Nick Zaiac, writing for the R Street Institute

The Postal Service has over 200,000 vehicles, accounting for 36 percent of government-owned vehicles. The fleet is significantly older than the others, with each vehicle just over 20 years old on average and standard mail trucks close to 25 years old. The next generation of postal vehicles, which is coming sooner rather than later, can be utilized to help the government at large collect a variety of data. “For instance, postal policymakers have long suggested that USPS vehicles could serve as a platform for environmental and traffic data gathering and other ‘passive’ data gathering services that could earn profits for the agency. … Beyond new ancillary services, onboard sensors could aid the USPS itself. Traffic sensors in USPS vehicles could also gather data on whether and where roads have enough short-term loading space for postal vehicle parking under live traffic conditions, as well as assess the driving habits of postal employees as they carry out their work. Such data could prove useful should USPS officials and/or legislators choose to formalize the USPS’s exemption from certain traffic laws.” Sensors could also help USPS spot “deteriorated or wrongly-placed mailboxes, avoiding ad-hoc intervention on a property-by-property basis.” A US postal service truck drives through the North Beach area of San Francisco, Wednesday, May 11, 2011. The Postal Service is continuing to hemorrhage money, reporting a loss Tuesday of more than $2 billion over the first three months of the year and warning it could be forced to default on federal payments. Such a default would not interrupt mail service to millions of Americans, but it could further hobble an agency struggling with a sharp decline in mail because of the Internet and a tough economy.

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