California driving

Zero-emissions delivery step van

The Postal Service is testing delivery vehicles in California that produce no emissions, part of a statewide program to cut pollution and strengthen the environment.

USPS will use 15 zero-emissions delivery step vans and charging stations in Fresno and Stockton.

The electric vans will cover routes of up to 75 miles per day during a period of 6-10 hours — just like their conventional 2-ton vehicle counterparts. In addition to having a positive ecological effect, this initiative, if implemented, is expected to help the Postal Service save on fuel costs.

Like the USPS Next Generation Delivery Vehicles initiative, the no-emissions vehicle test is part of the Postal Service’s broader efforts to innovate and invest in the future, two core strategies for the organization.

Questions and answers

Dakotas District Human Resources Manager Thomas Elias

Thomas Elias knows where to turn when he encounters a workplace ethical dilemma.

Elias, the human resources manager for Dakotas District, contacts the Ethics Helpline, a service offered by the USPS Ethics Office.

“I have contacted the helpline hundreds of times for everything from dealing with the use of government vehicles to gifts for supervisors, gifts between supervisors, the Hatch Act and use of official time,” he says.

The Postal Service encourages this behavior. The organization wants employees to behave ethically and recently began a campaign to educate workers on the federal government’s principles and standards.

Elias has three tips for employees who have ethics questions:

• Don’t be afraid to seek help. If someone asks Elias an ethics-related question about work and he doesn’t know the answer, he uses the helpline to get the information.

“I get questions about whether [customers] are allowed to hand out leaflets [at postal facilities]. Is it taking place in the parking lot or on the sidewalk? It makes a huge difference,” Elias says.

• Provide details. When using the helpline, “you need to be very clear … in your question,” he says.

• Understand what you’re asking. “Make sure the problem you are asking about is an ethics problem and not another type of problem, such as a timekeeping issue.”

The Ethics Helpline can be reached at 202-268-6346 or at ethics.help@usps.gov.

Elias has nothing but praise for the employees who staff the helpline.

“They are very good at getting back to you,” Elias says. “The answers I get back are very thorough and in-depth. I very seldom have to say, ‘Yes, but. …’”

“Best Practices,” a series on employees who demonstrate on-the-job excellence, appears regularly in Link.

Tax time

Protect yourself from scams

Tax season is here, and that means cyberattacks and scams are in full force.

Because vast amounts of valuable personal and financial information are shared online during tax season, this time of year is a cybercriminal’s dream come true.

To protect yourself, here are five easy-to-follow tips to avoid scams and file securely this year:

• File early. Criminals can file fraudulent tax returns using your stolen personal information. One of the best defenses is to file before they do.

• Think before you click. Beware of emails, text messages and social media posts that claim to be from the IRS and contain links or attachments. Cybercriminals may try to install malware onto your computer to steal your information.

• Set strong passphrases. If you file your taxes online, protect your information by using a passphrase that contains uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters.

• Use secure connections. Criminals can use public Wi-Fi or weak networks to intercept your information.

• Beware of phony calls. The IRS will never ask for credit or debit card information, demand immediate payment or threaten legal action in a cold call.

If you believe you are a victim of tax fraud, contact the IRS.

For additional cybersecurity information, check out the CyberSafe at USPS sites on Blue, LiteBlue and USPSCyberSafe.com.

Write stuff

Fifth-grade pose with U.S. Navy Capt.

A Pensacola, FL, fifth-grade class is using the mail to show their appreciation to members of the armed forces.

The Beulah Elementary School students regularly write letters to U.S. Navy recruits undergoing basic training in Great Lakes, Ill.

In each letter, the students share information about themselves, express their support for the recruits and ask questions about basic training. Each letter concludes with two jokes that aim to make the recruits smile.

Capt. Kertreck Brooks recently visited the school to thank the students for their participation in the writing project, which began last year.

“It’s important for me to express my appreciation to the students for their participation and thoughtfulness towards the Navy recruits,” he said.

Brooks also explained the importance of mail to members of the military, especially recruits.

“Upon arrival, all recruits are allowed to make one final phone call home to their family, then all of their personal belongings — including their cell phones — are boxed up and mailed home,” said Brooks. “The only form of communication left is through mail, which makes mail call a special event for recruits.”