Rural mail carrier Jim Thistlewood smiles when he talks about the postal truck he uses to deliver mail in Queen Creek. That's because up until about a month ago, he used his own vehicle with more than 250,000 miles on it.
"This thing rides like a Cadillac," Thistlewood said, as he loaded bins full of packages and mail into the back.
The United States Postal Service in Queen Creek received 38 used mail trucks, known as "long life vehicles," in February to deliver mail instead of carriers using their own vehicles. In rural areas, carriers often use their own cars and are not required to wear uniforms.
Thistlewood said area residents used to not know who was delivering the mail based on the vehicles used, but now the vehicles are marked and people can be sure it's the post office.
Queen Creek Postmaster Chris Bisdnack said he has received phone calls from people not used to seeing unmarked postal vehicles or people out of uniform because they've come from cities. "People feel more secure (with the new vehicles)," he said.
The postal vehicles, provided through an agreement with the National Rural Carriers Union, are in place on 38 of the 49 mail routes in the Queen Creek area.
Bisdnack said there aren't specifics on which routes get the USPS vehicles but he tried to target routes with less mileage because the vehicles are older and he avoids using them on routes with dirt roads because the vehicles aren't meant for that terrain.
Thistlewood said the new vehicles are safer because mail carriers don't have to deliver mail out of the passenger window while trying to control their vehicle. The trucks are all equipped with right-side driving equipment and seven mirrors to help carriers see better.
Substitute carrier Lizzette Garibay from Queen Creek uses her own vehicle to deliver mail, but said it would be nice to have a postal delivery truck.
She used to have a Volkswagen Jetta and during the busy times of year such as Christmas, she'd have to make two or three trips to get her job done, she said.
Now she drives a sports utility vehicle.
"I got this so when I have a lot, I can take the seats out," Garibay said.