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Less than 20% of Arizona's USPS vehicles have air conditioning

The United States Postal Service has more than 3,600 delivery vehicles in Arizona, but less than 20% of them have air-conditioning. Amid scorching summer temperatures, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is raising concerns over postal worker safety.

Many of the Postal Service’s “Long Life Vehicles” have been on the road for more than 20 years, and workers say temperatures inside the vehicles often exceed outdoor temperatures. 

Jeffrey Clark is president of the Arizona State Association of Letter Carriers. He retired from USPS after delivering mail in Phoenix for more than 30 years. In a meeting with Sinema earlier this month, Clark said he thinks air-conditioned vehicles could literally save lives.

“You can do everything correct, drink plenty of water the night before, during the day, but when it hits, it’s like a baseball bat," Clark said. "You’re inside that pizza oven they call an LLV. I’ve had heat exhaustion so many times, you forget to count.” 

In the meeting with Sinema, John Morgan, district manager for the USPS Arizona and New Mexico district, said the Postal Service has a Heat Illness Prevention Program, which trains employees to recognize signs of heat-related illness and to take safety precautions in extreme temperatures. Morgan said the program has led to a decline in heat-related illnesses among Arizona employees. 

USPS also has plans to begin replacing its aging fleet of vehicles next year. The new vehicles will have air-conditioning. 

Sinema is chair of the Senate Government Operations and Border Management Subcommittee, which oversees matters related to the Postal Service. She said she is urging USPS to take climate into account when it decides which states will receive updated vehicles first.

“When summer temperatures regularly rise above 110 degrees, we have to make sure we are doing everything we can to protect the men and women who deliver our mail from the extreme dangers of heat,” Sinema said. 

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent reporting on a variety of issues, including public health and climate change.