It’s 7:30 am and you’re a letter carrier . . . so take a moment and imagine the following as a typical workday. First, you walk into the office, clock in, and check in with the boss. Then, you load up the vehicle with the mail that is already prepared for your route. Finally, at 7:45 am, you jump into the vehicle, drive off and begin delivering the mail. At no point are you required to manually sort mail. Is that day far off in the future . . . or, is it just around the corner?

Currently, Delivery Point Sequence (DPS) letters are automated to the delivery point so that the carrier can take it directly to the street. DPS mail is picked up by the carrier on the way to the vehicle and does not need additional manual sorting. The purpose of the DPS program is to reduce the amount of time carriers spend in the office manually sorting letters, thereby reducing cost and improving accuracy and speed of delivery. Since 1993, when DPS was introduced, the share of city delivery routes receiving DPS letters has grown to more than 99 percent and the share of rural routes has grown to 86 percent. On average, these routes receive 88 percent of their letters in DPS order. The Postal Service’s goal is to raise the DPS percentage to 95 percent by 2010. The chart below depicts how the share of DPS letters and manually sorted (cased) letters on city delivery routes has changed over time.

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Delivery is the Postal Service’s largest cost center accounting for more than 40 percent of expenses, and having carriers manually sort mail takes time and money. Carrier routes are configured to take eight hours to complete, and those eight hours include time spent in the office . . . primarily manually sorting mail, as well as time spent on the street. According to the Postal Service, over the last 15 years, it has recognized over $5 billion in savings due to DPS.

Now, the Postal Service wants to replicate for flats — large envelopes, magazines, and catalogs — what is done for letters by implementing the Flat Sequencing System (FSS). The FSS will sort flats into delivery point sequence. In FY 2007, the Postal Service processed 52 billion flats and 80 percent needed to be sorted manually in the office by the carrier. The plan is for FSS to reduce the amount of time carriers spend in the office manually sorting flat mail. Although FSS is not quite ready for primetime, the Postal Service is currently piloting it at the Dulles Processing and Distribution Center in Virginia.

If the majority of the mail is sorted in delivery point sequence using automation, it will dramatically change how a carrier spends his or her workday. Remember, you are the carrier and now you have automated sorted bundles of DPS letters and FSS mail. There was no need to manually sort any of this mail in the office. You only had to pick up the mail and maybe a few parcels before you headed out on your route. What does this mean? Well, for starters, because carriers begin delivering mail earlier, carriers have a longer day out on the street. In addition, more time dedicated to delivering the mail will likely result in carriers being back in the office within their allotted 8-hour tour, thereby reducing overtime and late deliveries. Further, avoiding the evening rush hour traffic may result in decreased auto accidents. Finally, because the mail is delivered more quickly, customer service may be improved.

What do you think? Do you think that the days of manually sorting mail in the office are coming to an end? It took 15 years to realize the impact of DPS; will it take longer for FSS? Will increased delivery points and decreased mail volume have an impact? Can you think of some other challenges and benefits that may be presented because of DPS and FSS?

This blog is hosted by the OIG's Delivery directorate.

Comments (87)

  • anon
    6miles

    1. The system under FSS makes no provision for non-machinable circulars, ADVO, etc. I am reading tales posted by carriers where FSS has already come in of either having to case their circs, or work the non-machinable circs one at a time into their FSS flats, since carriers with walking routes can't take a 4th bundle. This, of course, takes a lot more time and certainly isn't covered in the DOIS. 2. I find it amusing that after all of this time with the different areas having FSS, that the PO still hasn't written an SOP for carries delivering a park-and-loop delivery route. Working flats out of my arm, AND my bag??? How in the hell will that "save" time?? Ours is supposed to come in about Jan 2010. Can't wait !!!

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    Soon I'll not only be a letter carrier juggling 3 to 4 bundles of mail not to mention your accountables and parcles. I'll also be able to work for the circus as a professional juggler.

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    "This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Delivery directorate." Dictator was misspelled!!!!

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    They make it sound like DPS is such a wonderful thing. Sure wish these jokers would try juggling three or four bundles. Not to mention all the delayed mail due to dps errors. And the mess they call cfs now. Keep the blinders on. Tell everyone how wonderful those machines are and spend a fortune on some more!

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    We didn't get DPS till after 1996! And the problems we had then are the same problems we have now. So much for the accuracy. As for the time, the DPS has nothing to do with how fast the mail gets delivered. The carrier does. I can't believe someone would print such an article. Then again, they put out the DPS machines. Oh well, so much for logic or common sense.

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    The best point of all---the people making the rules have NEVER actually done the job. Injuries and accidents will most certainly increase due to the added physical stress and the attention needed to sort 2-3-or 4 bundles "on-the-go".

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    First off, whoever blogged this garbage doesn't get it. DPS hasn't been in existence for 15 years. Second, keeping carriers on the street longer will actually increase the number of vehicle accidents, costing the PO more money. Third, longer delivery times equals more burning of fuel,again costing the PO more money. Fourth, mgmnt wants carriers to be more efficient and accurate, but they all bring back handfuls of messed up DPS, resulting in delayed mail. Fifth, the argument that customers will receive their mail earlier is only true for maybe the first half of the route, then it all evens out as carriers pick through mounds of mail. And lastly, the introduction of FSS only means adding more addresses to a carrier's route resulting in, you guessed it, more hours in the office and on the street. Oh yeah, one other thing: the PO is beginning to install GPS units in LLVs. I thought the PO was going broke, but I guess they got a good deal on thousands of GPS units. BIG BROTHER is watching.

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    They still have money to burn, we all got teashirts today with an add on it for the po, of course no one will see it, or I should say not many will!

    Jun 12, 2009
  • anon

    DPS HAS been in existence for 15 yrs. Perhaps not where you are located, but it was just starting, in the city I work in, when I was hired in 1994.

    Jun 10, 2009
  • anon

    FSS is already an obsolete notion. With the drastic decline in flats, an undoubtly more decline in the future, why invest so much money in a declining classification of mail? The postal Service needs to look to the real future. It needs to take advantage of The Postal accountability and enhancment act and invest in infrastructure in Asia. This is the money place now and the future.

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    I have my doubts about the logistics of FSS also. The FSS machines being deployed in our area will be 75 miles from my station. The FSS mail will have to be trucked down to us. In winter snow and ice will impead the roads. We are in a high denisity urban area, with daily traffic jams, tunnels, and bridges to cross. Currently our Express mail usualy does not arrive until after 10 each morning, and IOD's deliver it to the carriers on their routes to deliver. To make it work we would have to deliver the previous days FSS mail the next morning. But that would be delaying the mail...

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    USPS has saved ONLY 5 Billion since 1993??? These machines have cost 3 times that amount to run and maintain. Do you see what happens when so called Postal execs get the authorization to do things. We invest the whole egg basket in 1970s technology. It works ok but the higher ups have to blame the short comings on the carriers the mailers and even the mail handlers. As for the $ amount this guy has come up with..... I think he is just like my local management... pulls numbers out of his *ss and calls it law.

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    I agree with all the above posters and they hammered out the main points. One thing I would like to add though is that saying that the mail will be available at 7:30 AM is absolutely totally REDICULOUS. At my office...they can't even get the dps ready for us before we leave for the street at 9:00. Also, how many bundles are we going to be required to carry? DPS, FSS, residual, and a WSS?...what are you guys smoking?

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    I have been a clerk from the old LSM days. I have followed and worked on every automation machine. DPS is great BUT in no way is it perfect. There are letters stuck together, missed sent through the machine, etc. I always thought the carriers were going to case it to get all mistakes out. I have talked to several who tell me all the mail brought back daily. Seems casing the DPS mail would clean a lot up and still save time. The USPS management just ramrods their theory on the mail will work without ever doing the job. It looks good on paper but until you work the floor or the streets, YOU DON"T HAVE A CLUE!!!

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    i case more letters now than 3 years ago , is this the mysterious declining volume ,that seems to be increasing , or are they just not running all the mail,i dont know.we still cant figure out how to deliver the mail and we've been delivering it for 100 years ,maybe with another 100 years of B.S.changes,for the sake of change, we'll get it right ,but i really doubt it. Management Rules !!!!! ;)

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    The route I serviced was in a poor area. The turn over rate of customers averaged 25% per MONTH. There was no way DPS could keep up with it. The manager agreed to allow me to case the DPS and as a matter of fact I was able to forward over 100 letters per day. Back in '92 management proclaimed "95% in 1995". 14 years later we are up to 88%. FSS flats will only add to the DPS mess. I retired last year knowing the impending fiasco that is to come.

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    Let us not mention all the extra supervisors intimidating, harassing, berating and bullying as their style of managing. Let us ignore the vast quality control problems there are with DPS accuracy mainly because most postal processing facilities lack the modern Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning the new mail processing machines require in order to stay within adjustment. I think the OIG better read up on system collapse. That is where it is heading.

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    "In addition, more time dedicated to delivering the mail will likely result in carriers being back in the office within their allotted 8-hour tour, thereby reducing overtime and late deliveries. Further, avoiding the evening rush hour traffic may result in decreased auto accidents. Finally, because the mail is delivered more quickly, customer service may be improved." This entire paragraph is a fantasy. The person writing it obviously does not have an operational understanding of how mail delivery happens. Any increase in productivity will be offset by an increase in the length of the routes. Carriers arn't going to be getting back any earlier. On days when there is lots of DPS and FSS the routes will take longer to deliver just as they take longer to case and deliver today when volume is heavy. As far as service goes FSS's are being located at centrally located facilities. In order to maximize the operational efficiency of the FSS machines management will seek to expand the range that they sort to. This will result in some mail having to be shipped hundreds of miles to the delivery station after it is finalized. Service for flat class mail will suffer because mail will have to be available at the FSS site anywhere from 4-20 hours before the delivery day starts to make it into FSS for the day. Many flats will be delayed a day longer than they currently are.

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    All the City Routes in our office are already 1 hour in the office and 7 on the street. And most days its only 45 minutes of office time.We have 6 routes and with 3 Carriers on light duty .8 hours on the street will increase that number.We get automated flats sorted to the route and its twisted, turned and missorted everyday.

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    The oig do not have a clue, They are full of BS

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    I work with a manager who condones us caseing the dps and guess what we clean up the route and all the issues ie fowards vacations est before we goto the street i carry 1 bundle of mail so i have a hand free for hand rails when i climb stairs it takes 2 min to load my crv when i leave because i dont have bringbacks when i come back it actualy takes the 5 min given to clean up when i get back. and all the while i can carry an extra 30 min to an hour in undertime every day to help out. i understand the argument that it takes to long to case dps i realy do but that was baised on when we had 6-10 trays a day but if i only have 1-3 now it can be cases in 30-40 mins but this saves 5 mins loading my van 1-2 mins putting emptys away when i get back 1-2 mins on every swing sorting it before i goto the swing (25 swings) i have 30-40 mins standing at the back of my van and and the biggest time savings i have is I CAN WALK MY ROUTE AND PAY ATTENTION THIS MAKES A 15 MIN SWING INTO 7-8 MINS SAVING ME OVER AN HOUR A DAY ON THE STREET. Yes i am happy with one bundle my fingers dont hurt. I wish someone would stop saying it is a national policy and let an office try it with todays mail in our office we could cover 1-3 routes a day in undertime and be happy with it please just give it a try 85% of out office would be happy to step up the other 15% let them do it the old way they are the old ones anyway on a side note this also lets the clearks spread the dps misorts in the afternoon when they have down time alowing them to get the morning mail spread faster And hay this is the OGI website so call if i can help

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    I dont know what kind sitrep ya'll r in... dps from the start was just a pain because nobody likes change, but since dps would out stick anybody with error rate, u cannot deny the positive affect it has had on the service, i like to get out of the office at 9 and back by 330...if it got me out by 8 id still b glad to pick up the xtra deliveries and carry on...just think...that less dealin with mgt, and then we can cut mgt almost out of the picture...they r there cus they want a cush job...well ill b the first one to smile when they have to come back to craft. i know i come home everynite and sleep well cus ive done a job well

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    What about the PO working with the NALC? Soon as Young is gone maybe the NALC will get more teeth. But the M-41 has never been revised to reflect DPS, because the PO wants to do things their way, be damned the union and the Letter Carriers. There will always be a residual bundle. How many carriers will be involved in deciding how that will be handled. The M-41 says, flats are carried in the bag, period. What about the residual bundle, and then on days when there are advo's, is that 3 bundles in the bag?

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    I was thinking of so, so many things to "chime in on". I was a carrier in the first, on line DPS station in the nation & it has been nothing but a pain in the butt since. The errors & Stalin-like mentality of management about "touching the DPS" is insane (see I am already starting to rant!) Whats the use? I have only 237 calendar days to go & 100 of those will be days off, vacation, holidays, so why bother? The post office & the goons that run it think they are Gods gift to mankind & will NEVER listen to the people that actually touch & deliver the mail... and to hell with the customer! Its all about their numbers for their PFP bonus. We can't even use the DPS input sheets for hold-outs, numbers rule. Anyway I am leaving and none to soon.

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    There is still residual mail to be cased with DPS and will be the same with FSS. And management should stop pushing default mail into the DPS to inflate percentage. 7hr will be very tough on the carriers

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    It is typical postal logic to believe that the quantity of something is better than the quality of something. Customers want quality service. USPS has spent so much money on automation that it has brainwashed itself into believing it works. Sure savings are made from the elimination of clerks with these automated machines. But the quality of delivery has all but diminished. Mail is being delivered to vacant houses, moves are not being forwarded, etc... As carriers are the guinea pigs of these brilliant postal ideals, injuries continue to rise. How is the postal service going to handle dog warning cards, msp cards, vacant notices, vacation holds, customer request cards, etc... the attitude the post office takes is just deliver the mail and let the customer deal with the problem. This can be an ongoing discussion but why waste time since management already does a good job of it. If we try to think this out a little, we should realize that USPS generates revenue to try to offset it cost. Not many federal agencies generated revenue to pay its expenses. Agencies that don't generate revenue in a sense lose money and tax payers pick up the tab.

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    Obviously the writer of this article has drank the Kool Aid. I have worked with DPS since the beginning and it is the worst technology invented. I wanted it to work as much as the Postal Service but in 10 plus years or how ever long it has gotten worse. It is the only technology in the history of mankind that has gotten worse with time. Imagine if airplanes or cars had gotten worse over time. I can only imagine how bad the flats will be. It is a total lie when management talks about the percentage of mail that is in DPS. When you account for the drastically reduced mail volume, carriers today a lot of times are casing more mail than we did when DPS just started. Just today I had a mailing of perfectly addressed letter-size nearly full coverage mailing and it should have been in DPS, but of course it wasnt. It had to be cased...all 702 pieces of it. And it was in no order at all, although it had been delivered to the Postal Service in perfect sequence. It is poor management like this that borders on criminal that has killed the Postal Service. Every forward thinking person knew years ago that the internet would have its greatest affect on First Class letters yet mangement designed DPS machines that basically can only handle business type first class envelopes, ther precise type of mail that we hardly get any more. So bring the FSS on and then prepare to close the gates!

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    "more time dedicated to delivering the mail will" get carriers back in 8? This author is obviously uneducated. Doesn't matter how you divvy up the pie, if the total is more than 8, carriers work more than 8.

    Jun 09, 2009
  • anon

    I forsee many more stress/strains injuries/fractures from being on the street for so long. This type of system does reduce office casing time, but the increase of time on the street will take a terrible toll on the letter carriers body. I carried 11 years and had to get out and get into doing something else for the Postal Service. I have had surgery for torn rotator cuffs (left and right) two total knee replacements and I have two more surgeries to go on my feet. I also have lost at least 4 finger joints from gripping and casing the mail to arthritis. And I was in the office 4 hours and on the street 4 hours! Carrying mail was the greatest job I ever had, but I am afraid for our letter carriers today. This will take a real toll on their bodies.

    Jun 08, 2009
  • anon

    I've been an employee for 22 years and have some of the same physical problems from working on machines all that time. Did you file for workers comp for any of them and did you have any problems getting them accepted ? Thanks

    Jun 10, 2009
  • anon

    ive been a rural carrier for 22 years near atlanta am trying to get dol to accept my claim but guess what? not enough med. evidence is there a list of dr.s that will at least admit my job contributed to this? is there a trick to this that im missing?thanks

    Jul 30, 2009
  • anon

    I don't believe that this is an accurate portrayal of what a Carriers office or street time entails or would entail. DPS mail is not a perfect product, there is residual mail which is kicked out of the machines which needs to be cased and taken to the road by the carrier as a second bundle. This creates a juggling act of sorts, DPS letters, Residual letters, FSS flats, FSS residual flats and on occasion a box holder. 4 or 5 bundles of mail to handle for each delivery. Barnum and Bailey Circus might appreciate this feat but not the carriers who are required to perform this daily. Also DPS is intermingled with Missent, Missorted P.O. Box, forwardable mail etc which was not removed from the DPS stream and also has to be handled and pulled out by the carriers while trying to sort threw the 4 or 5 bundles of mail at the delivery point. Too bad we only have 2 hands. The Postal Service needs to concentrate on perfecting the DPS and FSS product given to the Carriers before rolling out a imperfect system. As usual in its haste to improve its numbers and bottom line$$ the Postal Service foolishly puts the cart in front of the horse which inevitably fails and is put on the shoulders of the Carrier.

    Jun 08, 2009
  • anon

    Some consideration should be given to the added time the carriers will be on the street carrying the mail. Not just from a productivity stand point, but from a injury standpoint. With carriers spending up to seven hours on the street carrying mail (walking routes) for an extra two to three hours, how will this impact necks, shoulders, backs, and knees?

    Jun 08, 2009
  • anon

    Thank God I've saved up my Sick leave all these years! Guess they'll be coming in handy NOW!

    Sep 06, 2009
  • anon

    "Can you imagine the effects of walking delivery routes for 7 to 8 hours daily over a period of years?" It get better........under the CORS System you are going to be "walking 7 to 8 hours daily" with 35 pounds of mail in your bag every time you leave your vehicle. I always wondered what type of FERS Flu I would catch. I guess they have answered my question..............

    Sep 05, 2009
  • anon

    I have been a Letter Carrier for 20 years and witnessed the DPS transition. Guess it has been 12, 13 years since it showed up in our office. The most money I ever made was during the first 3 years of having DPS in our office. Even though there are still a few bugs in the system, back then it was unbelievable. I remember working 55-60 hour weeks back then.

    Jun 15, 2009
  • anon

    The vast majority of injury claims filed with OWCP over the years, and continuing today, are claims from postal employees - and, the vast majority of those are from injured letter carriers. Actually, 54% of all injury claims filed with OWCP are filed by postal employees. Is this because postal employees are malingering? Just trying to get something for nothing? A SMALL SMALL percentage of these may fall into that category, but it is hard to fool physicians and OWCP. Most of the public, the vast majority of claims examiners at OWCP, most postal management, and certainly many physicians just cannot understand the toll on a persons body that delivering walking city routes while carrying a shoulder strung mail bag can produce over a period of years...much less 25 years or more. And, this is with only 4 to 6 hours on the street each day. Can you imagine the effects of walking delivery routes for 7 to 8 hours daily over a period of years? Repeatedly torn ligmaments. Worn out cartilage. Joint tissue torn over and over and over. First you have repeated sprains and strains. Then you have permanent damage. And finally, you have arthritis in your hips, knees, ankles, and feet that will remain with you for the remainder of your life. The solution? Earlier retirement ages for carriers - or, a change in job practices that will help eliminate repeated damage to joints from cumulative trauma. If you're young now and in good health you will not be able to see the light here - but, if you're like me and 50 or over you completely understand what I am saying. Did you hire on to work the mail? Yes. Did you hire on to permanently damage your body? I don't think so. We only live one time - there are no do-overs. Rick Owens Postal Employee Network

    Jun 09, 2009

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