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[转载]Reinventing the Mail Truck

已有 5846 次阅读 2015-3-20 18:34 |系统分类:海外观察|文章来源:转载

Reinventingthe Mail Truck

By AARON M.KESSLER 

URL:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/06/automobiles/the-mail-truck-is-a-classic-and-thats-a-problem-for-a-modern-post-office.html 

ARLINGTON,Va. — On a recent snowy morning, Michael Ellis prepared his mail truck for thedaily route he has run here for the last decade, through a neighborhood in theWashington suburbs.

White,boxy mail trucks are a staple of neighborhoods across the country. But theaging vehicles — many date to the late 1980s — were built for a different era.They have no anti-lock brakes, airbags or even air-conditioning, and moreimportant, the mail trucks simply are too cramped to carry the increasingnumber of packages postal carriers deliver.

“It’sbeen a good vehicle for me, but it just can’t keep up anymore with what weneed,” Mr. Ellis said, pointing to the stacks of boxes in the back of histruck.

Mr.Ellis, a mail carrier for nearly 29 years, remembers when the post office herereceived its first batch of the Grumman-bodied trucks around 1990. Back then,he said, they were a dream compared with the Ford Pinto he had been using.

“Ohman, that Pinto, that was the worst,” he said, chuckling. “These trucks were abig step up back then. But as with everything, times have changed.”

 

Responding to those changes, the United States Postal Service hasannounced it will replace its fleet of Grumman mail trucks with what it callsits next-generation delivery vehicle. The goal is to harness new technologies,increase fuel efficiency and help the Postal Service bettercompete on package deliveries with the likes of FedEx and United ParcelService.

Already, automakers are working to compete for thecoveted contract, worth an estimated $6 billion to produce 180,000 vehicles.And although manufacturers declined to divulge details of their designs, theoutlines of the mail truck of the future are emerging based on the requirementsthat the Postal Service has detailed.

The biggest shift: Drivers must be able to stand up. Withthe rise in online retail sales, drivers are increasingly delivering packages,not just envelopes, and need more room in the back of the vehicle to storeboxes and walk among them.

Continuereading the main story

To this end, the Postal Service has asked automakers toconsider a “fully enclosed van style body” that would have internal cargocapacity and even sliding side doors.

“Most likely it’ll be a van of some kind, but we’re stillearly in the process,” said Sarah Ninivaggi, a spokeswoman for the PostalService. “It will definitely be larger and likely with a different shape thanwhat we have now.”

Automakers were told to make plenty of room in the backof the vehicle for packages, including shelving units and sorting machines tohelp ease access to the boxes during delivery.

Those features would be welcome by Mr. Ellis and hisfellow mail carriers, who in December alone delivered 524 million packages, an18 percent increase over the previous year.

“It would be great to be able to maneuver back there, tonot have to step over parcels and be able to organize them better,” he said.Recently, some makeshift shelves were installed to help, he said, but theresimply is not enough room to work efficiently.

Continuereading the main story

Two weeks ago, the Postal Service met with automakersinterested in building the vehicles, and the process — by government contractstandards — was set to accelerate quickly. Companies will submit information bythe middle of this month to be deemed “qualified” to bid. Those chosen willthen formally bid and have their designs ready for postal officials by thesummer.

 

The current mail truck “just can’t keep up anymore withwhat we need,” Michael Ellis, a postal carrier, says. Credit T.J. Kirkpatrickfor The New York Times

 

From there, officials will choose two or three versions,and automakers will produce working prototypes over the next six months, Ms.Ninivaggi said. The vehicles will be tested in real-world situations by postalworkers and in other test situations, until the winner is decided. The newfleet is scheduled to begin operating in 2018.

Some of the changes are aimed at simply bringing thetruck in line with current standards. Among the new features the post officewants are not only items like airbags, but also backup cameras and warningsystems, ergonomic seats and doors, and antiskid surfaces.

Mr. Ellis, the Virginia postal carrier, showed howprecarious the bare-metal footholds by the driver’s door can get in the wintryweather. “It’s easy to slip,” he said. “People started putting strips down totry and help, but even then.”

While the Postal Service is not claiming the new mailtrucks will reduce the number of accidents, it does expect they will keeppostal workers safer if they are in a crash. (It declined to provide recentaccident figures.)

Mr. Ellis said anti-lock brakes would be a welcomeaddition to help navigate wet and wintry weather. He also said the currenttrucks could get a little top-heavy toward the end of the day, when the truckwas emptier, and a new design with improved weight distribution would help.

“They can slide around a little, so you learn to becareful in those conditions,” he said.

Backing up is also a challenge. A large yellow sticker onthe dashboard of Mr. Ellis’s truck warns drivers to not back up unlessnecessary.

“I’ll try to park where I never have to back up. Butthat’s not always possible,” he said. “A lot of us here asked about backupcameras, and thankfully that’s been included in what the next truck will have.”

Better fuel economy is paramount; the current trucksachieve only about 9 miles per gallon. In the 2014 fiscal year, the PostalService spent $539 million over all just on fuel. The competition is open toalternative motors, like hybrid, natural gas, fuel cell or electric, ifautomakers can demonstrate they can do the job as well as internal combustionengines.



The mailtruck has no antilock brakes, airbags or even air-conditioning. More important,the vehicles are simply too cramped to carry the increasing number of packagesthat postal carriers deliver. Credit T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

The contract is a potential windfall for automakers,which in recent years have given their commercial fleet vehicles a significantoverhaul.

“Getting the Postal Service contract all by itself couldjustify the expense of developing an entirely new model line,” said KarlBrauer, an analyst with Kelley Blue Book, adding that it takes on average about$1 billion to develop a new vehicle.

Mr. Brauer said the aggressive push into the commercialvan market over the last several years by the likes of Ford, Fiat Chrysler andNissan meant they potentially could also adapt one of their platforms into thepostal truck.

Continuereading the main storyContinuereading the main story

Continuereading the main story

Mercedes-Benz, whose Sprinter van was largely recognizedas a significant leap forward when it debuted about a decade ago, now hascompetition, Mr. Brauer said, as automakers bet on corporate and governmentfleets being ready for a refresh after the recession.

“They saw this coming and recognized they needed to uptheir game if they wanted to compete,” he said.

He also said the Postal Service “could be pressured topick a domestic automaker, though that will be secondary to costconsiderations.”

Automakers would not say much about pursuing the postalcontract. A spokesman for Fiat Chrysler said the company was reviewing thedetails provided by the Postal Service, “but beyond that, we’re not commentingfurther.”

General Motors said it was “early in the process ofexploring potential solutions that would work” for the postal vehicle. And FordMotor said only that it was capable of “commercial-grade solutions that can betailored to meet a wide variety of business or fleet needs.”

As he stood near his truck in the cold morning air, Mr.Ellis said that although it had been a good partner for the last decade, onething he would not miss was the vehicle’s propensity for breakdowns. It’s notuncommon for mail carriers to be stranded on their routes while waiting forrepairs or a tow.

“It’s hard to even get parts for it anymore,” he said.“That’s when you know you’re driving something old.”

 

A New Postal Service Truck

Automakers are vying for the contract to build a newtruck for the U.S. Postal Service. Some features may include:


1. GREATER HEIGHT

To allow driver to stand up in rear of truck

2. RIGHT-HAND DRIVE

To allow driver easy access to the curb

3. AIRBAGS

4. PACKAGE ROOM

More shelves for packages in rear

5. BACKUP CAMERA

6. TAILPIPE ON LEFT

To keep fumes away from driver

7. GREATER FUEL EFFICIENCY

Current postal trucks average 9 to 10 m.p.g. The newmodel should perform better, possibly using a hybrid or other alternate enginetype.

 

Mail Trucks of the Past (Smithsonian'sNational Postal Museum, Curatorial Photographic Collection)

 

1. A United States Mail regulation wagon in front of theBoston post office building in 1895.


 

2. United StatesMail wagons lined up along an unidentified post office building in 1904.


 

 

3. Two Columbiamail trucks in 1906.


 

4.  A 1907 postcard of the Milwaukee Mail Car.


 

5.  A Columbia Mark 3 Touring Car mail vehicle in1906.


 

6. A lettercarrier with a Columbia Mark 3.


 

7. A 1915 mailtruck.


 

8. A mail truckin 1947.


 

9. A mailvehicle from about 1950, designated for parcels.


 

10. A lettercarrier in a three-wheeled "mailster" in 1955.


 

11. A lettercarrier driving a new right-hand-drive van about 1953.


 

12. A lettercarrier delivering mail in a right-hand-drive van in 1954.


 



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