Or a shot of something.

In the past couple weeks I’ve properly lambasted, roasted, and otherwise cajoled a triad of storied organizations- The Postal Service, Volvo and their Mack trucks operation in particular, and the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America (MOA). That’s a journalist’s duty… “To comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable”. With all too many professional journalists now being forced to cowtow to the advertising departments, that duty has fallen on us lowly underpaid bloggers… And we relish it!

‘Bout the time I was dissecting the old age maladies of the Postal Service fleet, they popped a lengthy request for proposals with general specs for the replacement for the aging LLV vans. Skimming over the lengthy tome, it looks like they want a full size step van, with a 6 foot wide and 9 foot long floor area with stand up height, perhaps to carry APCs? They also want right hand drive, a completely rustproof body, the option of four wheel drive, and they hinted at a hybrid feature too… And they want 180,000 of them built in what sounds like only 7 or so years! I don’t know if they’ve been pricing step vans lately, but we’re pretty much down to one supplier, they’re rather busy, and even in those volumes with a garden variety gas engine a price of over $50k apiece is to be expected. That’s over a billion dollars a year, though some of that cost would be offset by lower repair costs… Hopefully the Postal Service still has good credit at the U.S. Treasury, and I suspect at least the sane bidders will price in the possibility that the order might get cancelled before it’s completed. Then again, wouldn’t be too hard to adapt a cube van box to the new F150’s aluminum cab, and I suspect Ford has already engineered the right hand drive…

The nice folks at Volvo’s Mack operation have advised me that the website’s techy gear head spec content will be improving. and that’s good to hear. If you weren’t familiar with Mack you might peruse their web page and assume that only a limited range of options are available, then surf over to a competitor and buy something there. Happened to some family farmers I know, their first choice was a new Mack truck because they liked Mack’s rear suspension and double reduction axles. Upon visiting the Mack dealer to buy said new truck they were wrongly told that option was no longer available, and they bought a Peterbuilt instead, Today you can still buy a new Mack truck with a Maxidyne engine, Maxitorque transmission, and legendary Mack double reduction drive axles and bogie, just like the good old days of the legendary R model. Mack needs to let the world know that they don’t build generic trucks, and they’ve a host of options like sleeper cabs on vocational trucks, taller and thicker frames on highway trucks, tridem drive axles, axles built for loads far above the legal limits, etc.. At least I think so… I’m going by spec sheets from a couple years ago scattered about the web and internet chatter.

Eager to dig deeper into the BMWMOA story, I took advantage of their free trial membership so I could read the board meeting minutes and their online club business discussion. The news is good and bad- They cut costs to match they’re declining membership, so they’re solvent for now. But they’re losing around 5,000 of their 30,000 members a year, and they can’t afford that forever. Doing a bit of amateur forsenic accounting from the skimpy numbers available, it looks like the rally has become a good sized profit center for the club, though smaller than memberships and magazine advertising. And despite the degree to which they’ve been pimped, the all-in tours aren’t making much money… I hope they’re at least having fun. Apparently I’ve not been the only complainer, because some positive changes have been made- the website has been toned down and the link to the events schedule with the local rallies we love has been restored, and this years rally will offer a one day only admission package. But they had to maintain the BMW image and attitude, so the cost will be $30!