Ohio, California lawmakers ask for postal truck contract investigation

Ohio, California lawmakers ask for postal truck contract investigation

Oshkosh Defense contract under scrutiny for low percentage of electric vehicles, odd stock trades.

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Cleveland, Ohio – Two Ohio Democratic Congressmen and one from California are asking President Joe Biden’s administration to halt the U.S. Postal Service’s recently awarded contract with Oshkosh Defense to upgrade the service’s aging fleet of delivery vehicles.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) is leading the charge, asking Biden’s administration to investigate whether or not political influence played a role in Oshkosh winning the potential multi-billion-dollar contract. Kaptur also complains that during recent Congressional testimony, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said only 10% of the new mail trucks would be electric vehicles (EVs).

Biden has put high targets for federal agencies to electrify their vehicle fleets, and most industry watchers had expected the USPS contract to go to an EV maker or a company that planned to focus on EVs. The Oskosh vehicles will be capable of using electric powertrains, but DeJoy testified that the service plans to focus on gasoline models for most routes.

Kaptur also says investigators should probe suspicious stock trades in Oshkosh shares that took place shortly before the USPS made its contract-award announcement.

Joining Kaptur in asking for an investigation are Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-California). The presence of two Ohio Congressmen on the request to reconsider the contract is not surprising as an Ohio EV company had been seen by some analysts as the leading candidate.

Workhorse, Cincinnati-area company that makes electric vans and pickups for UPS and other delivery services, submitted a bid for the USPS trucks in 2015 along with more than a dozen competitors including Ford, Freightliner, Nissan, Hummer maker AM General, Stellantis’ Ram commercial truck division, and Oshkosh.

In addition to standing up for a company in their state, lawmakers are also complaining about a lack of faith in DeJoy who has been a target of Democratic complaints for several years. During the 2020 presidential campaign, Democrats accused the postmaster general of changing mail delivery systems in the middle of mail-in voting, delaying delivery of ballots to absentee voters and back to polling stations. Problems with mail delivery persisted after the election.

Biden has added several Democrats to the USPS’ board, so DeJoy may face a challenge to his leadership in the near future.

“There are many questions surrounding the USPS-Oshkosh contract to construct 165,000 postal vehicles over the next decade, representing roughly a third of the entire federal government’s fleet,” Kaptur said. “DeJoy’s problem-riddled tenure calls into question the awarding of a contract critical to the future success of the Postal Service, at a time when he has already struggled mightily to lead.”

She added, “It does not make sense why USPS would go through all the trouble of reimagining their fleet, yet put its collective head in the sand when it comes to internal combustion vs. future propulsion platforms. Given that a reasonable person would not arrive at the decision to electrify only 10% of the new fleet, DeJoy’s proven track record of injecting politics into the functions of USPS, and the suspicious stock trades leading up to the contract announcement, we are calling on the administration to put the USPS contract on hold until an investigation can take place.”

In January, Biden called for replacing the entire U.S. government vehicle fleet with EVs, though executive orders he signed do not put a timeframe on that goal. USPS trucks make up roughly one-third of the federal fleet.

The postal service had hoped to complete the selection process by 2017, but most of the early bids failed technical reviews or only included general sketches of future vehicles. After a few rounds of reworking the bidding process, the contract was supposed to move forward in 2020, but pandemic-related problems delayed the new vehicles.

Neither the USPS nor Oshkosh have yet publicly commented on the calls to investigate the contract.

About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and Today's eMobility and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 19 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.

rschoenberger@gie.net