The Postal Service wants to build a next-generation delivery fleet that will help the agency adapt to a rapidly changing world and better serve its customers.

Phil Knoll, the fleet manager at the Postal Service, said the once-in-generation vehicle procurement will allow the Postal Service to rethink how it delivers the mail — with everything on the table including technology, fuel economy and the overall shape of the vehicle.

"The Postal Service is looking forward to a state of the art vehicle and delivery platform that our suppliers can provide to us," Knoll said.

He said the Postal Service has years of knowledge regarding the various drawbacks, mechanical issues and features in its current fleet that could be improved or changed in any new design.

"So there's a whole lot of technology that is available out there in the industry that we've got to look at — that we haven't had in our vehicles — and we're taking this opportunity to look at as much improvement in technology as we can get," Knoll said.

The Postal Service wants to replace its 163,000 mail delivery trucks at a cost of at least $4.5 billion, according to agency. The agency would award a replacement contract for its aging fleet to just one supplier. That supplier would provide 180,000 vehicles for $25,000 to $35,000 per vehicle, according to the agency.

5 features the Postal Service wants in its new delivery fleet

The agency plans on picking the suppliers for the prototype in July 2015 and will then test the prototypes through September 2016. The final supplier will be selected in January 2017, according to the Postal Service. The Postal Service would start receiving and using the vehicles one year later.

Knoll said the Postal Service wants to get the most out of its new vehicle fleet by focusing on having companies build working prototypes to see what is possible.

The Postal Service wants to cater to the increasing demands of its customers — who are ordering more packages and asking for more detailed delivery information — by improving the connectivity of the delivery drivers to Postal Service distribution centers.

Each vehicle could have a dashboard screen redirecting drivers if customers decide the package needs to go somewhere else or dynamic routes could be downloaded into the vehicle each day to allow the Postal Service to delivery packages faster and more efficiently, Knoll said.

The Postal Service is also interested in the ergonomics and safety features of the future vehicles, including things like rearview cameras, Knoll said. He said features such as low emissions and alternative fuel capabilities are also of interest.

One of the most desired new features mail carriers identified was the ability to stand up in the vehicle as well as move from the front to the back without getting out, according to the Postal Service.

"We've surveyed our drivers, the letter carriers, the ones that are actually using the vehicle and also our fleet maintenance managers and the folks that are maintaining and repairing our fleet. We asked them what do they need and then we listened to what they would like to see," Knoll said.

Knoll said the Postal Service is also exploring the look and appearance of the new vehicle and how the agency might try to brand itself with the new fleet. The Postal Service knows that the iconic colors and look of the truck help set it apart for customers, Knoll added.

"But our marketing folks are looking at how we can brand the new vehicle, how we can take advantage of it. But it's too early in the process still to know exactly what the vehicles will look like, you know, because we're certainly open to suggestions," Knoll said.

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