Bill Introduced to Require Air Conditioning in all U.S. Postal Service Mail Trucks

Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA 29th District) has introduced a measure to require all mail trucks to be air conditioned after a death in his district. The measure also follows calls from community members to protect mail carriers as unprecedented heat passed through western states last summer.

Last year, California temperatures reached a new high of 117 degrees on one summer day. On this day, Peggy Frank, a 63 year old postal worker of 28 years, was found unresponsive in her mail truck. Frank passed away later that day as a result of hyperthermia- an abnormally high body temperature caused by a failure of the body to deal with heat coming from the environment.

U.S. Postal Service spokesperson Eveline Ramirez noted that carriers deliver mail in “all kinds of weather, including high temperatures” and are reminded to stay hydrated and seek shade whenever possible, but that Frank’s truck did not have air conditioning.

A co-worker noted that inside the truck it can be 10-15 degrees hotter than the already smoldering temperatures outside.

In 2014, following the death of another postal worker due to excessive heat, a U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation found that the Postal Service “did not have procedures in place to address worker concerns during times of excessive heat” and fined the agency $70,000.

OSHA again cited the agency in 2016 following reports of heat related illness.

While the agency began purchasing air conditioned vehicles in 2003, only about 63,000 of 230,000 vehicles are equipped with cooling controls.

One mail carrier created an online petition asking the government to ensure air conditioning is available in all mail trucks. The original petitioner Dustin Benthagen noted, “It is illegal to leave a child or an animal in a vehicle in these conditions, shouldn’t the same be applied to us? I know I don’t even have a place to cool down on my lunch break.”

The petition has roughly 200,000 signatures and has praised Rep. Cárdenas for introducing his legislation.

Rep. Cárdenas’ legislation, H.R. 1299, would require all vehicles owned or leased by the Postal Service to be air conditioned.

Posted in From the Hill

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