Ohio-based electric vehicle manufacturer Workhorse Group is suing the United States Postal Service for bias after it wasn’t chosen to build the agency’s new fleet of delivery trucks.
As announced in February, electric vehicles will make up 10% of the new fleet unless Congress allocates additional money to build more.
The $3.1 billion contract to build the trucks was awarded to Oshkosh Corporation, an industrial company that designs and builds specialty vehicles including armored trucks for the military.
According to Workhorse, Oshkosh has never produced an electric delivery vehicle.
In its lawsuit, Workhorse accuses the Postal Service of ‘putting its thumb on the scale’ against Workhorse and asks the US Court of Federal Claims to suspend the contract with Oshkosh.
Workhorse also claims it was unfairly penalized for a mistake that occurred during testing. According to Workhorse, one of its prototype delivery trucks rolled out of control because the driver, a USPS employee, forgot to put the truck in park.
Even so, Workhorse is unlikely to win the suit.
“For those types of allegations…it’s an especially high hurdle, because the courts presume that government officials are acting in good faith and require a significant amount of proof to establish bad faith or bias,” explains Jack Horan, an attorney and professor at Georgetown University Law.
Workhorse is also at a disadvantage due to the Postal Service’s unique status within the federal government.
“[The Postal Service] is not covered by the usual procurement regulations that apply to federal agencies,” continues Horan. “As a result of that, the Postal Service has more discretion, business discretion, and leeway in handling its procurement than other government agencies.”
The Oshkosh contract has also been challenged by Congressional Democrats who feel it doesn’t go far enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“When you’re going to buying that level of vehicle, over 165,000 vehicles and only 10% of them are green…that does’t really make sense to me,” argues Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). “It’s very backward-looking.”
Kaptur, who wrote to President Joe Biden to review the contract, has particularly interest in Workhorse becuase its vehicles would be produced in Ohio. Oshkosh plans to build its vehicles in South Carolina.
The Postal Service has made no public comment on the litigation so far, but says it ‘looks forward to the start of vehicle production.’
As it stands, the agency’s new delivery trucks are expected to hit the road in 2023.