• on Jul 3rd, 2013 in Delivery & Collection | 14 comments

    “If you are generally well-equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse, you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack.”U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Ali S. Khan, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    Hurricanes, floods, wild fires, snowstorms, tornadoes, zombie apocalypse – you name it, the U.S. Postal Service is prepared to deliver. Part of the Postal Service’s extensive operational planning includes contingency plans to make sure mail gets delivered safely after every type of weather event, power outage, and undead uprising. Ok, maybe the Postal Service isn’t preparing for a zombie apocalypse, but its emergency preparedness plans could seemingly handle even that type of catastrophe.

    The Postal Service’s immediate priority after a storm or major weather event is the safety of its employees. Once safety issues are addressed, the prompt delivery of mail and packages to affected areas becomes the focus. The resumption of mail delivery to a disaster-affected area is often a welcome event in recovery. Citizens are frequently without power and phone service, which severely limits communications. Mail delivery allows for the exchange of information, including relief checks and government services, and can even provide a small feeling of a “return to normalcy” for citizens. Sometimes after a storm, a letter carrier is the first direct contact a citizen has with another person. Postal employees are often dealing with disasters in their own homes, yet show up faithfully for work.

    Halfway into 2013 and the year is shaping up to be an historic weather one. Winter storm Nemo, May tornadoes in Oklahoma, wild fires in Arizona, late spring snowstorms from Arkansas to Minnesota, flooding in many parts of the country, and record-breaking heat in the West all took place in just the first 6 months of this year. And hurricane season has only just started. This puts added pressure on the Postal Service to have sufficient controls in place to ensure employee safety and mitigate interruptions to service. Adding to the contingency challenge is the fact that postal facilities are often damaged in these weather events, forcing rerouting of mail and relocation of retail services. For example, the October 2012 Hurricane Sandy, which caused extensive power outages and infrastructure disruptions up and down the east coast, resulted in numerous postal facilities being damaged.

    Share with us your experiences with the Postal Service during major weather events. Could the Postal Service improve its preparation and response efforts in dealing with extreme weather to minimize disruptions? 

  • on Feb 18th, 2013 in Pricing & Rates | 6 comments

    After more than 20 years of service, the venerable POSTNet barcode on envelopes for automating and sorting mail retired on January 28. The Postal Service now requires that mailings have at least Basic-Service Intelligent Mail barcodes (IMb) to qualify for automation discounts. Mailers will need to switch to Full-Service IMb by January 2014 to receive maximum discounts at that time. Even though the Postal Service provided a lengthy lead time and a good deal of education on the discontinuance of the POSTNet barcode, the IMb requirement undoubtedly caught some smaller mailers by surprise. At the start of the New Year, less than half of commercial mail contained an IMb, suggesting a sizable number of mailers still needed to make the switch. While large commercial mailers were early adopters of IMb, many mid-sized and smaller mailers were hesitant to make the commitment and investment. Basic-Service IMb is not as big a step as the move to Full-Service IMb but it also yields fewer benefits. Full-Service Intelligent Mail will allow mailers to receive richer data about their mailings, but requires them to invest in hardware and software changes. The Postal Service wants to give mailers an incentive to make the conversion. It has proposed a one-time credit ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 to customers that make the conversion to Full-Service IMb. The credit would be based on the number of pieces the customer sends in a year. In an October Federal Register notice, the Postal Service laid out its proposal and further details are expected in a final rule. Is an incentive necessary to get mailers to invest in Full-Service IMb? If you are a mailer, do you plan to take advantage of the incentive?

  • on Dec 31st, 2012 in OIG | 4 comments
    The Postal Service faced its own fiscal cliff in 2012 while the larger mailing industry continued to press for reform and innovation. But don’t count mail out just yet. A strong election season reminded many Americans that mail still matters, even in the digital age. And in Europe, one postal operator didn’t let 500 years of history stand in the way of reinventing itself. Looking over the headlines, the staff at the Office of Inspector General has pulled together the list below of the top 10 postal stories for 2012. After you read them, vote for your top story of the year, or let us know if we missed one. 10. Pitfalls of Sponsorship – The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency strips cycling legend Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles after accusing him of illegal doping while on the U.S. Postal Service team. 9. Sound as a Pound – Royal Mail positions itself for privatization after ending price controls, shifting its pension liability to the government, and earning a profit. 8. Regulatory Fireworks – The Postal Regulatory Commission approves a controversial and newspaper industry-opposed negotiated service agreement with Valassis and remands a portion of the Postal Service’s annual price increase, saying it ignored previous Commission orders. 7. A Vote for Election Mail – Direct mail still matters in politics. Election mail postage surged over $400 million as parties and politicians used mail to target their messages in contentious national and local elections. 6. Default This Year; Reform Next Year – The Postal Service defaults on two prefunding payments totaling $11.1 billion to the Retiree Health Benefits Fund. Lawmakers ready for a postal reform bill in the new Congress. 5. Terminator 2012: Rise of the Tablets, (Further) Decline of Print – Coincidence or not? Venerable publications, such as Newsweek and the Times Picayune newspaper, abandon or reduce their print editions, while the number of tablet owners doubled in the past year and reached 19 percent of adults. 4. Shrink to Fit – The Postal Service’s 5-year business plan calls for cutting costs by $20 billion through workforce reduction, consolidation of facilities, and elimination of Saturday delivery. In initial action, the Postal Service compromised and reduced hours at rural post offices rather than closing them and pushed back its plan to eliminate overnight delivery of First-Class Mail. 3. Postcards from the Edge – The Postal Service reaches its statutory borrowing limit of $15 billion for the first time ever and warned that it could run out of cash by October 2013, barring any significant action. 2. Brand Damage – Steady stream of bad news keeps the Postal Service in the news and threatens to hurt its brand, which could prove especially harmful as it reinvents its business model for the digital age. 1. Parcels are the New Letters – Same-day delivery trials by eBay and the Postal Service, the growth in parcel lockers, and the efforts of traditional brick-and-mortar powerhouse Wal-Mart to increase its online presence indicate a very bright future for packages.

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