The Postal Service does not pass on fuel surcharges to customers, which means volatile fuel prices are a large, unpredictable cost that can affect affordable mail service. That's why we track fuel use closely and always look to find greater efficiencies with our fleet.
Total use of petroleum fuel increased over the last five years, mainly due to continued growth in new city and rural delivery points. We have established fuel-use targets for postal-owned vehicles and contract transportation fleet partners, and track their use. The challenge in reducing fuel use is that even as mail piece volumes continue to decline, the total number of delivery points (locations where mail must be delivered) is increasing.
To service our delivery points, the Postal Service has a defined nationwide delivery route system. In FY 2012, we added 690,000 new city and rural delivery points, while reducing total delivery routes by 1,161. How does the Postal Service increase service, while at the same time decrease the number of delivery routes? By making our delivery network more efficient and using tools such as carrier optimal routing (COR).
This software tool helps the Postal Service eliminate redundant vehicle travel paths, unnecessary stops and starts, and encourages right-hand turns. COR uses a set of algorithmic formulas based on local delivery route inspections. These efficiencies are essential to lowering fuel consumption and improving our fiscal outlook now and into the future.
4.6% increase — postal vehicle fleet fuel use since 2005
Target: Reduce postal vehicle petroleum use 20 percent by FY 2015 from FY 2005 baseline.
Progress: Postal-owned vehicle total petroleum use increased 4.6 percent from FY 2005 baseline to FY 2012 and decreased slightly from FY 2011 to FY 2012.
In FY 2012, nearly 690,000 city and rural delivery points were added to our network.
0.9% decrease — contract transportation fuel use since 2008
Target: Reduce contract transportation petroleum fuel use 20% by FY 2020 from FY 2008 baseline.
Progress: Contract transportation petroleum use decreased 0.9 percent from the FY 2008 baseline to FY 2012 and increased from FY 2011 to FY 2012.
Our contract air transportation mail-carrying service was a major contributor to the increase in contract transportation in the last year.
The Atlanta District established a team to evaluate delivery routes for more than 40 offices with impressive results. Since 2011, the district has reduced vehicle mileage by 850 miles a day, saving 17,000 gallons of fuel a year and $50,000 in fuel costs. “By eliminating vacant routes and optimizing lines of travel, we were able to reduce our daily miles traveled,” said Rural Route Reduction Project Lead Timothy Benton.
|Postal-owned fleet by the numbers|
|Year||Vehicle fleet size||Total miles traveled
|Total petroleum consumption
|Total rural and city delivery points (millions)|
What is a GGE? Gasoline gallon equivalent (or GGE) is defined as the energy content of any motor fuel, including alternative fuels, to that of a gallon of gasoline. This allows us to compare different fuels, such as ethanol use, to gasoline.
Learn more about fuel reduction and GGE from the U.S. Department of Energy: http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc. *USPS updated its mileage reporting system in FY 2012, which led to some data anomalies. This 2012 value is the extrapolated estimate from average monthly mileage.
Postal-owned vehicle fleet and contract transportation service
The postal-owned fleet of 212,530 vehicles decreased by 1,351 vehicles in 2012. Letter carriers and truck drivers logged almost 1.3 billion total miles.
The long-life vehicle (LLV) continues to be the workhorse of our fleet. While most LLVs are between 18 and 25 years old — and the expected service life of an LLV is 24 years — we've extended their life cycle through a robust preventative maintenance and repair program.
Contract transportation provides regional network service — and often travel longer distances than postal-owned vehicles. Also included are our rural routes, for which USPS reimburses employees who use their own vehicles. Contract transportation services move mail by truck, airplane, ship and rail — and were responsible for 80 percent of our total petroleum fuel consumption in 2012.
Alternative fuel vehicles
USPS has a long-established alternative fuel vehicle program, with the goal of using increasingly more alternative fuels. We are on track to increase alternative fuel use 10 percent annually (for an end target of 159 percent from FY 2005). In FY 2012, the Postal Service used 2.3 million GGEs of alternative fuel.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires USPS to report its efforts to utilize alternative fuels to the Department of Energy annually.
The Postal Service continues to take proactive steps to increase the use of alternative fuel. Most of our fuel comes from commercially available sources.
In many cases, obtaining alternative fuel requires USPS to travel further from our routes. Providing affordable delivery service requires our use of alternate fuels that are conveniently available and competitively priced.
141% increase — postal-owned alternative fuel use since FY 2005
Target: Increase total alternative fuel use 159 percent from an FY 2005 baseline (10 percent annually) by FY 2015.
Progress: Total alternative fuel use increased 141 percent from an FY 2005 baseline to FY 2012.
Alternative fuel use has more than doubled since 2005. We've adjusted our alternative fuel consumption target to align with OMB's target criteria — from 100% to 159%.
Million Gasoline Gallon Equivalent (GGEs)
|2012 alternative fuel-capable vehicle fleet snapshot|
|Compressed natural gas (CNG)||497|
|Total AFV 2012||42,218|
Our alternate fuel fleet provides a diversified vehicle mix, with ethanol flex fuel (E85) vehicles being the largest component of our fleet. Other alternative fuel vehicles in our fleet consist of compressed natural gas (CNG), electric hybrids and propane. We continue to test many others.
Texas Post Offices expand CNG vehicles
Texas leads the way in our compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle deployment. Locations in Corpus Christie and Austin are using CNG. North East Station in Austin has had 30 CNG vehicles operating for over a year. The Corpus Christi Post Office has almost doubled the number of CNG-powered vehicles to 80 over the past two years. Conversion to CNG has reduced monthly fuel costs by almost 80 percent, with the added benefit of convenient onsite CNG hookups that save fueling time.
Corpus Christi Postmaster Cathy Polderman, Vehicle Manager Raymond McCloskey, letter carriers, and city officials all worked to increase the number of CNG-powered vehicles in the community. City of Corpus Christi Gas Operations Director Debra Marroquin said, “The Postal Service's use of CNG is setting an example for other local businesses to follow.”
New technology is transforming U.S. domestic natural gas markets. More investments in natural gas-powered vehicles may be a wave of the future.
Vehicle testing — technology rundown
The Postal Service has been a pioneer in adapting to new transportation technologies. This long history continues. We know investments in vehicle technology must continue even during difficult times because our business depends on it. Here are highlights of some recent vehicle tests.
Fuel-cell vehicle. A partnership between U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center and the Postal Service began in January 2012 to test GM Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in Kailua, HI, near Honolulu. The vehicle has been delivering mail since February 2012. The converted Chevy Equinox hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle travels up to 200 miles on a single charge and can refuel in five minutes. This collaborative research project may help determine the long-term viability of fuel cell technology.
Electric two-ton vehicles. We continue to test our 10 Navistar eStar two-ton electric step vans that deployed last year. Rated for up to 100 miles on a charge, the vehicle can be fully recharged in 6 to 8 hours. Field tests continue in Los Angeles, CA; Manhattan, NY; and Fairfax, VA.
Repowering LLVs. Last year the Postal Service awarded contracts to repower LLV drive trains to both suppliers of gasoline and diesel repowered drive-train technology. The more fuel efficient gasoline repowered LLV was deployed in May of 2012 and the diesel repowered LLV was deployed in December 2012. Both vehicles are operating on mail delivery routes in Northern Virginia.
Electric LLVs. Field testing was initiated last year after extensive testing with the Department of Energy. The project consisted of retrofitting five gasoline-powered LLVs with electric drive trains. Each vehicle was converted with distinct technology by five separate electric vehicle suppliers to test performance. All five electric vehicles are being evaluated on mail delivery routes in Washington, DC.