across the country braved record inclement weather to participate in the FAT, which included an opportunity to observe and operate the test vehicles. The opinion of the APWU team members is these vehicles appear to be a welcome improvement to the Postal fleet.

The initial purchase of 1579 CBE vehicles includes 1040 single-axle tractors and 539 tandem-axle tractors. A second purchase order of 221 Cab-Over-Engine (COE) tractors will follow shortly. The replacement of the tractors, as was the case with the cargo trucks, will be a one-for-one replacement beginning sometime in the middle of May 2019.

These vehicles are equipped with a keyless entry system and a separate keyless start system in addition to the oldfashioned key entry and start system. The keyless system will take some time to get used to, as it comes equipped with certain features requiring initial training.

These modern-day tractors are also equipped with an ‘On Command Connection’ (OCC) system which has the capacity to store information in the cloud.

The Postal Service also had the manufacturer install the ‘Bendix Wingman Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control” with collision mitigation and stationary object alert. This system will assist the driver with collision avoidance by sounding a buzzer and a red signal on the dashboard if the driver is too close, or 1.5 seconds from a moving vehicle or stationary object.

The items of concern that the APWU team representatives brought to the Postal Service’s attention for the CBE tractors can be viewed here. We identified a serious concern with the coupling and uncoupling of the tractor and trailer. Navistar and the Postal Service promised to provide the APWU with a video demonstrating the various angles and conditions our drivers regularly experience when coupling and uncoupling the two vehicles.

Electric – Is it the Future?

On Jan. 16-17, First Article Testing was held in Milpitas, CA for the ‘Intermediate Delivery 2-Ton Step’ Van – an allelectric vehicle.

This vehicle is a prototype tested for a one-year period only in California. This is a project between the Postal Service and CALSTART, a non-profit organization working nationally and internationally with business and governments to develop clean, efficient transportation solutions.

This is a regular standard delivery two-ton postal vehicle, where the manufacturer, Cummins Inc. (EDI), replaced the combustion engine with an all-electric direct drive system requiring no shifting other than to go forward or backwards.

This is a high voltage vehicle that operates at over 400 volts. It is equipped with two battery packs; each pack has seven batteries weighing 165 pounds each.

Surprisingly, the vehicle passed all criteria requirements and exceeded its requirements in many areas, despite being fully loaded with over 3700 pounds.

Some of the drawbacks for this particular vehicle were:

  • High-voltage batteries requiring 8-9 hours to fully charge
  • A total driving distance of only 77-100 miles when fully charged

The vehicles will be tested for a year, before any purchasing decisions will be made.

Participants in the FATs were members and officers from around the country. We would like to thank:

Felix Colon – Puget Sound Area Local
Marvin Smith – Atlanta Metro Area Local
Kermit Chatman – Detroit District Area Local
Ray Scanlon – Baltimore Francis Stu Fibley Area Local
Jerome Pittman – Western MVS NBA
Joseph LaCapria – Northeast MVS NBA
Javier Piñeres – Assistant Director MVS

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