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USPS mail truck contract hits snag as lawmakers ask, 'Why not totally electric?'

Three representatives also want to investigate whether any political pressure swayed the USPS to name Oshkosh the winner over others.

Lawmakers have some questions.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have questions following the USPS' decision to award its future mail truck, the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle, to Wisconsin-based Oshkosh. Reuters first reported Tuesday that three members of the House of Representatives want to freeze the USPS contract until they can get some answers.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Reps. Tim Ryan and Jared Huffman, all Democrats, called for a halt to the process to investigate possible political influence in the awarding of the contract. They also want to see if the contract meets President Joe Biden's pledge to transform the entire federal fleet into electric vehicles

The latter is a question I dug into previously, noting odd language in the announcement that noted Oshkosh will build "fuel-efficient low-emission internal combustion engine vehicles," as well as electric mail trucks. We later learned the USPS planned for just one in 10 of the new trucks to feature an electric powertrain -- a statement at odds with the Biden administration's EV pledge. Notably, the USPS did not select Ohio-based EV-maker Workhorse, a contender for the NGDV contract. Reps. Kaptur and Ryan both represent districts in Ohio.

Rep. Huffman also expressed concern to Reuters that he's been unable to view the Oshkosh contract in its entirety. The USPS plans to spend $482 million initially on the new trucks, but the sum could grow to $6 billion over the 10-year-long contract, according to the previous announcements. Oshkosh could get the green light to build up to 165,000 new mail trucks in the current deal. While the lawmakers question political influence, the bigger question is why not go completely electric? Huffman told the publication Oshkosh would build these vehicles for "obsolescence," adding it's "insane."

A USPS spokesperson told Roadshow, "We imagined an electric vehicle future, committing $482 million at contract award to prepare for it. The challenge remains the Postal Service's billions in annual operating losses."

House Democrats this week introduced a bill, sponsored by Rep. Huffman, to serve the USPS up to $6 billion to purchase a totally electric fleet of mail carriers. US Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said at a previous congressional hearing the agency would need $3 or $4 billion more beyond its current investment to achieve something like a 90% EV fleet.

"We welcome and are interested in any support from Congress that advances the goal of a Postal Service vehicle fleet with zero emissions, and the necessary infrastructure required to operate it," the USPS spokesperson said on the possibility of more funding. "With the right level of support, the majority of the Postal Service's fleet can be electric by the end of the decade."

The White House did not immediately return Roadshow's request for comment.