Chicago Mail Carriers Try Segways

Chicago mail carriers are the latest U.S. Postal Service employees to test the Segway Human Transporter.

Five postal workers in Chicago and its suburbs test-drove the self-balancing, battery-powered HT on 13 delivery routes Monday. The test continues for five more weeks. Chicago is the ninth major city where the USPS has experimented with the HT.

Early last year, the USPS conducted feasibility tests with letter carriers in Tampa, FL, and Concord, NH, to determine whether the Segway HT could be used in delivering mail. It was found to reduce the physical stress of carrying up to 35 pounds of mail and decrease the time used to walk between delivery addresses. The Segway can reach 12.5 mph.

Last summer, the USPS rolled out more testing in Norman, OK; Memphis, TN; Bronx, NY; San Francisco; and Chandler, AZ. Two weeks ago, tests began in New Bern, NC.

No decision has been made on whether to keep the scooter-like transporters.

“We are still in the evaluation phase, looking at results, and have to determine whether or not we will move forward with a national rollout,” said Mark Saunders, a USPS spokesman.

Reportedly, two trouble spots remain: battery power and security. A typical mail route takes five hours to complete, but the HT's batteries last about 2 1/2 hours, so postal workers must carry backup batteries. As for security, while Segway is working on an automatic shutdown system, carriers have to keep a close watch on their HTs so someone doesn't ride off with them when they get off it.

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