An electric vehicle maker is suing the U.S. Postal Service for what it claims is bias in choosing a company to build its latest fleet of delivery trucks.
Democrats in Congress are also skeptical of the contract. Although the USPS has billed the new vehicles as a “big step forward” to a greener future, some Democrats say the plan doesn’t go far enough.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced his intention to finally replace the fleet of gas-guzzling, non-air-conditioned delivery trucks prone to the US Postal Service’s fires in February with great fanfare.
DeJoy said the maker of the new delivery vehicles would be Oshkosh, a defense contractor with experience building armored trucks for the military but less experience building delivery vehicles.
According to a lawsuit filed by electric vehicle maker Workhorse, which lost the contract – worth $ 3.1 billion – Oshkosh never made an electric delivery vehicle.
This is just one of the accusations made by Workhorse in its legal protest against the Postal Service’s decision to go with Oshkosh.
Workhorse is asking the United States Federal Claims Court to cancel the contract and issue an injunction to prevent it from taking effect.
The company, which declined to comment on the lawsuit citing a non-disclosure agreement with the USPS, accuses the Postal Service “of putting its thumb on the scales” against Workhorse.
Lawsuit alleges the company was unfairly penalized by the Postal Service because one of its prototypes got out of hand during testing, which the company says was the postal service driver’s fault for not putting the truck down. parked.
Jack Horan, a lawyer who practices government procurement law at Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath and teaches at Georgetown University Law, says it might be difficult for the company to prove such bias.
“For these kinds of allegations,” he told NPR, “this is a particularly high hurdle, as the courts presume that government officials are acting in good faith and require a significant amount of evidence to establish the bad faith or partiality “.
Horan says the agency’s quasi-independent status also means it’s governed by a different set of rules. “This is not covered by the usual procurement regulations that apply to federal agencies. As a result, the postal service has more discretion, business discretion and leeway in managing its purchases than others. government agencies. ”
For its part, the Postal Service says it does not comment on the pending litigation, but “looks forward to the start of vehicle production” and that “pre-production design, tooling activities and preparations for installations are proceeding as planned, “with the first of the vehicles” estimated to appear on carrier routes in 2023 “.
Steven Schooner, a law professor at George Washington University Law School, says the complaint “paints a compelling and, frankly, disturbing picture” and that even though companies like Workhorse who appeal for lost contracts face to an uphill battle, “that doesn’t mean they won’t prevail.”
Concern in Congress
Oshkosh’s contract is also being challenged in Congress.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) wants the Biden administration to review the contract with the company. “My concern is that they are not leading America into the future.”
The Postal Service said 90% of Oshkosh’s new delivery vehicles will run on gasoline and only 10% will be electric vehicles, unless Congress provides it with the money to buy more electric vehicles. Kaptur says this is going in the wrong direction.
“When you go to buy that level of vehicle, over 165,000 vehicles and only 10% of them are green,” she says, “that doesn’t really make sense to me. And it’s very backward-looking. ”
Kaptur and two other Ohio Democrats have written to President Biden, asking him to take a look at Oshkosh’s contract. Workhorse would likely build their vehicles in Ohio.
Oshkosh says he can’t comment on the lawsuit, but looks forward to “putting these high-performance vehicles in the hands of letter carriers.” He says he can deliver “any mix of gasoline or electric vehicles ordered by the postal service.”
The company also announced plans to build them at a new factory in Spartanburg, SC
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