USPS Moves 'Ginger-ly' to Improve Efficiency

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The U.S. Postal Service is expected to begin a test today of the Segway Human Transporter to determine if it can reduce reliance on trucks and enable mail carriers to cover more ground.

The HT is a two-wheeled battery-powered device better known by its code name of Ginger. It was invented by Dean Kamen of DEKA Research and Development in Manchester, NH, and introduced to the public last month.

The units, which will be tested on five routes in Tampa, FL, will be fitted with mail satchels attached over the wheels and handlebar. The test will continue for 30 days. The USPS originally also was going to test the device in Concord, NH, but that test was delayed indefinitely pending the development of snow tires for the HT.

"Tampa was chosen because we wanted to test in a warm, moist, predominantly flat environment," said Sue Brennan, a USPS spokeswoman. "The routes were chosen for a variety of reasons, including the fact that we needed walking routes, and we needed carriers who were interested in participating in the test."

Walking routes and "park and loop" routes total 62 percent of all city routes, and are covered by more than 100,000 carriers nationwide. Brennan said data would be collected on every aspect of using the device, including overall performance, safety, efficiency, strain for the carrier, and delivery costs and environmental issues.

To alert customers in Tampa about the program, the agency began sending postcards a week prior to the test to 2,000 residents who live along these five routes. On one side, the postcard reads "The U.S. Postal Service to Begin Testing New Segway Human Transport." On the other side, the postcard said, "The Future is Now."

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