on Oct 29th, 2012 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 7 comments
 
With so much technology at their fingertips, customers now want and expect complete visibility of their mail, from entry to delivery. The Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) program has helped to bring total visibility closer to reality, and other technologies, such as radio frequency identification (RFID) and global positioning system (GPS) tracking, can fill the gaps. Complete visibility of mail provides real-time information about mail to customers and the U.S. Postal Service, including service performance data. This visibility into mailing activities allows the Postal Service to better manage its operations, increase route efficiency, improve service, and control costs. Mail visibility gives customers insight into mailing activities and provides them analytics to drive business decisions. As the IMb program matures and more customers adopt the full service offering, the Postal Service gets closer to total visibility of mail. But gaps in end-to-end visibility still exist, such as when mail travels on contracted highway route transportation and it is no longer “communicating” its location. One solution is to use GPS on HCR trucks to have visibility of mail during transport. In November 2010, the Postal Service initiated a limited-scope GPS program on about 900 of its 15,500 commercially contracted highway transportation routes, which covers about 300 highway contract route (HCR) suppliers. The suppliers were supposed to provide certain GPS tracking information every 30 minutes while hauling mail, including location of the vehicle. However, a recent OIG audit found that this GPS program was capturing only limited data, primarily because suppliers were not consistently reporting the data to the Postal Service. Limited data resulted in reports that were not useful for managing highway transportation routes. Still, the audit found enormous potential in this GPS program. If the Postal Service expanded it and data were captured and reported properly, it would provide the Postal Service with actionable reports that could include enhanced data analytics, real-time alerts, and fuel analysis and route optimization information. GPS data-based reports could be indicators of efficiency improvements, as well as potentially fraudulent activity. Further, the Postal Service could integrate this GPS program with its other mail visibility technologies, such as IMb and the surface visibility program, to enhance total mail visibility, which the Postal Service has cited as a priority and “essential to transforming the business.” The key, however, would be to ensure adequate supplier compliance. Further, integration of the various visibility programs would have to be seamless and cost-effective. What would be the best way to integrate the various visibility technologies? Would extending the GPS program to more surface transportation routes be a logical next step? Are there other technologies that should be considered to close some of the visibility gaps?

7 Comments

I am sorry to see our excellent postman's safety endangered by the USPS's orders that he has to deliver mail during Superstorm Sandy. The fact that he has to work all day until 5 PM further endangers him as the storm picks up. The wind gusts are already very strong. This policy endangers all postal delivery people going out on foot today.

RFID is be a better alternative than GPS. New methods of mass-producing paper RFID tags can lower the current costs by 80%, thereby making it more feasible for individual mail piece tracking.
Cheaper, Paper RFID Tags

Receivers can be installed on postal loading/unloading docks and the data would be automatically streamed to a central database. For an enhanced visual experience it might help to integrate the live data with a geolocation application and … voila. ... Eureka!

In regards to cost: RFID is the least expensive and most efficient method to achieve enhanced individual mail piece visibility.

Good luck with the “supplier compliance” solution. As USPS blindly continues its transportation outsourcing I'd bet the data corruption would lead to a logistical joke. Giving driver jobs back to postal employees on postal trucks would lead to enhanced postal operations.

OG

the GPs system was a total waste of money in so many way! Hard to use ineffective and not at all user friendly! It was installed in tractor rather thn in the trailers as it should be. The there is the issues of the millions upon millions of dollars wasted on the SV system

Considering that USPS gave up scanning packages with "tracking" (delivery confirmation) a long time ago, I find it hard to believe that anything like what is proposed in this article will EVER go into effect.

I am presently awaiting settlement for an insurance claim I filed for a package which I shipped from 95825 to 03860 on 8/11/12. It went to 03860 where it was declared "undeliverable as addressed" on 8/18/12 and then "addressee unknown" on 8/28/12 and returned to 95825 on 9/13/12.

I assumed this package would be returned to me at that time. But NOOOOO! This package then disappeared off the radar and was not scanned again until 10/13/12. It then decided to go on vacation and traveled between 91383, 90201, and 94804 for 10 days, making 3 complete round trips between the SF Bay Area and Southern California, before once again disappearing off the radar on 10/23/12.

I filed an insurance claim on 10/19/12 and, assuming (ha!) that this package was pulled from the system on 10/23/12, there is no reason it should take 18+ days for the it to be returned to me in 95825.

The USPS is a big joke these days and I do not say that simply because a package I shipped got lost. Several friends who live in the same geographic area as I do (Sacramento, California) have also had packages lost and/or misdirected over the past few months, which leads me to believe there is a serious problem with the USPS in Sacramento, California. I would like the Office of the Inspector General of the USPS to look into this situation.

Finally got the package back I posted about earlier. To make a long story short, I received the package on 11/27/12. I must say, however, that I was surprised to be asked to pay $6.18 for postage due. The supervisor whom I spoke with said something about it being because the package had been sent Parcel Post. I would like to see something in writing about this rule, because I've always been under the impression that if USPS can't do their job and mail is returned to the sender, there isn't a charge for the sender to receive it back. You have my email address (requested when I posted this comment). Please email me a link to the online USPS manual where this topic is discussed. Thank you.

Thank you for your response requesting we provide you with a link that provides details for how parcel select packages are handled when returning to the sender. We note for you, a change in policy that was effective April 1, 2012, changing the way parcel select is handled and returned. The new policy states when the USPS has a package that is "Undeliverable as Addressed" (UAA) and it was sent parcel select, the package will be marked “postage due” at the Single-Piece Post Rate and returned to the addressed displayed in the return address. Here are two links to the Domestic Mail Manual - Exhibit 1.5.4 Treatment of Undeliverable Package Services and Parcel Select for your review. http://pe.usps.com/text/dmm300/507.htm#1223780 and http://about.usps.com/postal-bulletin/2012/pb22331/html/updt_002.htm

The Office of Inspector General continually strives to bring efficiencies to the Postal Service operations, while at the same time be responsive for Postal Service issues and concerns. We hope this is helpful to you.

Sincerely,
Lisa Terrazas
USPS OIG Auditor
Network Processing and Transportation Direcorate

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