• on Jan 5th, 2009 in OIG | 4 comments

    As we start a new year, those of us helping on the Office of Inspector General blog thought it would be fun to reflect on the past year and pick our top 10 list of postal stories from 2008. We would like to hear your views. Take a look at the list and tell us what you like or don’t like. Tell us about any stories we missed and add whatever comments you think appropriate. In particular, we would like to know your pick of the top postal story for 2008, so take a minute and vote for the most important story by participating in the poll below.

    And now in reverse order . . . our top 10:

    1. Postal Service flexes pricing muscles — The Postal Service used its pricing flexibility under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) to offer new discounts for competitive products.
    2. Periodicals go web-only — Major publications such as PC World and The Christian Science Monitor decided to drop print editions in favor of electronic versions.
    3. PAEA-mandated reports hit the street — A flood of reports intended to lay the groundwork for the Postal Service’s future regulatory environment were released by the Federal Trade Commission, Treasury, Postal Regulatory Commission, Postal Service, and others.
    4. Voting by mail takes off — Prior to the 2008 election, it was anticipated that more than 31 million people would vote by mail, double the number in 2000.
    5. Postal Service announces VERA (Voluntary Early Retirement Authority) and a hiring freeze — In response to lowered revenues, the Postal Service took action to downsize and lower costs.
    6. Prefunding retiree health benefits — Anticipating large losses, the Postal Service, its Board of Governors, and other stakeholders urged Congress to allow the Postal Service to start paying current retiree health benefits from its dedicated retiree health fund now rather than in 2017.
    7. Gas price swings — The price of fuel, a major expense for the Postal Service, rose to record highs and then dramatically fell back.
    8. Greening of the mail — The Postal Service and mailing industry took steps to respond to concerns about mail’s environmental impact.
    9. DHL leaves the U.S. market — To stem large losses, DHL abandoned its effort to become a competitor for U.S. domestic parcel shipments.
    10. Postal Service mail volume declines — The weakening economy led to a decline in mail volume.
  • on Dec 29th, 2008 in OIG | 19 comments

    After blogging for several months, the Office of Inspector General wants you to know how it’s going.  So far, we’ve posted seven blogs (including this one) and received more than 100 comments. There have been a number of thoughtful observations about the Postal Service, and the Mail Transport Equipment blog actually led to a tip that resulted in the recovery of some pallets.

    Our most successful post so far has been "Self Service Mail Technologies". More than 150 people participated in the survey questions about Automated Postal Centers (APCs) — the Postal Service’s self-service kiosks. As the charts below show, as of the time of this post, 76 percent of participants said they were aware of APCs, and 81 percent said they would be more likely to use the Postal Service if self-service machines were conveniently located where they shop. We intend to incorporate your survey responses and comments into our work on APCs.

     Are you aware of APC?  Pie chart:  76 percent yes; 24 percent no

    Would you use APC if located where you shop?  Pie chart:  81 percent yes; 19 percent no

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, and please continue to comment. We’d also like to hear your ideas for new blog topics. What topics should we address in 2009? We welcome your suggestions.

  • on Dec 12th, 2008 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 21 comments

    In 1970, the Postal Service delivered fewer than 85 billion pieces of mail. Thirty years later, mail volume had more than doubled to nearly 208 billion pieces of mail — average growth of about 3 percent per year. The Postal Service relied upon this dependable growth in mail volume to finance the expansion of its network. The traditional business model worked.

    Then, mail volume entered the new century. Each year from 2000 through 2003, total mail volume decreased. In 2005, the volume of Standard Mail surpassed the volume of the Postal Service’s flagship product First-Class Mail for the first time, with First-Class Mail volume actually falling below its 1995 level. Total mail volume growth averaged an anemic 0.3 percent per year from 2000 through 2007, and when the Postal Service’s 2008 fiscal year ended on September 30, volume had declined in nearly all categories. The total decline in 2008 was 4.5 percent to 202.7 billion pieces.  The Postal Service is forecasting continued volume decline to 194.5 billion pieces in 2009.

    Mail Volume

    Do these recent trends portend a fundamental change to mail volumes? Or are they mostly a symptom of the current adverse economic conditions? What are the long-term consequences of electronic substitution? How have other factors such as value of competitors’ products, new technologies, and complementary services affected mail volumes?

    The Postal Service touches everyone, everywhere, nearly every day and is the cornerstone of the $1.2 trillion mailing industry. The Postal Service’s traditional business model is threatened. But, with every threat, comes opportunity. Which products and services may rebound and grow?

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