Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation has been awarded a contract for up to 6,780 U.S. Postal Service (USPS) intermediate delivery vehicles with 2,380 to be built fiscal year 2001. USPS can extend the contract for an additional two years for another 4,400 vehicles. The contract without option years is valued at more than $79 million.

Under the terms of the agreement, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation in Gaffney, S.C. is the prime contractor and will build a new single rear wheel (SRW) walk-in van chassis for USPS. The Freightliner MT45 chassis will be equipped with a Utilimaster body.

The USPS contract is the culmination of 14 months of product development by Freightliner to meet the Postal Service's specific design needs.

"Freightliner gave us exactly what we were looking for in a heavy-duty truck," said Peter Schwind, contracting officer for USPS's Vehicles Purchasing Team. "This new vehicle will meet the Postal Service's needs of the future."

Freightliner's design surpasses the functional attributes of current USPS two-ton and one-ton trucks to create a vehicle that can handle heavier and larger loads, yet travel routes previously dedicated to one-ton trucks only. The low overall vehicle height of 114 inches combined with a tight turning radius make it ideal for navigating residential and confined delivery areas.

"The U.S. Postal Service contract is a significant milestone for Freightliner," said Jack Conlan, president of Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation. "We are proud of our efforts to team with the Postal Service on this design and to provide a vehicle that will meet and exceed their transportation needs."

With the boom in e-commerce deliveries, USPS has projected that the package segment of its business will see the largest growth of the future. "We have designed this vehicle to allow the Postal Service to increase home deliveries of larger packages and items," said Kelvin Butz, director of sales and marketing for Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation. "As a result, their fleet will be equipped to meet future business objectives."

The SRW design provides less wheel intrusion into the load space of the vehicle, increasing cargo capacity, cargo placement and loading flexibility. The new Freightliner vehicle has a payload capacity of nearly 4,800 lbs. with increased interior space of 535 cubic feet. The interior space is 85 cubic feet greater than USPS's current two-ton truck model.

The heavy-duty vehicle is equipped with premium components for longer vehicle life and greater operating efficiency including Utilimaster's Aeromaster custom-designed aluminum body, Cummins ISB fully electronic 6-cylinder diesel engine and Allison 1000 series electronically controlled automatic transmission. The truck meets the EPA's Clean Fuel Fleet Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) standard.

"We've picked a company that can provide the after-delivery service we need in its warranty, maintenance and training," Schwind added. "Freightliner has the capacity to provide the top-drawer service that USPS needs."

Vehicle production is slated for the fourth quarter of 2000 with delivery of the first USPS units expected before the end of this year.

Additional vehicle specifications include:

-- Michelin 225/70R 19.5 14-ply tires

-- Dana Spicer rear axle

-- Meritor front axle

-- WABCO hydraulic brakes equipped with ABS

Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of Freightliner LLC, and is a leading manufacturer of delivery walk-in van, school bus, shuttle bus and motorhome chassis. Freightliner LLC, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, produces and markets Class 3-8 vehicles under the Freightliner, Sterling, American LaFrance and Thomas Built Buses nameplates. Freightliner is a DaimlerChrysler Company, the world's leading commercial vehicle manufacturer.