Home » Why It’s Absolutely Insane That Mail Trucks Don’t Have Air Conditioning

Why It’s Absolutely Insane That Mail Trucks Don’t Have Air Conditioning

Hotmail No Ac Mail Truck Ts2 (1)
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Interior temperatures of over 120F. Mail carriers discussing cooking meals on floorboards. Some postal workers literally dying from heat. To be an American postal delivery worker in a Grumman LLV in a hot part of the United States is to sweat. And sweat. And drink water. And struggle to get one tiny fan to keep you from having to take so many breaks that you can’t get your job done. Let’s talk about the Grumman LLV and its lack of air conditioning, which is absolutely ridiculous in 2024.

Recently, I found myself sitting at a stoplight next to America’s mail-delivery workhorse, the Grumman LLV (see below). I looked inside and spotted a fan — not a fan integrated nicely into a dashboard, but a fan you might expect to see in a toll booth or dormitory. An afterthought.

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A few days later, I saw a mail carrier delivering packages in Santa Monica (see photos after the one directly below), and I asked her about the climate control system in the vehicle: No, they do not have AC, she told me. There really is just a fan.

A Woefully Inadequate Fan

Seriously, this fan is all that drivers of Grumman LLVs get other than whatever airflow comes through the latched-open doors:

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And apparently the fan is woefully inadequate, with Redditers on the r/USPS page who apparently drive these machines daily writing:

 I mean I knew the fans in the LLVs just blew hot air around but didn’t think it was even HOTTER than the air already inside the LLVs. ????

And:

[The comfort fans] just turn that oven on wheels into an air fryer on wheels.

Here’s another:

So dash fan it is which it’s mostly for looks as it doesn’t do anything but blow hot air.

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Not only is the fan apparently inadequate, but it’s also loud:

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I wish the fan wasn’t so loud.

Someone replied to that with:

It’s such a high pitched squeel.

Here’s another post about the fan’s noise:

That noisy ass front fan blows nothing but hot air and dirt in my face!

The Heat Can Be Deadly

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As someone who works in the San Fernando Valley, where things become stiflingly hot in the summer, I know that a fan isn’t going to cut it in traffic. In fact, back in 2018, a USPS driver named Peggy Frank died while delivering mail on an especially hot day in the valley. From the LA Times:

The United States Postal Service is facing nearly $150,000 in fines after the heat-related death of a Woodland Hills mail carrier last summer.

Peggy Frank, 63, was found dead in her non-air-conditioned mail truck on July 6, the same day temperatures in the Los Angeles neighborhood hit a high of 115 degrees.

The Los Angeles County coroner’s office listed Frank’s primary cause of death as hyperthermia, an abnormally high body temperature resulting from exposure to extreme heat.

The article goes into what the USPS should do to keep its workers safe on hot days, writing:

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During heat waves, employers should allow workers to take more frequent breaks than usual, monitor workers for signs of illness and provide employees with water, rest and shade, according to Department of Labor guidelines.

Here’s more on the incident from OSHA:

 The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) for a repeated violation of OSHA’s General Duty Clause following the heat-related death of a Southern California mail carrier at the Woodland Hills Post Office.

The employee suffered hyperthermia while delivering mail in July 2018 when the outdoor temperature reached 117 degrees. The general duty violation addresses USPS’s programs and procedures for employees working in high-heat situations. The postal service was also cited for a repeated violation of recordkeeping requirements related to recording heat stress incidents. Proposed penalties total $149,664.

“The U.S. Postal Service knows the dangers of working in high-heat conditions and is required to address employee safety in these circumstances,” said OSHA Oakland Area Office Director Amber Rose. “USPS is responsible for establishing work practices to protect mail carriers who work outdoors from the hazards of extreme temperatures.”

An alleged mail delivery driver on the online forum “Rural Mail Talk” discussed how their local office was handling the news of the tragic 2018 death:

We had a stand up about this carriers death the day after it happened…But we were told how we should slow down and cool off, drink plenty of fluids when we become over heated…So, I ask you. Does management care?

Here’s a reply to that “Does management care” question:

— Sure, but just enough to cover their assets in case there was a heat-related incident. Then they could point to a stand-up given, posters in the office, or info passed along via the scanner.

— Just be sure not to spend more than 10 minutes parked in the shade to deal with the heat or risk a third-degree of questioning why you were in one place for so long.

— Should manglement complain about too many to the drinking fountain to get hydrated before heading out to the route — just ask manglement if they would rather you be away from the case for a few minutes during the morning or have you laid up in the hospital, possibly for several days due to a heat-related incident — or worse.

Interior Temperature Measurements, Cooking Food On The Floor/Dash

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By the way, the 2018 thread that the two previous posts on “Rural Mail Talk” are replying to is called “How hot is your LLV?” It contains measurements by self-identified mail delivery drivers of the temperature inside the cab. Here are some of those measurements:

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The small camping thermometer I used to put on the dash board pegged out at 120 F degrees in the summer time. So no doubt is was actually hotter than that.

Here’s another one from someone claiming to be an Arizona-based mail carrier, who mentions actually cooking food on the floorboards (it’s not clear if this person is serious, but it seems so):

I took the Lazer temp and tested the floor of the llv. It was only 100 yesterday and I got readings up to 162. It’s supposed to be 116 tomorrow. I’m thinking malassas cookies or neopolitan pizza. This will be my summer of quests. If life gives you an oven – bake!!

Today, in my llv, I cooked vegetable gyoza with ginger/soy sauce for dipping. It was pretty good. I have some seniors I deliver to and they have started to give me suggestions. So, everyday this week I stop for a couple minutes for lunch and we rate the meals. One gentleman said he made grilled cheese all the time in Korea on the ambulances. Hhmmm, I do like me some cheese!

Here’s a similar discussion on a Reddit thread:

The best thing though is putting chocolate chip cookies on the dash in summer time. So good and melted by lunch they taste like they’re fresh from the oven lol

In a 2020 thread titled “Heat in LLV” — also on Rural Mail Talk forum — one person claims to have seen 150F measured on their dashboard:

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The person included a bit more info besides that in the screengrab above:

Yup its crazy… I was just reminded of it from someone else’s pic of 120°.
And the MDD daily safety of something like,,,”all heat conditions are avoidable” or ” heat related illnesses are preventable”…or something to that effect, was just Thursday or Saturday this week.

The person who had apparently posted the 120F photo replied, writing:

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Yes, but I place mind on the mail tray next to drivers seat. Not in the sun. I record the temperature my seat is experiencing as that is closest to my temperature experience.

I record, for family members, on my 4240 in case we have an incident of medical heat emergency. Most employees at the office have told their families to go after the USPS if they die from effects of delivery.

That comment above about noting temperatures as a way to hold USPS accountable should something happen is grim, but a Rural Mail Talk forum member named Morty wrote something similar in the aforementioned “How hot is your LLV?” thread. From Morty:

I’d keep a thermometer in my LLv and record the highest temp. Itd have to be digital and mounted on the dash. After 2 weeks, give your report to the PM along with a 1767 and a phone call to OSHA if your temps exceed safe temps. When you die, your family will have better stance to sue.

How Do We Fix This?

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So what’s the solution? The obvious one is: Get new delivery vehicles that come with AC. The Grumman LLV, which has been in service since the mid-1980s, and was not originally designed with AC in mind. To retrofit it would be prohibitively expensive, especially for the USPS given its severe funding limitations. In fact, according to Online Safety Trainer (an organization that teaches workplace safety), the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission vacated multiple OSHA citations because of a lack of feasible technical solutions to the problem. From Online Safety Trainer:

In a recent series of decisions, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) weighed in on the ongoing debate regarding excessive heat hazards and the United States Postal Service (USPS). The OSHRC vacated four of five citations issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to USPS for excessive heat exposure to letter carriers in Benton, Arkansas; Houston and San Antonio, Texas; and Martinsburg, West Virginia. The commission concluded that OSHA failed to identify economically and technically feasible prevention measures USPS could have implemented.

However, in the fifth case, the panel determined that a Des Moines, Iowa, USPS station failed to provide heat safety training for City Carrier Assistants (CCAs) and remanded the case to a review commission administrative law judge (ALJ).

One Redditor breaks it down how the age of the LLVs is the reason behind the lack of air conditioning, and goes on to voice frustrations on just how egregious the situation is:

Every year some lawmaker introduces legislation named after a carrier who has died from heat stroke and says they’re going to work to getting the trucks retrofitted. Then it goes silent until next summer when the same thing happens again.

I’m pretty bitter about the political grandstanding they’ve done on workers’ deaths.

Anyways to answer your question for real, it’s because they weren’t built with it. Those trucks are missing a lot of features that would shock people: no air-conditioning, no airbags, no anti-lock braking, and more. It’s legal because the vehicles were built before those things became mandatory so they are grandfathered in.

As far as heat-related OSHA complaints go, it also should be allowable since carriers are supposed to have an unlimited number of “comfort stops” and breaks must not be limited to cool down and drink water.

However, OSHA has levied mounting penalties onto USPS for heat-related fatalities and injuries. USPS management frequently punishes carriers for going overtime even in instances where the delay is from need to take cooling breaks.

Investigations every year show examples of management telling carriers to “use approved breaks to cooldown.” The implicit instruction here is, of course, that cooling down outside your lunch break is “unapproved.” Even though that isn’t true, and they know it, even if a carrier knows it as well it can still lead to improper safety conduct. In the past, management has been caught saying explicitly “take as many cooldown breaks as you need, but also we will be issuing discipline for those who take more than 8 hours to finish their route.”

So yeah, it’s bonkers and it’s not going to be fixed soon. The new fleet won’t even begin to go into production unatil 2023. The first vehicles won’t be driven by carriers til 2025 at the earliest and they won’t finish building all of them until 2031. So probably more deaths to come until then…. which is a fucked up but real thing to say.

Again, grim.

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To be sure, there are some LLVs that feature a rear fan (see above), which is apparently quite helpful. Here’s a comment about it from Reddit:

In Florida. These are our “air conditioners” as they draw air through the rear vent. Better than the dash fan but still not good enough once it reaches about 90.

Here’s a reply:

yeah, I’m in SW Florida and that side fan is good/decent when it works but mine decided to crap out today(on one of the hottest days of course ), so I had to rely on that god awful dash fan along with frequent stops in shaded areas cause I was overheating and feeling faint.

Here’s a response to that reply:

Ugh. Same. I have the only LLV without the side vent AC. So dash fan it is which it’s mostly for looks as it doesn’t do anything but blow hot air. I actually bought a Dewalt fan that I attach to my visor area. It works ok along with my seat cover fan. But yeah today my LLV got to 98 and it’s only March. I’m def not acclimated to the heat yet either. I had to stop and drink a body armor. Gonna be a long spring at this rate my friend

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Another Redditor in another thread writes:

I have one in my llv..I love it..it’s quiet and blows just enough air on you to keep cool. That noisy ass front fan blows nothing but hot air and dirt in my face!

And here’s another:

That’s supposed to go thru the bulkhead and blow in the cab area, not the cargo area. I had one in an LLV that got totaled, reg carrier asked me to take it out of the wrecked one before it was sent off. I (VOMA) had it installed in the LLV that replaced the wrecked one. Carrier couldn’t live without it! I can understand why. Blows 1000X better than that comfort fan. Those just turn that oven on wheels into an air fryer on wheels.

User hey-yall-watch-this responded:

The air from it feels better because it’s being pulled from outside rather than from the blazing hot air at the dash/windshield area that useless fan blows on you.

Again, that dash fan is a steaming pile of junk.

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There’s also a device called a — and I’m not making this up — “cooldataz,” which is advertised to help LLV drivers stay cool. Similarly wild is a Rural Mail Talk user named Guin’s solution:

I put drain pipes on the doors of my llv. I use ties to attach them, as you drive, the wind gets directed into the llv. For routes that stop box to box get a smaller sized pvc pipe. Drops the temp on the inside to about temp outside and you get a nice breeze. I have a few customers on my route that looked at me crazy the first time they saw them but when they asked what they were for they were both fascinated and highly amused.

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How absurd.

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The real answer to the mail carriers’ heat-problem is the vehicle you see above — the Oshkosh NGDV. It cannot come soon enough:

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Hopefully USPS is prioritizing hot climates for the rollout. Mail carriers have sweated long enough.

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Danny Zabolotny
Danny Zabolotny
12 days ago

Here in Phoenix I’m seeing a lot more of the Metris-based USPS vans, because when it’s 110+ for weeks at a time, the LLV is a death trap.

SoCoFoMoCo
SoCoFoMoCo
12 days ago

I would get myself a Ryobi bucket mister fan and a couple of batteries from Home Depot and crank that shit in the passenger compartment. Might need a brick or two in there to keep it from tipping over, but it should do the trick.

Ted Fort
Ted Fort
11 days ago
Reply to  SoCoFoMoCo

Alas – It doesn’t work in humid climates, which are often the most dangerous environments.

SoCoFoMoCo
SoCoFoMoCo
11 days ago
Reply to  Ted Fort

Ah, true that.

Kevin B
Kevin B
12 days ago

The fact of the matter is that retrofitting a $1-2K A/C unit on an LLV with a residual value of $0 is not a wise financial decision. Swapping LLVs with more modern postal vehicles between southern/southwestern states and northern tier states may be a better temporary solution until all of the LLVs are cycled out. Of course, the postmasters and workers in the northern tier states would not be very happy with this solution.

ProfPlum
ProfPlum
12 days ago

I live in northern New England, which can be hot and humid in the summer. My rural carrier usually drives a USPS Metris now instead of an LLV. When I asked what the best thing about the Metris was, they said air conditioning.

We obviously get cold weather in the winter, and according to my carrier, the LLVs aren’t very good at keeping the driver warm either.

Last edited 12 days ago by ProfPlum
Scott Wangler
Scott Wangler
12 days ago

Are UPS trucks air conditioned?

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
12 days ago
Reply to  Scott Wangler

Nope. Though the union did just get Air Conditioning retrofits as part of the agreement in their contract. Of course the timeline to make it happen is pretty loose.

My Dad worked for UPS for years. I asked him when I was a kid if those trucks had AC. He told me they didn’t, and the rationale then (1980s) was drivers would be more likely to leave the trucks running while they made their stops in order to keep them cool. It was considered too big a risk of truck theft.

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
7 days ago
Reply to  TXJeepGuy

You’d think since they’re custom anyways, it’d be easy enough to add some way to leave it running without the key, with the steering and shifter locked instead of the ignition.

Michael Kaplan
Michael Kaplan
12 days ago

Is an electric-driven compressor not an option? Classic cars retro-fit with these pretty commonly. Or an RV style roof-mount unit? Seems like a pretty solvable problem, if the USPS really wanted to make improvements.

JumboG
JumboG
12 days ago
Reply to  Michael Kaplan

Or a marine (boat) AC unit.

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
7 days ago
Reply to  Michael Kaplan

Where would the electricity come from, though? It’d probably need a bigger alternator and/or a big battery bank. RV roof ACs mostly relies on being plugged in to 120V, or a pretty massive battery bank and inverter. That’s a pricey retrofit on a vehicle that’s already past its rather long design life.

J Money
J Money
12 days ago

Not sure if this was mentioned, but LLV stands for “long life vehicle.” And the last ones were supposedly made in….. 1994. Thirty years. Bananas.

Karl Maurer
Karl Maurer
12 days ago

If you can put drain pipes on that LLV, shouldn’t you be able to attach a Split Camper AC? There are some that you simply hang on both sides of a window with the AC lines in a form of flex cable connecting both parts. Runs on 12V…

Ted Fort
Ted Fort
11 days ago
Reply to  Karl Maurer

Those take a huge amount of power. I’m not sure the likely weak alternator could keep up with it. You’d have to run supplemental batteries, and we’re suddenly talking about a multi-thousand dollar solution.

Michael Kaplan
Michael Kaplan
11 days ago
Reply to  Ted Fort

Fair enough. Looks like the std alternator is around 100A and they would have to replace them with 150A units (I’m just basing this on some forums related to the Classic Retrofit system for Porsches). By the time you are all in on the Porsche system, you’d probably have $5k in parts plus labor to install. I assume a government contract could get the prices down (or maybe it would be more expensive ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )
I think I read there were about 140,000 trucks still in service. If they prioritized the southern-most 70,000 trucks, that would be only be $350MM in parts. What a bargain!

Geo Metro Mike
Geo Metro Mike
13 days ago

There is so much I want to rant about and so many comments I want to respond to but I’ll be up all night and I have to be at the Post Office in the morning. All I can say is go get a job as a CCA and find out why this outdated and inefficient bullshit organization has a ridiculous turnover rate.

MY LEG!
MY LEG!
12 days ago
Reply to  Geo Metro Mike

well don’t you know it’s your own fault for getting an ‘easy’ federal job? /s

I really thought people’d be more sympathetic to logistics workers by now after seeing how they came through in the pandemic.

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