They’re boxy, ugly, and awkward-looking, but USPS’ mail trucks are nothing if not recognizable. Indeed, if you think about it, you probably see at least one of these funky trucks every single day. They’ve become part of the tapestry of daily life in America.
While you’re likely familiar with these trucks, there’s probably a lot you don’t know about them. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about USPS mail trucks (also known as Grumman LLVs). So if you’re curious, then keep reading!
Grumman LLV (Your Full Guide)
Grumman Long Life Vehicles (often shortened to LLVs) is an American light transport truck model used as the United States Postal Service’s last-mile delivery vehicle for the past three decades. LLVs were produced between 1987-1994 by the Grumman Aerospace Corporation and General Motors. USPS chose the LLVs because of their reliability, tight turning radius, and overall economical operation.
There’s a lot more to know about Grumman LLVs, so be sure to read our entire article!
What Is A Grumman LLV?
A Grumman Long Life Vehicle (often shortened to LLV) is an American light transport truck model that was designed as a mail truck for the United States Postal Service (USPS).
In the United States, the Grumman LLV is the most common vehicle used by letter carriers for delivering curbside and residential mail.
Grumman LLVs first entered service in 1987 after the Grumman Aerospace Corporation won a bid to produce up to 165,000 LLVs over a 7-year period. These vehicles replaced USPS’ previous mail trucks, the Jeep DJ-5.
Although USPS is the primary user of Grumman LLVs, these trucks were also used by Canada Post until 2010.
Who Makes Grumman LLVs?
Grumman LLVs were produced by the Grumman Aerospace Corporation and General Motors. Grumman produced the body, while General Motors was responsible for the chassis.
While primarily a manufacturer of aircrafts, Grumman also built boats, fire trucks and delivery trucks for UPS and Hostess.
Where Were Grumman LLVs Manufactured?
Long Life Vehicles were produced in Grumman’s Montgomery, Pennsylvania plant. During the height of production, Grumman was producing 100 trucks per day.
Why Did USPS Choose Grumman LLVs?
USPS chose the Grumman LLVs for their serviceability, reliability, tight turning radius, longevity, and their overall economical operation.
When USPS decided it was time to replace its fleet of Jeep DJ-5s in the mid-1980s, the organization called for proposals for a new-and-improved postal delivery vehicle.
Out of the submissions, three finalists were chosen: Grumman and General Motors, Poveco (Fruehauf & General Automotive Corp), and American Motors.
Each company put its submission through a series of tests designed to replicate the demands city letter carriers put on their vehicles. More specifically, USPS was looking to measure each vehicle’s endurance and maneuverability.
As part of the challenge, each vehicle had to travel 11,520 miles over a gravel road at 30 to 45 miles per hour, drive 960 miles over cobblestones, and another 960 miles over potholes.
Each company’s engineering team was given five “unscheduled maintenance actions” to repair vehicle components. Trucks were eliminated if they experienced the same problem more than once.
Grumman’s prototype was the one vehicle that completed the more than 24,000 miles of challenges without repeated maintenance issues.
In addition to excelling in the road tests, the LLV also had a number of features that made it well-adapted for daily mail delivery. Here are some of the LLVs’ best features:
- A 1,000-pound payload capacity
- 121 cubic feet of cargo space (plenty of room for mail)
- A cargo bay with a low lift gate making it easier for carriers to move heavy bails of mail
- A right-hand drive configuration that positions the driver on the side of the vehicle closest to the curb, enabling mail carriers to put mail in mailboxes without having to leave the seat.
- Low steps for easy entry and egress
It’s hard to know for sure, but it certainly appears like USPS made the right choice by choosing the LLV as its main delivery vehicle.
Over their more than 30 years of service, these trucks have helped USPS boost its reliability and marketability. What’s more, LLVs have helped usher in one of the agency’s greatest periods of expansion.
How Many Grumman LLVs Are In The USPS Fleet?
USPS reports having approximately 140,000 Grumman LLVs as part of their fleet of 200,000 delivery vehicles.
This number will decrease rapidly in the coming years as USPS phases out the aging Grumman LLVs in favor of Mercedes Metris Vans, Dodge ProMasters, and Oshkosh’s Next Generation Delivery Vehicles (NGDVs).
How Old Are USPS’ Grumman LLVs?
Grumman LLVs were built between 1987 and 1994, making the vehicles somewhere between 27 and 34 years old as of 2021.
Although the USPS initially stipulated that these vehicles should stay on the road for a maximum of 24 years, they extended the lifespan to 30 years in 2009.
Nowadays, the majority of LLVs have been on the road for over 27 years.
What Kind Of Engine Do Grumman LLVs Have?
Most Grumman LLVs were produced with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine made by General Motors. This kind of motor is commonly referred to as “Iron Duke.”
This engine was made to work with the mail trucks’ 3-speed automatic transmission because such trucks typically operate at lower speeds than most vehicles.
Later LLV models replaced the 2.5-liter engine with a 2.2-liter powerhouse engine.
How Much Horsepower Does A Grumman LLV Have?
Iron-Duke-powered LLVs made about 90 horsepower when new. It’s likely that the remaining LLVs have less horsepower than that due to age and overuse.
How Many Gallons Of Fuel Does A Grumman LLV Hold?
A Grumman LLV has a 13.5-gallon fuel tank with a 1.3-gallon reserve.
What’s The Fuel Economy Of A Grumman LLV?
A Grumman LLV’s average EPA fuel economy is 17 miles per US gallon. Hypothetically, they get 16 miles per US gallon in the city and 18 miles per US gallon on the highway.
However, in actual use by the USPS (i.e. extensive stop-and-go driving), the LLV’s average fuel economy is closer to 10 miles per US gallon.
Do Grumman LLVs Have License Plates?
Grumman LLVs owned by USPS do not have license plates. Mail trucks have been exempted from licensing requirements since 1973 following a federal government order.
In lieu of a license plate, LLVs each have a 7-digit USPS serial number starting with 020, 021, 120, 125, 126, 220, 221, 330, 331, 430, 431, 720, 820, 821, 920, or 921. A serial number’s first digit represents the last digit of the year the vehicle was made.
Do Grumman LLVs Have Registration?
USPS’ Grumman LLVs are privately owned and inspected. This means they do not carry a state registration or a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
Do They Still Make Grumman LLVs?
Grumman is no longer producing LLVs. Long Life Vehicles were only produced between 1987-1994 as part of Grumman’s contract with the United States Postal Service.
As a testament to their longevity, Grumman and General Motors stopped making replacement parts years ago. In response, the postal service had to re-engineer the necessary parts, then contract with a manufacturer to keep producing them.
Can I Buy A USPS Grumman LLV?
You may be able to purchase a decommissioned Grumman LLV, but getting your hands on one will require plenty of patience and effort.
Government auctions on sites like Govdeals.com and Govplanet.com are probably your best bet of finding an LLV for sale. Similarly, you may find one up for auction in your state, county, or city, so it’s worth keeping an eye out.
Colleges and universities are another potential spot to source an LLV. Some schools use refurbished LLVs to deliver on-campus mail. You’d have to do your research by phoning or emailing large universities to see if they use LLVs and to know what happens to retired trucks.
Film studios or prop companies may also be a source of LLVs. Sometimes these vehicles are used in movies or commercials, so it’s possible someone in Hollywood has one.
You can also join a Grumman delivery vehicle enthusiast group or forum online or on Facebook to keep up to date on potentially available vehicles.
Another possible source is your mail carrier. They may have insider information about where retired LLVs are kept and what happens to them after they’re taken off the road.
Finally, it’s likely that someone in the USPS maintenance division knows where old LLVs end up. You could try contacting said division to check on any potential vehicles for sale.
How Much Does A Grumman LLV Cost?
USPS paid approximately $11,651 per LLV in its first order in 1986. That’s equivalent to about $29,402 per vehicle in 2021. All in all, USPS’ contract with Grumman came out to $1.1 billion.
Prices for decommissioned LLVs up for auction vary enormously. One 1991 LLV sold for $1,600, while another 1991 model sold for $3,525.
What Will Happen To LLVs In The Future?
After 27 years (or more) of service, most Grumman LLVs are on their last legs. In fact, LLVs were never intended to last as long as they have.
USPS initially stipulated a 24-year lifespan for LLVs, but extended the lifespan to 30 years in 2009. LLVs were produced between 1987-1994, making most of them well over 27 years old.
USPS has already started retiring a portion of its 140,000 LLVs, replacing them with a combination of Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs), Mercedes Metris Vans, and Dodge ProMasters.
In 2021, USPS announced that defense contractor Oshkosh had been given the contract to produce the new postal service vehicles, aptly called Next Generation Delivery Vehicles (NGDVs). Ford will be building the engines, transmissions, and other components.
Oshkosh will deliver somewhere between 50,000 and 160,000 units between 2023 and 2033. Early models will use an internal combustion engine, while later models will include a battery-electric drivetrain.
Purchasing more electric vehicles hinges on an $8 billion bill designed to fund the purchase of electric or zero-emission vehicles and electric charging infrastructure. Without this money, USPS will only be able to make 10 percent of the fleet electric.
Oshkosh’s Next Generation Vehicles will include a variety of features that LLVs do not have. In addition to comfort features like air conditioning and a walk-in cargo area with cabin access, the new vehicles will come with a number of safety features that are sorely lacking in LLVs.
NGDVs will have airbags, backup cameras, a blind spot warning sensor, a forward collision warning, and an automatic electric parking brake, just to name a few.
As for the old LLVs? Nothing is certain yet, however, it’s likely that most will be crushed and recycled for scrap metal.
Why Is USPS Getting Rid Of Grumman LLVs?
At this point in time, USPS has no choice but to replace its aging fleet of Grumman LLVs. As of 2021, all of the LLVs had been on the road for 27 years or more (i.e. way past their planned 24-year lifespan).
Unsurprisingly, vehicles this old require a lot of maintenance. In fact, a 2014 study from the USPS Office of the Inspector General found that each vehicle requires roughly $3000 worth of maintenance each year.
Add to that the poor fuel economy (about 10 miles per gallon on average) and you begin to see just how much these vehicles are costing USPS.
To learn more about USPS, you can also see our posts on automotive technicians at USPS, when do USPS trucks go out for delivery, and if USPS trucks have cameras.
Ever since they first hit the road in 1987, Grumman LLVs have been a defining feature of the United States Postal Service for over 30 years. Nowadays most LLVs are on their last legs and will soon be retired, but there’s no denying the impact they’ve had on mail delivery in the US.
As the years go on, we’ll see fewer and fewer of these boxy, clunky trucks driving around. They’ll be replaced with safer, more comfortable models. But even when the last LLV is retired, it will be a long time before any of us forget them.