TUCSON (KVOA) – Some postal service vehicles have been going up in flames, literally. It’s been happening across the country and as the News 4 Tucson Investigators found out, right here at home.
The Postal Service calls them Long Life Vehicles or LLVs. More than 141,000 are still on the road delivering mail across the country, including in Arizona. One of them caught fire three months ago in Douglas. The driver, a mailman who found himself inside the burning truck saved his own life and your mail.
“We came around the corner… the postal vehicle was completely in flames,” Matt King, a Douglas Fire Department Captain and EMT said.
It was a big fire by the time King got to the scene but somehow the driver made it out, along with the mail.
How did this happen? To find out we went to the spot where it all began.
In Douglas, a close community.
Jose Arvizu said he saw the vehicle catch fire and was concerned about the mailman inside.
“It just was all melted,” Jose Arvizu, a Douglas resident said.
We reached out to the Postal Service about the fire. They gave us this statement, “The vehicle had a mechanical problem and caught fire. No mail was damaged and the carrier was unharmed.”
Turns out, this isn’t an isolated incident. U.S. Postal Service reports showed, in 2017 an electrical failure caused a fire in the LLV in the Phoenix area.
In 2018, an LLV was in Tucson when the fire broke out. USPS reports showed a fuel leak is believed to have caused “severe fire damage”.
USPS reports showed investigators said the cause of the fire in an LLV in Peoria “could not be determined” because the damage was so “severe”.
In 2019, USPS reports showed more LLV fires broke out; one in Nogales. one in Green Valley, one in Peoria and yet another in Tucson.
In 2020, there was a fire in Scottsdale and now, the fire that happened in Douglas.
“They should do something,” Arvizu said.
Over the past three years at least nine LLVs caught fire in Arizona and nationwide even more have.
LLVs are supposed to last 24-years. According to the USPS Office of the Inspector General, on their website, they blamed the problem on the age of the vehicle saying nationally 70% of the fleet are at least 25-years old.
So why haven’t they been replaced? According to the USPS Office of the Inspector General, on their website, they said they began planning for new LLVs five years ago but “frequent changes” to the “acquisition timeline” got in the way.
How many LLVs are on Arizona mail routes? Our question went unanswered. Instead, a USPS spokesperson said, “The United States Postal Service has approximately 230,000 vehicles which include various classes of both purpose built and commercial-off-the-shelf vehicles. Of that amount, the most used type of vehicle in our fleet is the Long Life Vehicle (LLV). There are more than 141,000 right hand drive (RHD) LLVs in our fleet. The safety of our employees is a matter of great importance to the Postal Service. Vehicles that are purchased for use by our employees are required to meet all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMSS). The requirement to meet all FMSS requirements applies not only to the purchase of commercially built vehicles but also purpose built vehicles. In addition to requiring that all vehicles purchased for our employees meet all FMSS, the Postal Service has implemented mandated maintenance schedules and fine-tune repair and maintenance procedures for the existing Postal Service vehicle fleet, including Long Lift Vehicles (LLV), with the goal of making sure vehicles used by postal employees are safe to operate before they are put into use on a daily basis. The Postal Service has been conducting research, testing, and acquisition as part of our efforts to operate a future mixed fleet of both Left Hand Drive (LHD) and Right Hand Drive (RHD) delivery vehicles. One key component of the process was the testing of Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV) prototypes, which are purpose-built RHD vehicles. Testing was completed in March 2019, and on Dec. 27, 2019, the Postal Service announced on the federal Contract Opportunities (beta.SAM.gov) website that it had issued the NGDV production Request for Proposals (RFP). Offerors’ proposals will be reviewed, and the Postal Service will make a choice based on an evaluation of best value. In light of the circumstances of the current COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on Postal Service and supplier operations, the Postal Service extended the due date for responses to the NGDV Production RFP to July 14, 2020. The Production RFP is NOT a contract award. The evaluation process, from RFP release to contract award for the production program, requires thorough evaluation as well as negotiations. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on Postal Service and supplier operations, an award(s) is currently planned for the production phase by the end of the calendar year. The Postal Service cannot comment on which companies are vying for the NGDV contract, their potential subcontractors, team members or any other details. NGDV vehicles are an important part of our continuing process to innovate and invest in our future, two core strategies for the organization. It’s important to note that the Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.”
“We need them for the safety of mail carriers and our mail to get delivered,” Adalberto Figueroa, a Douglas resident said.
If you have a story you’d like for us to investigate email us at [email protected] or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip line at 520-955-4444.