Today’s Pickup: USPS looking to autonomous mail delivery trucks

Good day,

The U.S. Postal Service could deploy autonomous vehicles as soon as 2025, according to a paper prepared by the Postal Service to explore possible use cases for autonomous technologies. USPS and the University of Michigan are working on a self-driving mail delivery truck, the Autonomous Rural Delivery Vehicle (ARDV), the paper said.

That work is ongoing with UM expected to deliver a prototype this December. From there, USPS will search for a company to build the ARDVs with plans to run test them on 10 rural routes in 2019. If successful, the ARDVs would be deployed along 28,000 rural routes between 2022 and 2025.

In the paper, USPS also outlined five potential use cases for autonomous vehicles for its operations. They are:

  • Driving the letter carrier: Ideal for curbside delivery, the AV would drive itself from mailbox to mailbox, allowing the carrier in the van to prepare the mail for the next address instead of driving.
  • Driverless parking: The vehicle would park itself as the carrier makes deliveries, eliminating the need to look for parking spots while ensuring the vehicle is out of the way of traffic.
  • Following the carrier: For walking routes, the vehicle would follow the carrier, reducing walking time to and from the vehicle as well as the heavy loads the carrier has to carry.
  • Picking up more mail from the post office: When mail from the sorting facility is late or there are too many packages to fit in the vehicle, an AV can be dispatched to bring the items from the post office to the carrier on his route, saving return trips.
  •  Mobile parcel locker: A complete departure from current delivery methods, a fully autonomous mobile locker would remove the carrier from the operation. It would come to the customer when convenient, allowing 24/7, on-demand delivery

USPS estimates that the vehicles would cost between $7,000 and $10,000 more than current vehicles in 2025, but efficiencies in productivity and less fuel usage would offset that cost.

Did you know?

In 2015 the U.S. transportation system moved a daily average of about 49.3 million tons of freight valued at more than $52.5 billion, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, with 1.4% annual growth until 2045.


“The underlying hours-of-service rules have not changed. However, for some, this will be their first introduction to hours-of-service rules, and that’s why you see all the fear mongering.”

Collin Mooney, executive director of CVSA, on criticism on the ELD rule and its impact on HOS rules

In other news:

XPO Logistics to add seasonal staff

XPO Logistics said it would expand its seasonal staff by 20% over last year, adding 6,000 positions to handle the holiday season. (Transport Topics)

U.S. Xpress sees good times ahead

U.S. Xpress CEO Eric Fuller explains why he sees opportunities ahead as the ELD mandate kicks in, and how the company is responding to the driver shortage. (Times Free Press)

C.R. England exemption for pre-CDL drivers extended

FMCSA extended an exemption for C.R. England drivers who have passed their CDL skills test but not yet returned to their home state to obtain their CDL to keep driving in team operations until they do so. (Truckers News)

Finding new uses for old warehouses

There is a growing trend to turn old warehouses into new developments, including housing, in some areas of the country. (Supply Chain Brain)

Motiv deploys electric garbage trucks in L.A.

Motiv Power Systems is putting two electric garbage trucks with payload capacities of 9 tons into operation in Los Angeles. (Clean Technica)

Final Thoughts

XPO Logistics said it will hire 6,000 seasonal employees to handle the holiday rush this year. With UPS, FedEx and others already looking to add more staff this year, and low unemployment in the country in general, it could put an additional squeeze on companies looking for talent.

Hammer down everyone!

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.

One Comment

  1. cman 3 days ago said "Not sure how adding more driving would save on fuel." And it might.. If you ever noticed the mail carrier driving they heavy accelerate to the next box and once they stop at the next they fumble around for the right stuff to deliver. With an automated postal vehicle it would creap along at a slower pace between boxes while the carrier is doing the fumbling, this way the carrier is always busy with everything but the driving part.
    I don’t think well in fact I am positive this will never happen. Its just another situation or engineer minds living in the delusional world thinking they can account for all the situations that can cause an accident with a solution. People have already been hurt in accidents with robot cars involved and eventually the lawyers will cash in to a point where insurance companies will not cover fully robot controlled vehicles. The most we will ever see baring a miracle advancement in programming is driver assisted where the driver is to be watching over the robot at all times and able to override the robot in a nano second.
    This is just another pipe dream answer to certain peoples problems that will never happen, just like mass flying cars and alike..

  2. Last Mile delivery and availability of time is certainly main issues of supply chain today, Especially developing countries like India which has recently started to modernize its warehouses and logistics, good to see companies like Falcon autotech providing best solutions for the Industry