Public policy debates about solving the Postal Service’s financial crisis have largely focused on reducing costs by cutting service such as Saturday delivery, transitioning from brick and mortar post offices to alternative retail sales channels, or limiting other functions performed by the Postal Service. There has been less talk about the costs of meeting delivery service standards, which were reviewed following the passage of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006.

Can the Postal Service relax some of its requirements to save money in transportation or processing costs? Right now, its goals are to deliver First-Class Mail in 1 to 3 days and Standard Mail in 3 to 10 days. A slight adjustment of these standards in particular areas might make it possible to save a great deal of costs. Instead of developing the goal first and trying to reach those levels, no matter how costly it is, maybe the Postal Service should closely analyze its infrastructure and develop goals that allow for reaching the greatest efficiencies.

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For example, if the service standards for bulk mail from Chicago to Los Angeles were given an additional day the Postal Service could avoid the expense of trucks and instead utilize economical rail transportation. A First-Class Mail package that currently travels by air could be carried by truck if given another day.

By relaxing service standards, the Postal Service can move further towards a hub and spoke network, which could result in substantial savings. Currently, plants may have lots of half-empty, smaller trucks fanning out to a multiplicity of plants only once or twice a day. Under this new strategy, many trucks would go to a mail consolidation facility, which consolidates the mail and ships it on larger, fuller trucks to the destination facilities throughout the day. This design has the additional benefits of network stability and is capable of scaling up or down with changing mail volume.

The bottom line is that the Postal Service and its stakeholders need to decide what service standards are worth the cost. The Postal Service should have an honest and informed discussion about the cost savings that it can pass on to the public by relaxing some of the present delivery service standards.

Do you think the Postal Service should adjust its delivery standards to cut its costs?

This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

Comments (153)

  • anon

    Cut one day a week delivery of mail, cut upper management pay, cut employee pay, all employees pay part of health insurance coverage, reduce workforce, in subdivisions use central located mailbox system instead of each house having a mailbox,stop advertising

    Apr 27, 2010
  • anon

    I think that if you have to close one day per week, it should be on Mondays. Most Federal Holidays fall on a Monday, the post office does not usually deliver on these days anyway and you would save payroll by not paying postal workers who work the holiday or get holiday pay. Also, you could make residential package delivery a pick-up instead. Leave a card and residential customers can go to the post office to pick up packages.

    Apr 27, 2010
  • anon

    What about yearly subscriptions for regular customers?

    Apr 27, 2010
  • anon

    I do agree that Saturday delivery could be stopped. If further cuts are needed, Wednesday could be cut as well. I do agree with one posting that mentioned if they are only cutting one day of deliveries, maybe Wednesday would be better. Then the days of no deliveries would be spread out. I use USPS quite a bit and love their home package pickup service. I think additional increases in postage costs need to eliminated for a while. Individuals are now paying so many things online due to the cost of a stamp. Raising the price again will only push more people to use alternate methods of paying bills and mailing items.

    Apr 27, 2010
  • anon

    took a week to have a certified letter delivered five miles from the postoffice, why????? as time goes by, the generations will use the internet more and more for "receipt of mail", the postoffice is becoming more obsolete as we move forward, just as the horse did when it delivered mail back when layoffs, no saturday mail, no junk mail (get it on the internet, there is more than enough to go around) and restructure pension plans and health care plans, it is time people were responsible for their own well being and stop relying on others to keep feeding them, especially the u.s.of a government and their employees and staff, which includes the so called servants of the people, your congressional staff

    Apr 27, 2010
  • anon

    An uneducated guess is that managment is monitarily incentivized to meet quotas. They are the ones that have caused customer service to suffer. Employees are so beaten up by management (pubically on the work floor) that employees even the die-hard employees, are finding it hard to take pride in their work because managment sends mixed messages allegedly in an attempt to force employees to fail. How about cutting back on the number of auditors that swarm to look for time wasting actions. A route inspection to look for this. Why not just ask the employees. They can give you a list of things management asks them to do that cause it to take longer to do something. What gives with the janitors at some branches delivering mail to the carriers on their routes. Can't cut the grass (most branches exterior and grounds look like heck) even though they have two or more janitors because they are doing the duties of clerks and carriers at managements demand.)Another thing to help, have one clerk at the front counter to prescreen everyone in line and answer questions. Sucks to wait in line for 30 minutes only to ask a question.

    Apr 27, 2010
  • anon

    Where to start... Because the postal service is hiring short time employees they have no incentive (will be let go after a period of time) to provide good customer service. Currently management appears to have been given instructions to harrassin an effort to force them to retire, the older employees (those that may be albe to retire but still under 50)that are the glue that holds customer service together. Management will not allow employees to speak for more than a second to patrons on the route. They are told to just refer patrons with any question to their branch where they must try to get through on a line that is taken off the hook or they must speak to manager or supervisor who are rude and curt. Management should not represent customer service but they do. I know plenty carriers that delivered every piece of mail during hurricanes, tornadoes and snow and ice storms with....only one chain on their mail trucks (all they were alloted). Which one of you would do that?

    Apr 27, 2010
  • anon

    I avoid using the postal service because of the inequities of pricing. It costs me 44 cents (I think) to pay a bill by mail. It might weigh a quarter of an ounce. I pick several ounces of junk mail from my mail box almost every day. Guess what I'm not a rocket scientist but I don't think the postal service collected .44 cents an ounce or per piece for that pile of junk. Let all the people who use the postal service pay the same rate and maybe you wont need to stop Saturday service.

    Apr 27, 2010
  • anon

    I agree with Karen, door to door service is a thing of the past, either install centralized mailboxes at each street's corner (continue to provide door to door service for those with special needs of course) or move surburban neighborhoods to a more rural style with mailboxes at the street so a delivery person could make many more stops in a truck than pushing a cart down the street. The solutions are obvious, perhaps hire an inspector general with true business experience running a large corporation. And as to Saturday service, I can wait until Monday to throw out the hundreds of pieces of trash mail I get a week!

    Apr 27, 2010
  • anon

    I as a fellow worker for replacing mail boxes when knocked down. What they need to do is by me there is about 2 post offices and I live in a little village and i can not see why they can not get ride of the older post offices.

    Apr 27, 2010
  • anon

    The post office without a doubt has multiple issues to address and being a Government run business doesn't help one bit. First and foremost is they are over paided and under worked. Way to many locations and days of service. That said I still think the post office offer a fast, reliable serivce and price to other mail serivces who serivce and quality have slipped. But they have adjusted quicker and faster to the changing ecomincs to stay profitable unlike or Government! If the Government and Government workers opened their eyes to the other 80% of the common ever days workers they would see and do the right things. Time have been hard and our Government and Government workers need to show the America people they understand our hardship(s) and will surport the Amercia worker not live off them!! There as a time a long time a go when the Government care about the people and did not live high off the hog! It is we the people!!!! Not we the Government!!!!

    Apr 27, 2010
  • anon

    I'm all for cutting mail delivery on Saturday and I would even consider cutting it back on Wednesday as well. The most annoying thing about the mail is the tons of junk that arrives...what a waste of energy and materials.

    Apr 27, 2010
  • anon

    MON - WED - FRIDAY! ... thats it... do we really need more days then that? I can live with getting junk mail only three days a week!

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    I agree that grouped mailboxes would be a good money saver. And Saturday mail is not necessary. And perhaps some junk mail regulation? I regularly receive at least 4 catalogues and papers I never ordered/do not wish or need to receive, and live in a building with about 49 other apartments that receive the same thing. It really adds up.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    While some people have posted some interesting comments and others have just complained and offered no solutions to the matter at hand. The fact is that the USPS is a Government run business that has lost money for years, this is nothing new and will continue to happen unless drastic measures are taken to hold the Postmaster General accountable for the red ink and subpar service provided by the USPS. The following are just a few things I for one would like to see happen. 1. End Saturday mail delivery. 2. Stop being the Official Sponsor for _________(fill in the blank). Seriously you are losing money and when is last time the FBI or Justice Department was the Proud Sponsor of anything ... exactly, probably never... 3. Reduce salaries and learn how to better negotiate with the Union. $40 dollars an hour is pretty excessive for someone who delivers the mail or works the counter. 4. Lose the dead weight, as with any Government agency you have people that just show up, don't care about their jobs and watch the clock waiting to go home. These people will not change so long as they are still getting paid. Just my 2 cents... 4.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    Cut cost of overtime and abuse within the system, hire casuals to do the job, that permanent does not do, a lot goes on that supervisor overlook due to submitting grievance between the supervisors/workers. Being outsider working as an casual, abused we received from the permanent due to lack of work that they supposely paid to do, we (I) love working for USPS for many reason, experiencing the abuse really bad. verses the permanent getting away with all the B.S.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    no more door to door delivery. I envy those in new subdivisions with centralized mail boxes.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    Whats the operation cost broke down by the day of week---whats the heavy load days in a month knowing Govenment slugs for what they are---A slow down is pretty evident---you need a counter action plan to avoid this and other delay tactics---you have to think like the slugs to keep ahead of them

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    I find it hard to understand why I can get mail from several states away in 3-4 days but it takes a letter 10 days to cross our city.The mail has to be SETTING someplace for a week without moving. Its very irritating to receive a bill on or after the day it is due....with no time left for the return. Also it's annoying to get someone elses mail in my mailbox, even worse if my bank statement ends up in someone elses mailbox. Go ahead, cut service, raise rates, you're just putting yourself out of business.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    Where do you live? I worked in mail processing 18 yrs and never saw that happen--10 dys to cross the city. Even during XMAS ( I used to work Christmas Day for the extra money)we would get letters from out of state to our processing center in 4-6 days, 8 dys was the absolute worst. Normally stuff would be on time i.e. 3 dys nationwide, 2 dys in the western states, and overnight in the adjacent sectional centers. It got alot worse in the 1980s as the postal management said the public wanted "more consistent " service. What they meant (in doublespeak) was we would be "consistent" by doing more 2 dy service for adjacent areas. After I left (1998) I heard in one of our service areas (934 zip)wanted to eliminate overnight service altogether! Again, where do you live ? Are you in a big urban area, NY or Phila? I worked in Santa Barbara Calif. as a clerk and collector.

    Oct 20, 2011
  • anon

    It sound like you already know. I think stopping saturday delivery is a good idea, also getting rid of post offices an postmasters in towns with less than say 1000 population needs to be done. I know in our area alone there is at least 15 to 20 little towns within 30 miles, what a waste.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    Close all BMCs. All mail processed by plants and serving POs. Cut HCR runs as much to allow the same service. Many HCRs during the mid day are unnecessary. Vehicle trips by MVS need to be reduced to save on gasoline. Support operations need to be reduced to only what is necessary. The goal of USPS is collection, processing and delivery of the nations mail. Cut headquarters and area offices in half. Too many higher levels that are unnesessary. Too many Postmasters. Area Postmasters are the answer. Get rid of the sacred cows.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    POSTAL SERVICE EMPLOYEES MUST REALIZE THAT MOST THEIR PROBLEMS STEM FROM UNPROFESSIONAL MANAGEMENT STYLE AND TECHNIQUE, AT MIDDLE, AND LOWER MANAGMENT....AND MAKING THEIR EMPLOYEES FEEL VALUED.....

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    I'm 72 yrs old and was 4th generation in a business that involved collection (the same problems as delivery). Why not change delivery to 3 days a week; MWF for some neighborhoods and TTS for others. People who need daily mail should get a post office box. This should cut costs immediately by 35 to 40%.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    The Post Office needs to reexamine itself. The post Office suffers from a slew of issues. You need to do what private businesses do when the loose customers. It needs to cut back on its employees. Cutting services is NOT an answer to the Post Office's problems. I believe that during the severe recession that we are in that you did NOT cut any employees from the payroll. You need to raise rates on your customers. And Im not talking about the persons paying the top first class rates. For some reason you need to address the costs of the bulk mailings. Their rates need to be increased more than the first class rates. You are delivering a whole slew of junk mail and charging these people a pittance. Postal employees at the post offices need to be MORE PRODUCTIVE. Ive seen lines in the post office stretching out the door, and the attendants at the desk walking out to take a coffee break. and I standing there 15-25 minutes waiting to be served. This is not acceptable. Your unions are too strong and you are cowering them. Take a position. These postal workers need to deliver more service. Forget the pay increases. The postal employees of the 1950's and the 1960s worked hard to serve their customers. Not so today. Lets get back to the efforts of earlier years. The postal service has not adjusted to the modern times. People are using emails. Its time to cut the payroll. Get rid of the non-productive employes that cannot be justified or who are not doing the work My proposal includes keeping the post office open 6 days a week with a skeleton crew on Sundays. If they want their jobs they will either take a pay cut or a cut in hours. Consider working these people 7 hours a day for 5 days a week and cutting 10 - 15% of the work force. Consider cutting your spending more. You are run like a government institution, not like a private business. Get some one to crack the whip and get more out of these mediocre employees. Face your demons or I am sure we can find a new group of people who can run the post office better than the current people. You have literally no competition as has been directed by the Federal Government. What is WRONG with you people. Do we need to step in and show you how to run this business. I would be willing to step in and run this business. I would clean up this whole mess you have created. I ran a printing business, for 30 years, and we never had the problems you are having. NEVER, NEVER EVER ! ! Ed S.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    Get rid of those inefficient trucks and replace them with something that has better gas and maintenance costs. Don't deliver door to door - Deliver to clusters of mail boxes at the end of the street and let us come and get it.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    Cut Saturday delivery, increase postal rates on junk mail, shipping rates are competitive but improve priority mail tracking. Postal rates are good but a moderate increase would be okay. Less than fifty cents to deliver a letter anywhere in the country is outstanding.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    Thank you jim! why is it the actual laborors have to worry bout whether they will have a job in the next few years vs the ppl that tell us what to do and go have "lunch" for 5 hrs while on the clock???? i do my job and i believe i do it well. I am quick, safe, and proficient and get more done than i prolly should in an 8 hr day and will probably lose my job b/c they have no where to put supervisors that dont do anything and didnt when they used to deliver mail. blah. stress...

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    May be you can consider having smaller postal services instead of having bigger office. I don't see you are using the spaces efficiently except display different postage envelopes and other things.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    Why not close like on a Tuesday vs. saturday....Saturday is a busy day at the post office. It gives those who work Mon-Fri a chance to get some packages mailed and what not.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    The Postal vehicles drink a lot of gasoline. They stop way more often than the average driver. Replace the current Postal Trucks with hybrid engine vehicles equipped with regenerative breaking systems to reduce fuel consumption.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    My advice: There is no way the U. S. Postal Service is ever going to make a profit. Reason: poor management. The U.S. Postal Service should be put to bed totally never to be awakened again. The U.S. Postal service should be divided between UPS and FedEx. U.S. Postal Service employees could have lateral transfers to UPS and FedEx dependent on their qualifications. I know this must sound unreasonable but keeping the U.S. Postal Service on board is equally unreasonable.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    The postal office needs to figure out that customer have more options now. We are no long living in the pony mail days. This means take a note fom the comp ( i.e FedEx, UPS ) have reliable service on holidays, take responsiblity for damages done during transit, improve customer service and for the love get a better tracking system. USPS became complacent and now need to step up to the plate. I think USPS should look at every aspect from the website to the store. Make your system customer friendly.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    Although the US Postal Service is going through the same troubles as other industries, I think that they played a big part in the issues that they currently face. The US Postal Service has the worst customer service I have ever experience. The works are rude, unhelpful, and you never feel like they have a sense of urgency. They can cut service to help save money which would probably have to happen eventually anyway. With banks pushing their customers to use online bill pay to protect them and make it more convienent to pay bills the USPS will have to be innovative to gain customers back. The times that people have to use the USPS (holidays and tax season) should be the most inviting experience within the post office. But, it is exactly the opposite the reps are rude, slow and unfriendly. I know that most people are standing in line thinking about how they can avoid this next time!

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    A few things; Why have all the vending machine disappeared from Springfield, MA area? You want to survive? Make it easier to obtain postage. I probably get "real" mail a couple a times a week - hence I soooo won't miss Saturday delivery. Thin the top end - waaaay too many chiefs! GPS monitoring of postal vehicles and route consolidation. I see trucks hanging out for hours at a time. Not very efficient. You want to be competitive and provide a worthwhile service? Start acting and competing at at private level. If you don't you will be made obsolete. The Postal Service is it's own worst enemy. Each time rates rise, value is being lost and so goes volume which is required for the USPS to sustain itself.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    The biggest problem to the post office is the labor intensive delivery in some of the older neighbors where the carrier walks the route. You should put multi-boxes and eliminate the carrier walking the route. That would eliminate thousands of jobs and long term savings. Another area of weakness for you is the tracking of packages. Without it is difficult for you to compete with Fed Ex Ground and UPS.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    I like getting mail on Saturday but could certainly live without it. The requests from charities and the bills will wait until Monday. If need be, raise the rates for non-profits; why do they get preference?

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    Start cuts at the top! Why, when the service was in trouble, did our Postmaster General get a $40,000 raise? There are too many Supervisors with nothing to do in the office after the carriers leave. There is no need for all of them Supervisors. And, in the area where I live there are 5 offices with a Postmaster in each one. One of the offices has three employes. Total population is less than 50,000, and one Postmaster could oversee all, with, maybe an officer-in-charge in each one. There are many situations throughout the country like this. Start at the top before before putting young people out of work!

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    I believe that mail rerouting in Montana needs to change; for instance, reroute Great Falls mail in Great Falls, not Billings. Just think of the shipping costs and gasoline the postal service can save right there! Also, the postal financial crunch is a perfect excuse to give all postal workers a full two-day weekend off like other government-funded workers get anyway.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    The problem is - No one but junk mailers USE the USPS. Letters are replaced by email, Bills are replaced by online direct deposit. The only thing the USPS has going for itself is Priority Mail of Packages with internet printed postage BUT that is going away because of poor service at the Post Offices themselves! If it delivers to your address - Great! But if someone makes the mistake of asking for a signature and you have to go to the Post Office, you get to wait in line for 30 minutes to pick it up! Sometimes you even have to wait in the DREADED 'Post Office Line' to hand off an outgoing package that has postage already attached! Why? You need to develop a drive-thru or card-system for picking up your package from an unused P.O.Box or bin!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are not competing well with UPS or Fed Ex!!!!!!!

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    Nine-Eleven killed the drop off idea--people are too afraid of package bombs. I was the Priority guy at our office for years; the Unabomber started it and Al-Queda made it worse!

    Oct 20, 2011
  • anon

    Saturday mail delivery should be stopped. It is not necessary. Also, postal employees ( at least in our zip code of 23456) should be allowed to leave the post office to deliver regular mail BEFORE the express mail truck arrives. It is silly for them to have to wait at the PO for perhaps one item of express mail. That is a real waste of time. Don't promise next day delivery.....it should be a 2 day thing OR let the recipient be notified to pick it up. Streamline....because in this day of email, it is the only way to keep going.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    We could easily go to three days a week delivery for regular home letter mail; half of it on Mon., Wed.,and Fri.; and half of it on Tue., Thu., and Sat. Package delivery would continue as is and emphasis would be put on this service. This is probably the only area making money now. Bulk mail should be almost completely eliminated; triple or quadruple the rate and it would eliminate itself. The work force could be cut almost in half. We are going to have to get serious about this problem.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    I think Saturday mail delivery is not really necessary anymore. And as a fellow government employee, I think that postal workers should pay more for insurance. Anything that can be done that doesn't cut jobs would be a good thing.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    I think the postal service should be contracted out to a private entities by state or zone. This would create a more competitive business and the Government might turn a profit on the contracts!!!

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    It's time for the Supervisors and Mangers to STOP receiving bonuses, gee then maybe they would be out of the red!

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    US Postal Service is behind the curve on making changes. If this was run as a business instead of a federal beauacracy, it would have cut health benefits, closed offices, decreased the workforce, and stopped Saturday delivery already. One fix isn't going to make it work. They did not strategize at all. The internet has been around for >10 years, so Hello!- you should have seen this coming. We all did. It just shows how government can not do anything well, efficiently, etc. Oh and stop having a supervisor follow my mailman around, watching him put mail in my box... that is a total waste of time, resources, etc..

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    I WOULD PAY A YEARLY FEE TO HAVE THE POST OFFICE NOT PUT JUNK MAIL IN MY MAIL BOX.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    The Post Office's biggest problem is the internet.No one is going to mail a letter for 44 cents and get it delivered 3 or 4 days later if they have a computer.There is no way you can compete with that.The letter market is pretty much gone for everyone.However,you can compete in a market that you have pretty much given up on, and that is package delivery.If you can capitalize on the recent "If it fits, it ships" idea,you may generate more business.You have competition now,so you must get creative or you will eventually die.

    Apr 26, 2010
  • anon

    As having been a federal govenment worker, I always envy the postal workers health care and how cheap it was compare to a regular government empolyee. So that would be my first step, make the postal worker pay more into their health care. Second, and a hard one to tackle for its been going on so long and thats pay, I think the avg postal worker makes darn good money and a look at their pay system needs a real good look at and adjusted. The Federal govenment just went under another end of the yr review that almost elimates any type of bonus except for a few chosen few and that same system can reduce your pay if the boss does not feel that you are doing your share or holding up your end or not working within the standards set forth for your grade. Then take a look at the union, make it as teeth less as the federal govenment empolyee union is, the postal worker has very strong union and they have went out on strike before (I had to work the postal system back in 1970 in N.Y. while the workers were out, I was active duty Army). Trust ne the job wasn't all that hard. The whole pay system and benefits system needs an overall, look what Clinton did to the Military retiree, he took away our health benefits and now we pay. So it can be done, might make a lot of people mad and some will leave and retire. But there you go, new system , new people... I was once told, NEVER think your job is secure for there are 1,000 people looking to take your place.

    Apr 26, 2010

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