Long Life Vehicle
This 1 1/2-ton Long Life Vehicle (LLV) was manufactured by Grumman and General Motors. The vehicle is number 7200001, as indicated above the front windshield. The truck body is made from corrosion-resistant aluminum and can carry 1,000 pounds of mail. Grumman won the rights to produce the new U.S. Postal Service carrier vehicles in 1985 after surviving a series of tests against competing vehicles produced by Poveco (Gruehauf and General Automotive Corporation) and American Motors General Company. The demanding tests were conducted by the Postal Service in Laredo, Texas.
When postal officials decided to invest in new vehicles to replace the widely-used Jeeps, they decided to try something new. Instead of selecting an existing vehicle and ordering it with modifications for postal use, they decided to have a postal vehicle built from scratch. Officials believed that this method would assure the creation of a vehicle that could last more than twenty years on the road.
According to a postal official who helped monitor the Laredo vehicle tests, it was “the most grueling road test of a government vehicle this side of the M-1 tank.” In Laredo, officials tested the vehicles’ endurance and maneuverability through a series of drills, including tests that required the vehicles to:
• Drive 5,760 miles on a closed loop 5-mile-long paved road at 50 to 55 mph
• Drive 11,520 miles over a gravel road at 30 to 45 mph
• Drive 2,880 miles over a road with a shoulder, stopping every 250 feet and accelerating to 15 mph in between
• Drive 960 miles over cobblestones that ranged from 3 ½ to 4 ½ inches high at 10 to 14 mph
• Drive 960 miles over potholes at 10 to 14 mph
• Haul a ½-ton pound load during one half of the road test
• Haul a man and a 400 pound load during one half of the road test
• Drive over potholes ensuring that each wheel hits a pothole 35,000 times
• Make one hundred consecutive stops from 15 mph
Officials required that the manufacturers produce a vehicle with a weather-tight aluminum alloy body. The body had to be easy to enter and exit for carriers ranging from 4’11” tall to those standing at 6’2” and 210 pounds. Finally, and most importantly, the vehicle had to be able to run twenty hours a day, seven days a week, month after month, year after year.
The Postal Service ordered 99,150 Long Life Vehicles. The last LLV was built in 1987. Design imperfections began to appear once the vehicles were put to their paces in actual working conditions. The windowless cargo area restricted carrier visibility. The vehicles were too low in the front, making navigation through deep snow problematic. But even with these problems, the vehicles continue to transport carriers and their mail along city streets across the United States.
Jerry Kerr, oral interview, 2004.