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Ohio Congress Members Question U.S. Postal Service Contract For New Fleet

Mail delivery vehicles are parked outside a post office in Boys Town, Neb., Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.
Nati Harnik
Associated Press
Mail delivery vehicles are parked outside a post office in Boys Town, Neb., Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.

For months, consumers have been less than pleased with the U.S. Postal Service because of slow deliveries and backlogged mail. Now, members of Ohio's Congressional delegation are criticizing the federal agency for ignoring a local company in a major contract for new delivery vehicles.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) blames the postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, a Trump administration holdover, for problems with mail delivery. Brown hopes Congress can restrain DeJoy until he can be replaced, which must occur by a vote of Postal Service Board of Governors.

Brown also questions a move from the Postal Service to award a 10-year contract for next-generation vehicles to Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Defense. In doing so, the agency passed over Cincinnati's Workhorse Group, which is affiliated with Lordstown Motors and was considered a top contender for the deal.

“We've seen this new postmaster general make all kinds of political decisions," Brown says. "I don't know yet if he chose Wisconsin because that was a friend or a contributor or somebody instead of the company that I know could do the job in Ohio.”

As part of the $482 million contract, Oshkosh will assemble between 50,000-165,000 of the "Next Generation Delivery Vehicles" at its U.S. manufacturing facilities over the next decade.

“Our fleet modernization also reflects the Postal Service’s commitment to a more environmentally sustainable mix of vehicles,” DeJoy said in a statement. “Because we operate one of the largest civilian government fleets in the world, we are committed to pursuing near-term and long-term opportunities to reduce our impact on the environment.”

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), whose district includes Lordstown, also criticized the USPS decision, saying the vehicles chosen are 90% gasoline, unlike Workhorse's all-electric bid.

Brown, Ryan, and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) have penned a letter to President Biden about the decision, and calling for the contract to be reviewed for any undue political influence.

"This contract will have consequences for decades to come and, as such, we have serious concerns it could be a wasted opportunity to address the climate crisis and the reindustrialization of our manufacturing sector," the letter reads.

In an earlier letter, Ryan joined 77 House Democrats in urging Biden to fill three open seats on the Postal Service Board of Governors. If those appointments are confirmed by the Senate, Democrats would hold oversight power over the postal service and the postmaster general.

A Northeast Ohio native, Sarah Taylor graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she worked at her first NPR station, WMUB. She began her professional career at WCKY-AM in Cincinnati and spent two decades in television news, the bulk of them at WKBN in Youngstown (as Sarah Eisler). For the past three years, Sarah has taught a variety of courses in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State, where she is also pursuing a Master’s degree. Sarah and her husband Scott, have two children. They live in Tallmadge.