The USPS was ready to go electric. Trump’s postmaster has other plans.

Under the leadership of a Trump holdover, the USPS wants to stick with gas. The EPA is trying to stop it.

Wide angle view of United States Postal Service (USPS) truck with logo visible, Lafayette, Californi...
Smith Collection/Gado/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Originally Published: 

Remember the silly, so-ugly-it’s-adorable-redesign of the U.S. Postal Service mail truck that was revealed last year? While it might have looked like the USPS tapped Homer Simpson to design the thing, it wasn’t so much about the look of the vehicle as what it represented: an opportunity for the federal mail service to go electric. The USPS was due to replace its fleet of dangerous and wildly out-of-date trucks with a modern take that could help to cut back on the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

It turns out a Trump-era appointee has another idea. Louis DeJoy, the current postmaster general who was put in place by former President Donald Trump, is moving forward with a plan to build and put on the road as many as 165,000 new delivery trucks over the next decade — but he’s making sure that almost all of them are gas-guzzlers. Just 10% of the new vehicles will be electric, and the overall improvement to fuel economy for the full fleet will work out to be just 0.4 miles per gallon, according to The Washington Post.

The official reason for this decision, according to DeJoy, is that the electric version of the vehicle just costs too much. But something just doesn’t seem right about that. The new USPS trucks were designed to be built with either gasoline or electric drivetrains, with an eye toward electrifying the full fleet. President Biden has expressed interest in converting the entirety of the government’s vehicles over to electric. The USPS makes up about one-third of the government’s fleet. So it wouldn’t make any sense to move forward on a plan to replace a significant portion of that with new vehicles that make zero progress on the plan to go electric.

More than likely, the real reason for DeJoy’s plan is simply part of his ongoing effort, dating back to the Trump years, to weaken the USPS’s operations. He’s put forward plans to limit postal office hours, charge higher rates, and purposely take longer to deliver packages. He also eliminated overtime pay, removed mail collection boxes, and decommissioned mail sorting machines. All of that seems like the kind of thing you do if you don’t really want the USPS to succeed.

Biden can’t do a whole lot about all of this because he can’t fire the postmaster general on his own. The USPS Board of Governors appoints the role, and Biden would have to replace much of that board in order to oust DeJoy. Instead, we’re stuck with half-assed measures to combat his attempts to undermine the agency he runs.

In the case of the new fleet, the task has fallen to the Environmental Protection Agency. Because Biden can’t directly stop DeJoy’s plans to burn gas, the EPA is trying to block the fleet by questioning the environmental impact of the new trucks. The agency is not putting on a full-court press yet and is instead doing the equivalent of sending strongly worded letters to DeJoy urging him to change his plans. But that could escalate: Regulators are asking for the EPA to outright block DeJoy’s gas fleet and force the White House Council on Environmental Quality to get involved, per the Post.

This should not be hard. New electric trucks are good for the USPS, good for drivers who are stuck in outdated and often dangerous vehicles, and good for the planet. It’s just not good for Louis DeJoy.