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EquipmentModern ShipperNewsTop StoriesTrucking

Not just electric: Oshkosh says postal trucks purpose built for carriers

Nation’s largest last-mile fleet makeover begins in summer 2023

Oshkosh Defense has built electric vehicles for more than 20 years, but they’ve always been more or less one-offs for special purposes. That all changes with its multibillion-dollar order for new mail trucks that make up the largest fleet in the U.S. and maybe the world.

“What we’ve seen happen in just the last few years is the economics have gotten to the point where we can apply this technology to a much broader number of use cases,” Oshkosh Corp. CEO John Pfeifer said last week at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach, California.

As long as those vehicles return to base at the end of a shift, it is possible that up to 165,000 Next Generation Delivery Vehicles could be battery powered. But Oshkosh (NYSE: OSK) is committing only that the trucks will have zero tailpipe emissions at the end of the 10-year contract.

“The vehicle was designed not just to be electric — it’s great that it’s electric — but it is designed to deliver huge productivity and safety benefits for the postal carrier,” Pfeifer said. The current postal delivery vehicles built by Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC) are up to 30 years old, unair-conditioned and prone to engine fires. 

Workhorse Group grievance

The Biden administration wants all 645,000 government fleet vehicles to be electric. So, the awarding of the Postal Service contract to Oshkosh in February stunned some electric vehicle advocates who figured electric delivery van maker Workhorse Group had an inside track because it proposed an all-electric fleet.

“It’s really going to be gated by the ability to put the charging infrastructure in place to support 165,000 vehicles. [The Postal Service] will accelerate adoption of electric vehicles in accordance with their ability to charge them.”

Oshkosh Corp. CEO John Pfeifer

But Workhorse (NASDAQ: WKHS, which is under Securities and Exchange Commission investigation for undisclosed reasons, flamed out, apparently because of the poor quality and reliability of its test vehicles. Short seller Fuzzy Panda last week heaped numerous quality and driver concern allegations on Workhorse in an attempt to drive its stock price lower.

Workhorse, which has not acknowledged the SEC probe, has filed a complaint with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington alleging that the Postal Service discriminated against it in the selection process. Workhorse wants the claims court to grant a permanent injunction, overturning the award to Oshkosh and reopening the bidding process.

Gotta have charging

The presence of Oshkosh, primarily a defense contractor that builds fortified vehicles for the armed services, including the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicle, stood out on a last-mile panel discussion at the ACT Expo.

Pfeifer spoke to the biggest concerns surrounding electric vehicles — the availability of sufficient charging to keep the vehicles on the road.

“It’s really going to be gated by the ability to put the charging infrastructure in place to support 165,000 vehicles,” Pfeifer said. “[The Postal Service] will accelerate adoption of electric vehicles in accordance with their ability to charge them.

“I think we can be there. But we’ve got to build that confidence in the people that are buying these fleets because that will accelerate the adoption.”

Looked at ‘every little thing’

In reinforcing Oshkosh’s win over Workhorse, Pfeifer said the mail truck Oshkosh will build in Spartanburg, South Carolina, beginning in the summer of 2023 “is designed to “deliver huge productivity and safety benefits to the postal carrier.”

“We looked at every little thing that a postal carrier does and we designed it for the height of the vehicle,” he said. “The way the doors open and close were built for a specific reason, [as was] the technology on the vehicle in terms of auto stop, auto braking and surround cameras.”

Workhorse cries foul in screed against Postal Service award to Oshkosh

Workhorse sues postal service over delivery truck contract

Oshkosh beats Workhorse for Postal Service delivery vehicle contract

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler

12 Comments

  1. Purpose built? They haven’t even built a prototype. A typical new vehicle takes 4-5 years to be built. Tell me how they will possibly start building these on time. This is a total scam and why does it take some random person in a comment section asking this and not a journalist who’s supposed to get paid to ask the tough questions. It’s clear who should have been awarded this contract and your propaganda won’t work in front of a federal judge next week.

  2. Oshkosh only submitted a CGI rendering, you god damn liars.

    Wonder who made that $50M $OSK stock purchase the day before the announcement?

    Louis DeJoy is a fascist, treasonous MAGA grifter that deserves the firing squad.

  3. This is seriously poor reporting. Do you think no one has paid attention and this blatant propaganda piece wouldn’t be called into question. Where is the fact the SEC is looking into a $50 million insider trading scandal the day before the award? Why are you citing a short and distort piece as factual? Assuming you were at the conference as you cite it in the interview, why not try to seek comment from workhorse who seems to have usps on the ropes in the legal filings. Disgusting “journalism”.

  4. The USPS and Oshkosh lied, cheated and stole the NGDV award from the OEM Workhorse Group.

    Alan is, more than likely, writing this article because Workhorse hired a prestigious DC law firm to challenge the award in Federal court and since the case wasn’t dismissed on briefs, he’s trying to smear Workhorse.

    See, these briefs show that after six years of competitive durability testing, the USPS violated their own RFP by awarding the contract to Oshkosh for a entirely different vehicle than the Ford transit they tested.

    They awarded Oshkosh for a prototype that doesn’t exist, well not in the real world, it’s a computer generated image.. Sound fair? These briefs also show that Oshkosh violated their NDA by illegally lobbying Congress. Then there’s the fuzzy math claiming a gas guzzler is more efficient than an electric vehicle…

    Oral arguments begin on September 15th.

  5. This doesn’t make sense. The USPS vehicles only go what … 30 miles a day? It would make much more sense to be 100% electric now, today. This Oshkosh company doesn’t even have a vehicle prototype. What would be the amount of time they would need not only to develop a test vehicle, but also get certification. It seems like the USPS will likely overturn this decision. I dont know much about the lawsuit described but this just doesn’t make sense.

  6. Not a single postal carrier I have spoken to has said they WANT an oshkosh truck. Every single carrier wants the Workhorse trucks. My hubby is a carrier. Dejoy needs to go and Workhorse deserves the contract since they are the ones that actually COMPLETED the tasks set by the USPS. No functioning prototype??!! How the hell did that even get approval? Dirty scumbags at the top I would say.

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is a Detroit-based award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press, the Detroit Free Press and most recently as Detroit Bureau Chief for Trucks.com. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.