2011 Sustainability Report
Putting our stamp on a greener tomorrow

Environmental stewardship

Fleet and transportation management

To maintain our delivery commitment to the nation, the Postal Service operates the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the United States.

This vast delivery infrastructure offers both challenges and opportunities in vehicle performance. Vehicle emissions are a primary contributor of greenhouse gases and also impact air quality. Vehicle maintenance services may generate regulated wastes and fueling operations that can impact land and water resources.

USPS has established vehicle fleet performance targets to reduce petroleum consumption for our postal-owned fleet and contract transportation partners. We also have an established target to increase the use of alternate fuels. As a federal agency, we are required to report petroleum use reduction efforts and alternative fuel utilization to the U.S. Department of Energy annually in accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Reducing overall petroleum consumption continues to be a challenge, because the total number of annual delivery points that our vehicles must travel to serve our customers continues to grow. Our present strategy is to reduce petroleum consumption by optimizing delivery routes and vehicle fleet size. To reduce the environmental impact of our vehicle maintenance operations, we have established polices and best practices, such as pollution prevention and having closed-loop contract services to reuse and minimize waste generation.

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Delivery route optimization: USPS IT technology at work

Sample WebCOR routing map
WebCOR software helps create more efficient delivery routes.

How we go about traveling to our daily delivery destinations makes a difference in the amount of fuel we use and overall emissions we produce. We have developed an advanced innovative web tool called WebCOR to help optimize carrier delivery routes.

The software provides computer modeling to configure carrier delivery routes to determine safe and more efficient lines of travel. The program makes objective decisions based on data and mail volumes to reduce unnecessary travel and mileage. Benefits include improved safety and a reduction in fuel and energy. By using optimization in FY 2011, we eliminated more than 6,800 delivery routes, while at the same time seeing growth in new city and rural delivery points by over 735,000.

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The postal-owned vehicle fleet

The fleet of vehicles we own is used mainly to deliver mail from local Post Offices to the communities we serve. For two decades, the core of our vehicle fleet has been the long-life vehicle (LLV), which traveled an average of about 18.5 miles per day in FY 2011. It presently makes up the largest portion of our delivery fleet.

The LLV is custom designed for right-hand-side driving and made to withstand rigorous driving conditions of up to 500 stops and starts a day. Our current plan is to sustain our existing LLV fleet through continued maintenance while we decide on longer-term fleet options.

Our network optimization efforts have increased delivery efficiency, which has lowered the overall growth rate of petroleum fuel use. We track and report our postal-owned fleet petroleum fuel use against an established target.

Through network optimization, our vehicle fleet size was reduced by 1,700 vehicles during FY 2011 by eliminating 6,800 delivery routes. Despite that reduction in vehicles, our postal-owned vehicle fleet increased its petroleum fuel consumption by 6.8 million gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) compared to FY 2010. That change was due in large part to growth in new rural and city delivery points.

Postal-owned vehicle fleet snapshot
Year Vehicle Fleet Size Total Miles Traveled (Billions) Total Petroleum Consumption (in GGE) Total Rural and City Delivery Points (Millions)
2008 221,047 1.269 146.8 126.38
2009 218,687 1.249 145.4 127.38
2010 215,625 1.258 145.6 128.08
2011 213,881 1.292 152.3 128.82

Postal-owned vehicle fleet size trends lower through delivery route optimization initiatives, while rural and city delivery points the Postal Service must service year to year continues to increase.

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Alternative fuel vehicles

We have been testing and operating alternative fuel vehicles for decades. We currently have vehicles capable of running on compressed natural gas, ethanol, electric, propane and biodiesel. Delivery vehicles that can run on ethanol, or E85, make up the largest part of our alternative fuel fleet due to that fuel’s accessibility.

The heavy use demands on our fleet vehicles are a challenge to alternative fuel vehicle technology in terms of environmental performance, reliability, available support infrastructure and necessary capital investment.

Fuel market volatility risk remains a key concern to providing affordable mail service, since the Postal Service does not pass on fuel surcharges to customers. Alternative fuel technology is one strategy to manage this risk. Our use of alternative fuel technology will adjust as the marketplace for alternative fuel technology continues to evolve. Our performance target tracks total alternative fuel use across the full spectrum of alternative fuel-capable vehicles in our fleet.

Highlights in our alternative fuel fleet operations in 2011 include:

Electric LLV conversion. Contract awards were issued to five electric vehicle suppliers to convert five gasoline-powered LLVs to all-electric vehicles. Each supplier offered a distinct technology approach, providing the Postal Service an opportunity to evaluate current state-of-the-art technology. During 2011, after extensive testing at a Department of Energy (DOE) facility, the five all-electric drive train LLVs were delivered to USPS for deployment at delivery locations in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area.

Electric 2-ton vehicle testing. We began testing 10 Navistar eStar 2-ton electric step vans in 2011. (See back cover.) The vehicles are rated for up to 100 miles on a single charge and can be fully recharged in six to eight hours.

The program is part of the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act funded through DOE. The fully electric vehicles are being field tested in three locations: Los Angeles, CA; Manhattan, NY; and Fairfax, VA; over a multi-year period to collect data on fuel efficiency, energy use, maintenance and vehicle utilization.

Repowering LLVs. Several advancements in automotive technology have occurred since the LLV was introduced into the postal fleet in 1987. In an effort to determine how this technology could improve the operational efficiency of our delivery fleet, the Postal Service solicited suppliers to submit proposals to repower the LLV drive-train. Solicitations were issued for both gasoline and diesel repowered drive-train technology. Contract awards were issued during 2011. The repowered drive-train vehicles are scheduled to be deployed in 2012 in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area for testing and fuel efficiency performance.

Alternative fuel vehicle use
Alternative fuel vehicle use 2005-2011, by million gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE).

View a description of the bar chart

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Contract transportation partners

Our contract transportation partners fleet includes highway vehicles, employee-owned vehicles used to deliver mail and transportation by rail, ship and air. Contract operators must transport mail between processing facilities and regionally. They are a significant contributor to our total petroleum use and currently represent over 40 percent of our GHG inventory. Our present strategy is to achieve reductions in petroleum fuel use by our contract transportation vehicle operations through continued optimization of our network. Our performance target takes into account total petroleum fuel use from a variety of sources that provide contract transportation services.

Total fuel vehicle use
Total vehicle fuel use 2008-2011, by million gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE).

View a description of the bar chart

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Vehicle fleet maintenance operations practicing pollution prevention

We continue to employ greener practices at our vehicle fleet maintenance operations by implementing pollution prevention strategies. Used motor oil, transmission fluid and antifreeze generated at our vehicle maintenance facilities are picked up for recycling by an authorized contractor.

We purchase re-refined motor oil and recycled antifreeze to run our vehicles. Up to 85 percent less energy is consumed in the re-refining of used oil compared to traditional refining of crude oil, so its use reduces our carbon footprint. A newly signed contract also will include the purchase of re-refined automatic transmission fluid for our vehicles. We have found purchasing recycled product is of the same or greater quality as new products, and through economies of scale and innovative contracting, pricing is the same or below the cost of new products.

We also use re-treaded tires in our vehicle fleet. The Postal Service has a national contract service to retread used tires that our fleet generates. Retreads are not only cost effective, but they are also dependable, reliable and safe.

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