Replacing an Antiquated Fleet

Michael O. Foster

March 17, 2020

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(This article first appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

The Postal Service is in the final stages of purchasing new delivery vehicles to add to the fleet as they continue replacing the antiquated Long-Life Vehicles (LLVs) that have been in use for the past thirty years.

In Jan. 2020, certified APWU representatives attended the First Article Test (FAT) of the new Mercedes-Benz Metris Right Hand Drive Van in North Charleston, SC. The Postal Service is replacing the Long-Life Vehicles with the new Mercedes Metris van. This van has a cargo volume of a minimum of 121 cubic feet. The delivery vehicle has a mail tray system in the operator cab compartment capable of accommodating Delivery Point Sequenced (DPS) letters, Flat Sequencing System mail, saturation mail and spurs (small parcels less than 1 lb.), among other things.

According to the Postal Service’s requirements, the vehicles must have a mirror system sufficient to eliminate blind spots.

The main concern for the testers was the visibility and the number of blind spots present on the Metris van from the driver’s perspective. The vehicle is only equipped with the standard mirrors that come with any passenger vehicle.

The vehicle is not equipped with the traditional pot lid mirrors that are normally used when driving the LLVs. The rearview mirror served no purpose at all, as a plate attached to the cage blocked its view. Additionally, the front of the vehicle was not visible from the driver’s point of view, making it difficult for the driver to see the curb, objects and mailboxes – a potential hazard. The vehicles are not equipped with alert sensors, nor cameras to assist the driver.

Additional safety and health concerns were included with the union’s remarks under the FAT’s provisions of the contract.

Peterbilt Tandem Tractors FAT

On Jan. 28-31, APWU representatives traveled to the Paccar Technical Center in Mount Vernon, WA for the FAT of the Cab Over Engine (COE) Peterbilt Tandem Tractors. The USPS intends on a one-for-one replacement of the remaining COE tandem tractors in the fleet. In all my years of driving and reviewing these tractors for the USPS, I always believed that the main purpose of the COEs was maneuvering in close quarters, such as those at some of the intra-city stations and branches we service.

The reasoning from upper management attending the FAT was that these vehicles are primarily intended for use in situations where the operator is entering into traffic, and situations where the cab over is needed for the driver to have a better view.

The APWU had the opportunity to inspect, review, and test drive this vehicle during the FAT. Listed below are some of the concerns.

  •  The position of the DEF needs to be moved and labeled to prevent confusion.
  •  Glad Hands should be full-length and solid style.
  • A slip resistant step needs to be installed on the fuel tank.
  • The 5th wheel is non-sliding; install sliding 5th wheel.
  • The current three-mirror system on both sides of the cab needs to be replaced with a two mirror system, and add a mirror on the top of the right-side door to allow the driver to see down.
  • The length of the tractor is approximately two feet longer than its replacement.
  • The brake and accelerator are too close. When attempting to engage either pedal, both pedals are engaged due to their proximity.

We will notify the membership of the USPS responses when received.

We want to thank the following APWU members who represented the MVS Craft during the FAT’s:

Mercedes Metris Right Hand Drive Van

  • Bruce Amey, NBA
  • Nate Walker
  • Timothy Schwarzbauer

COE Peterbilt Tandem Tractor

  • Michael O. Foster
  • Brandon Main
  • Kermit Chatman
  • Felix Colon
  • William Drew

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