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Dear Pablo: I have heard that members of Congress are considering cutting the United States Postal Service's (USPS) Saturday delivery in order to cut costs. In addition to saving money, I imagine that it would cut pollution as well, but how much?The rumor is indeed true, cutting Saturday delivery is being discussed, although U.S. Postal Service Spokesperson James T. Wigdel reminded me that this is only in the discussion stage. He also noted that we are only talking about delivery to physical addresses. Retail Post Offices that are normally open on Saturdays would continue to operate on Saturdays and customers would still receive mail delivery to their Post Office Boxes.
Each year letter carriers and professional truck drivers drive 1.2 billion miles (Postal Facts) in the world's largest civilian vehicle fleet, which includes 43,000 alternate fuel capable vehicles, nearly 20 percent of the fleet. Interestingly these vehicles are "alternate fuel capable" but not neccessarily fueled by alternate fuels. This is because the USPS is turning away from so-called flex-fuel vehicles because of a 29% reduction in fuel economy, resulting in 1.5 million gallons more of gasoline use than before. Roughly 1 billion or 90 percent of the 1.2 billion miles driven each year are attributable to delivery operations (letter carriers). Cutting six days of home delivery service to five days would cut the miles drives by delivery operations by 1/6th, or 167 million miles.
The average fuel economy of the USPS delivery fleet was not available but I was able to find that the fuel economy for the Grumman LLV, is 16 miles per gallon in city driving. Due to frequent stops, starts, and idling the actual fuel economy is probably even lower than this. Many letter carriers, including my own, cut the fuel use by not idling the engine at every house.
At 16 miles per gallon the USPS' delivery operations burn through an estimated 62.5 million gallons of gasoline, that's how much the entire US uses every 77 hours. Cutting Saturday delivery would save around 10.4 million gallons of gasoline, save over $35 million (at August 2009 gasoline prices), and would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 211 million pounds (at 20.35 lbs of CO2 per gallon of gasoline). These emission savings are equivalent to take 19,000 passenger cars off the road.
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Read more about the United States Postal Services' Greening efforts: