Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg would not commit to “rethinking” a long-term contract recently awarded by the U.S. Postal Service for its new mail trucks, even though the contract does not quite align with the Biden administration’s zero-emission vehicle goals.
Asked about doing so by the news organization Axios during a virtual news conference on Friday, Buttigieg acknowledged that the federal government should “walk the talk” when it comes to transitioning to electric vehicles (EVs) and to helping jump-start the EV market.
However, “There are obviously layers of complication around any individual procurement,” he responded. “But the president’s executive order, and some of the authorities that we think will come through future legislation, will make it easier for us to lead by example and eventually capture for taxpayers those fuel savings.”
The 10-year, $482 million contract to produce up to 165,000 Next Generation Delivery Vehicles (NGDVs) was awarded in February to defense contractor Oshkosh Truck Corp. [NYSE: OSK], beating out electric delivery van maker Workhorse Group Inc. [NASDAQ: WKHS]. Workhorse had offered the only battery-electric-powered vehicle among the NGDV contract finalists, and was consistent with President Joe Biden’s Jan. 27 executive order to make all federal-fleet vehicles — including those operated by the Postal Service — zero-emission EVs.
Workhorse, which saw its stock plummet 47% on news of the award to Oshkosh, planned to “explore all avenues” in fighting the Postal Service’s decision.
On March 29, a group of 13 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives wrote to the Postal Service board requesting the agency “immediately pause implementation” of the contract until a full environmental policy review could be completed, citing conflict with Biden’s executive order.
“We are dismayed to learn from testimony by Postmaster General DeJoy at the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that this contract would currently produce only 10% electric vehicles,” the lawmakers stated in their letter.
“Meanwhile, major private delivery fleets — including FedEx, UPS and Amazon, among others — are aggressively transitioning their fleets to clean, safe, reliable, and cost-effective EVs. With private sector fleets moving in this direction, and with General Motors and other leading vehicle manufacturers announcing plans to phase-out internal combustion vehicles by 2035, Postmaster DeJoy’s plan for America’s largest civilian fleet is more than just an outlier.”
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