Wheeler Bros. Inc.

U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, and Wheeler Bros. Inc. President Chad Wheeler check under the hood of Grumman Long Life Vehicle on Tuesday, July 26, 2016, at the Somerset company.

SOMERSET – Chad Wheeler wants U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, to know a Somerset company is ready to continue keeping the U.S. Postal Service’s fleet of vehicles on the road. 

Wheeler Bros. Inc. is the largest supplier of parts for the Postal Service and its ninth largest supplier overall, company president Chad Wheeler said.

The Postal Service has announced plans to replace its aging Grumman Long Life Vehicle fleet with 180,000 new vehicles over eight years. The price is to be under $35,000 per vehicle.

But the agency has not identified funding and is still grappling with what type of vehicle is needed, Wheeler said.

Since further delay is costing more in engine and transmission repairs, Wheeler said the Postal Service might want to consider upgrading some of the existing LLVs to a more efficient drive train. Wheeler offers engines and transmissions that could extend the fleet’s life.

Wheeler also is ready to work with other manufacturers to design the next generation of LLVs, he said.

“We invited the congressman here to give him an idea of what we do here and what we offer,” Wheeler said.

The operation, at 384 Drum Ave. in Somerset Industrial Park, was developed by the Wheeler family, but was sold in 2011 to VSE Corp. of Alexandria, Virginia.

Wheeler said he wanted Rothfus to understand that reports of the current LLV’s demise are exaggerated.

“There is no shortage of parts,” Wheeler said. “We can build you an LLV today.”

Rothfus said he first toured the plant about three years ago and Tuesday’s visit was to update his understanding of the operation.

“They are a longtime supplier of the Postal Service,” Rothfus said after the tour. “It’s important to get the background and understand the issues they are facing.”

Rothfus said he understands the Postal Service is considering its choices.

“It is clear they have options,” he said. “You can study options endlessly, but there comes a time when you have to make a decision and move ahead with a plan.”

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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