Q: Greg, I enjoy your articles on nostalgia collector cars and trucks and wondered if you could tell me some history of the mail delivery trucks? I live in the Keystone State and many were built in Montgomery, Pennsylvania, called Grumman LLV trucks.
— Robert, Pennsylvania
A: Robert, I’d be glad to.
First, there have been more delivery specific trucks built in Montgomery than anywhere else in the United States. This fact includes research dating back to the mail delivery truck’s earliest roots that include a Ford chassis prior to moving over to production Jeeps, the latter converted to mail use and not necessarily mail delivery exclusive.
Although these mail trucks are no longer built in Montgomery, these Pennsylvania-built units are worthy of note. The United States Postal Service (USPS) decided not to renew its LLV contract in 1996, and the last Grumman LLV was built in 1994 with most still in service today.
Built by Northrop Grumman Corporation, noted for aerospace and fighter jets more so than mail trucks, they are known as the Grumman LLV as you note and the letters LLV equate to "long life vehicle." These mail trucks came with a manufacturer stated life cycle of 24 years and all utilized a General Motors chassis, 2.5 liter, 4-cylinder engine and automatic transmission.
As for history, the USPS used Ford as its base chassis from June 1929 to March 1932. Ford sold Model A and Model AA chassis with engines to the USPS, where they underwent construction into a mail delivery vehicle by USPS regional workers at USPS garages. They were finished in either oak or white ash, and then painted in the USPS colors of red, white and blue.
USPS specific bodies for the Fords came from five distinct companies, including York-Hoover Body Company of York, Pennsylvania; the Mifflinburg Body Company of Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania; the August Schubert Wagon Works of Syracuse, New York; the Metropolitan Body Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut; and the General Motors Truck Company of Pontiac, Michigan.
During and after World War II, Jeeps were used by the USPS after a great experience with the vehicles on all types of surfaces by soldiers at home and abroad.
Two Jeeps used by USPS included a 2WD CJ-3A Jeep Dispatcher from 1955-64 and then the DJ5 model, produced from 1965-83 and based on the Jeep CJ5 with a 4x4 option. Also in the 1950s, special right-hand-drive Jeeps were introduced for USPS local carriers on rural/suburban routes. The Jeep continued its dominance of the USPS fleet until the late 1980s when they were replaced by the mail delivery van we came to know from Montgomery. However, cold rural area carriers, where snowstorms are the norm, relied on Jeeps through 2001, the last official USPS Jeep being a 2001 Jeep Cherokee 4x4.
Fast forward to today, and the United States Postal Service awarded five manufacturers the right to build prototypes, and two are from foreign countries. However, all trucks will be assembled in the USA according to the contract awarding info, and the deal is said to be worth at least $6 billion for 180,000 new mail trucks.
Competing for the new contract are AM General, Karsan (Turkey), Mahindra (India), Oshkosh, Utilimaster and VT Hackney. Most, but not all, of the prototypes will feature electric/hybrid technologies and alternative fuel capabilities. These prototypes are all interesting and a story in itself. I recommend you check out this site for a good article by Jerry Hirsch that explains how this big money contract is loaded with political ramifications. Check here at www.trucks.com/2018/06/12/politics-complicate-mail-truck-contract/
Hope this info helps, Robert, and thanks for your question. As of press time, the new contract has not been announced and is currently in a "further testing of prototypes" mode.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media. Contact him at email@example.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.