After a Brutal Year, the Post Office’s Sexy New Truck Is Selling Us a Story
The new fleet of electric vehicles paints a brighter future where the post office actually still exists
Object of the Week is a column exploring the objects a culture obsesses over and what that reveals about us.
It’s been a rough year — well, a rough decade or two — for the U.S. Postal Service. So it’s notable that in addition to enduring another round of criticism for subpar delivery performance this week, the venerable government agency also made news that struck a potentially positive note: It has awarded the contract for up to 165,000 new and redesigned delivery vehicles, some of which will run on electric power. For the first time in a long time, the USPS is directing our attention toward good news about its future.
According to The Verge, this is the culmination of an effort dating back to 2015 — an “urgent” undertaking to replace an aging fleet of trucks that, incredibly, lack air conditioning. (Some have been in service for 30 years.) In announcing the contract, the USPS unveiled the winning design and its features, along with a timetable pledging that the vehicles will begin to go into service in 2023. This puts the new fleet in a special category of object: the kind that looks and sounds promising but doesn’t (yet) actually exist.
The new postal truck is (presumably) real, but the renderings the agency released have that optimistic air of a designer’s vision of a better future en route.
In a way, even that is a pretty exciting turn of events for the post office, because the hyping of nonexistent objects is usually the province of forward-thinking tech hardware makers. In extreme cases — Apple being the most notable example — even third parties create images of nonexistent, speculative “concept” products that might arrive someday. The new postal truck is (presumably) real, but the renderings the agency released have that optimistic air of a designer’s vision of a better future en route.