Are Mail Trucks Automatic or Manual Transmission Vehicles?

The mail trucks of the United States Postal Service are a bit of an icon on American roads. They represent receiving something tangible, whether it be a letter or an important package. At the same time, although you might see a USPS mail truck on a daily basis, you may not know that much about it. And that is because, unless you are a mail carrier, you will likely never step foot inside of one. So, do mail trucks have automatic transmissions or are they manual? 

What kind of transmission does the Grumman LLV have?

Although the USPS employs a variety of different vehicles, the Grumman LLV is probably the most iconic. This mail truck uses a three-speed transmission known as the TH180 automatic. It is purposely low-geared in order to help with heavy cargo, and because these vehicles typically operate at low speeds. 

The TH180, or Turbo-Hydramatic 180 transmission, was developed and produced by General Motors. It was put into a variety of vehicles, including the Fiat Spider and Holden Commodore. And, because the Grumman LLV is based on a GM chassis, it makes sense that the powertrain would come for the same brand. 

What kind of engine does the Grumman LLV have?

Over the years, the LLV used two engines. Early models featured the 2.5-liter “Iron Duke” engine, while later production models came equipped with a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine. Neither engine is all that efficient, but they are legitimate workhorses. So their use in USPS mail trucks does make sense. 

A USPS mail truck, the Grumman LLV, delivers mail. Is it AWD?
Grumman LLV | Carlos ZGZ

In the future, as the USPS phases out the Grumman LLV, the agency will enlist the help of electric mail trucks. And that should help the Postal Service operate more efficiently and adhere to an executive order issued by the Biden administration. But, the Oshkosh NGDV is not here yet, so you likely are still having your mail delivered by a Grumman LLV.

Why don’t mail trucks have license plates?

If you pay attention to mail trucks, you might have noticed they do not have traditional license plates. Instead, each Grumman LLV is issued a seven-digit U.S. Postal Service serial number. This also applies to mail trucks that were used before the LLV, so it is not a new thing. The first digit of the serial number translates to the last digit of the year that the vehicle was made. 

A group of USPS mail trucks sit parked.
USPS Mail Trucks | Luke Sharrett via Getty Images

Under Federal law, some USPS vehicles are not actually required to have a license plate. According to ClickOrlando, mail trucks do have to adhere to traffic laws. They are just exempt from some regulations that apply to other vehicles. 

Can you buy a USPS mail truck?

As the USPS phases out the Grumman LLV, it is possible that some examples may come up at auction. It is possible to buy an LLV if you can find one, but that does not necessarily mean that you should. 

This vehicle is entirely purpose-built. It lacks the typical things that you would find on nearly every other vehicle from its era. Plus, even driving on the highway can feel like a bit of a sketchy task. Still, owning a mail truck would certainly be cool, especially if you take it to car shows or attempt to convert one to van life.

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