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Biden’s latest climate win: USPS to get fleet of electric trucks

Ten months ago, it appeared the U.S. Postal Service would not pursue an electric fleet, despite the White House's agenda. The news is far better now.


Between the Jan. 6 committee report, the vote on Donald Trump’s tax returns, the omnibus spending package, Electoral Count Act reforms, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit, there was a lot of news in the nation’s capital last week, but the developments surrounding the U.S. Postal Service shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle. CNBC reported:

The U.S. Postal Service said Tuesday that it intends to purchase at least 66,000 electric delivery vehicles as part of a push to transform its delivery fleet. The electric vehicles would amount to more than half the 106,000 vehicles it plans to acquire for delivery between now and 2028. The new vehicles will start to replace its aging fleet of 220,000 vehicles, the Postal Service said in a press release.

Circling back to our coverage from February, this looked like an opportunity that the USPS would miss.

As 2022 got underway, the Postal Service announced plans to invest billions on a new fleet of vehicles — one of the largest government fleets in the world — and President Joe Biden and his team saw an opportunity to replace gas-powered vehicles with electric vehicles. Indeed, for the Democratic White House, this policy was a key element in a larger climate agenda.

On Capitol Hill, Democratic Rep. Gerald Connolly, who leads the House panel that oversees the Postal Service, pushed a similar line. “The average age of the postal fleet is 30 years,” the Virginia congressman told The New York Times. “They’re spewing pollution and they are guzzling gas. There is no question we have to replace the fleet, and it is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take electric vehicle technology to the next level with the second-largest vehicle fleet in America.”

Connolly added, “If we miss this opportunity, it sets back the whole thrust of the electric vehicle agenda.”

The Democrats’ position made sense for a variety of reasons. While some are concerned about the range of electric vehicles, such fears don’t apply to USPS delivery trucks that operate over limited, fixed routes. What’s more, the Postal Service would enjoy financial benefits over the long run.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy nevertheless announced in February that the USPS would purchase mostly gas-powered vehicles. The Biden White House was not pleased, and neither were environmental groups, some of which filed suit.

Ten months later, DeJoy offered an entirely different set of headlines, boasting that by 2026, the agency would be on track to purchase zero-emissions delivery trucks almost exclusively.

So what changed? For one thing, Democrats approved the Inflation Reduction Act, which included funds for the USPS. For another, the president signed into law the bipartisan Postal Service Reform Act, which dramatically improved the Postal Services’ pension obligations.

“As our financial trajectory improved, as our delivery strategy evolved, and with the help of the congressional funds to facilitate our ambition, we were very well positioned to move forward with more favorable plans that everyone can rally around,” DeJoy told The Washington Post last week.

There’s room for conversation about who does and does not deserve credit for the good news, but the bottom line remains the same: The USPS’ “Next Generation Delivery Vehicles” will be another key part of the nation’s climate agenda.