On June 8th, authorities in Florida’s Ormond Beach, Volusia County, and Flagler County Sheriff’s departments got radio calls of a high-speed chase involving a U.S. mail truck. The ordeal started at a medical healthcare complex in Holly Hill, FL. A postal carrier was confronted by Jesse Estep, carrying a can of mace. Estep demanded the postal worker give up the keys, after which he stole the mail truck. By the time Estep was on I=95, all three departments were closing in on the mail truck, which is easy if you’re in pursuit; a mail truck has a presumed top speed of 75 mph.
I-95 commuter Melanie Morales witnessed the chase in her rearview mirror and managed to capture the “high speed” on her smart phone, and she was able to record the moment authorities laid stop-sticks in an attempt to blow out the mail truck’s tires. Estep swerved to avoid the stop-sticks, effectively throwing himself at the mercy of the laws of physics – and they have no mercy. The truck lost control and drove off the road before rolling over on its side.
Estep suffered no serious injuries, and reportedly stated that he was on meth and “other drugs” upon arrest. The list of charges facing him is assumingly longer than the chase itself, and includes several felonies. I’ll admit I have dedicated a fair amount of day dreaming to the idea of being in a high-speed police pursuit (thank god for video games). Never once did I think of using a mail truck as a getaway car.
While on the topic of mail trucks, this story did spark a curiosity for these boxy little cars that putter around town dropping off junk mail to us. Like for starts, “What is it?” The actual name of these trucks is Grumman LLV, which stands for Long Life Vehicle. They are purpose-built fleet vehicles designed to carry U.S. mail.
In the 1980’s the US Postal Service (USPS) released a list of vehicle requirements for anyone willing to put a bid on the contract of building a replacement for Jeep postal vehicles. This is the list of “musts” – according to the Smithsonian Postal Museum:
- 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 to 4 inches high at 10 to 14 mph
- Drive 960 miles over potholes at 10 to 14 mph
- Haul a 1-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
An aircraft company called Grumman Corporation (now Northrop Grumman) won the bid. The Grumman LLV’s DNA is basically a Chevy S-10. The first engine fitted to the LLV was the terrible Iron Duke 2.5 4 cylinder; it was later replaced with a 2.2 liter iron block/ aluminum head engine from GM. Bolted to a 3-speed Turbo-Hydramatic transmission, it was supposed to get 17 mpg, but real time figures were closer to 10 mpg.
The Grumman LLV was in production from 1986-1994, so every single one you see on the road is the same age as a millennial. They were built to last, and even though their expected life span was limited to only 24 years of service, in 2009 the USPS decided to extend that 30 years! Of course, right now they are looking for vehicles to retire the LLV; possible substitutes include the Ford Transit. I don’t know about you, but it will be sad to no longer see the LLV on neighborhood streets.