• on Nov 28th, 2011 in Pricing & Rates | 14 comments
    Have you ever heard of Alaska Bypass? It’s a service the U.S. Postal Service offers only in Alaska, allowing shippers to send shrink-wrapped pallets of goods at Parcel Post rates using private airlines. The Postal Service pays airlines to carry the goods to rural Alaskan communities by delivering these goods directly to the stores located in rural areas. The shippers effectively and entirely “bypass” the Postal Service’s delivery network. The Postal Service has to pay the airlines much more than it receives in postage for this program. In FY 2010, the Postal Service lost $73 million on Alaska Bypass. In addition, the people receiving the shipments are usually retail merchants, because the orders must be at least 1,000 pounds. The Postal Service doesn’t provide this kind of service for retailers anywhere else in the country. Alaska Bypass began when it was much more difficult to get goods to rural Alaskans than it is today. There are even some that say it no longer seems to fit with the Postal Service’s mission. The Office of Inspector General Risk Analysis Research Center has developed a white paper, Alaska Bypass: Beyond Its Original Purpose, which outlines the history of the program and the shift away from its original purpose. The paper offers various options to improve the program. Should the Postal Service continue to pay for sending large shipments of goods to retailers and be permitted to charge the shippers more for this service? Should the 1,000-pound minimum order requirement, targeted to retailers, be eliminated in order to extend the benefit directly to consumers shopping online? What do you think? Click here to read the white paper and we invite you to share your thoughts about this program on our blog. This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.
  • on Nov 14th, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 28 comments
    Out of 23 posts in industrialized countries, the U.S. Postal Service is one of the few remaining posts not offering an eMailbox solution to its citizens. And while there are private sector technology industry standouts in the U.S. that have developed widely popular e-mail and secure storage services, their business models sacrifice consumer privacy in the interest of ad-based revenue generation. In an increasingly digital world, it may make sense for the Postal Service to offer eMailbox services in addition to traditional delivery. A consumer would also be able to sign up for an accompanying highly secure data storage area service called the eLockbox, which would provide added security for the archiving of important legal and personal documents with anytime, anywhere secure access. Today many electronic documents, especially financial records, reside primarily on the banks or billers Web site and not with the consumer. The Office of Inspector General Risk Analysis Research Center’s new paper eMailbox and eLockbox: Opportunities for the Postal Service (Report Number RARC-WP-12-001) explores these concepts. This white paper is the fourth paper in the Digital series, and presents a case for offering an eMailbox and eLockbox. Some of the paper’s findings include: 1.As communication channels become increasingly consumer-centric, the eMailbox and eLockbox would empower individuals to transition to full electronic delivery at their own pace. 2.The linking of one’s physical identity and address to the eMailbox address will provide high identity assurance necessary for transactions, which require privacy, confidentiality, authentication and non-repudiation such as for legal and financial correspondence. 3.The Postal Service, offers protection from theft, interference, fraud and forgery under federal law, utilizing two law enforcement organizations (the Office of Inspector General and the Inspection Service). 4.Advertising mail would only be allowed from entities registered with the Postal eMailbox system and with the consent of the receiver. Together, the concept of the eMailbox and eLockbox services reflects a natural extension of the Postal Service’s role in the physical world as the trusted custodian of the nation’s address management system. The product provides a digital service linking American households and businesses in a trusted and verifiable way, while empowering consumers to determine the pace and extent of the service’s use. This product suite should be further developed as the organization implements new digital services. What do you think? Would you use a Postal eMailbox? This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.
  • on Nov 7th, 2011 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 18 comments
    U.S. Postal Service Mail Transport Equipment (MTE) consists of specialized containers such as sacks, pouches, trays, hampers, over-the-road containers and pallets. Although the Postal Service does not maintain a perpetual inventory of its MTE, a 2010 audit indicated approximately 359 million pieces in the system of 400 processing facilities, over 30,000 post offices and thousands of mailers nationwide. Proper MTE management and availability ensure the safe, secure, and timely movement of mail between Postal Service facilities and its customers or contractors MTE may be used only to transport mail, and borrowers of MTE (such as private mailers) are responsible for its proper use and return. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Over the past few years Postal Service has experienced a significant loss of plastic and wooden pallets. Since fiscal year 2005 the Postal Service has spent over $240 million on close to 19 million plastic and wooden pallets, many of which can no longer be accounted for internally or externally. Realizing the significant cost of leakage of MTE from its inventory, the Postal Service has studied both the movement of MTE as well as ways to reduce leakage. As a result of its precarious financial condition and a freeze on all information technology initiatives, two technological initiatives to better track MTE have been shelved. The Postal Inspection Service has been proactive in both reaching out to the public on this issue, and investigating MTE theft and misuse. The Inspection Service has an ongoing national MTE recovery initiative to locate misappropriated and misused MTE, especially pallets. What do you think about the MTE situation? Is there a cost-efficient way to track MTE? What else should the Postal Service do to reduce leakage? What are your experiences using plastic or wooden pallets? Give your comments below. And if you know of any pallets or other MTE being misused or taken from the system, contact the OIG Hotline, which accepts confidential and anonymous complaints. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Transportation Directorate.

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