The U.S. Postal Service has a long and storied history of moving mail on rail dating from the beginning of the railroad industry in the early 1800s. Mail was sorted on trains and Post Offices and processing facilities were located near rail stations. Many innovations and changes to rail, including the very development of modern freight rail service, were closely tied to the movement of mail. Today, however, the Postal Service meets its surface transportation needs almost entirely by using trucks owned by highway contractors. By contrast postal competitors and many others have taken advantage of the dramatic changes in the rail industry in recent years and greatly expanded their use of rail, realigning their networks with the nation’s railroads.

The Office of Inspector General’s new paper Strategic Advantages of Moving Mail by Rail studied this rediscovered opportunity and found:

• Shifting a portion of mail volume to rail without changing the overall transportation network could save $100 million per year.

• If the Postal Service made an even greater commitment to rail, altering its network, it could realize even greater savings.

• The use of intermodal rail can contribute significantly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the Postal Service’s environmental goals.

• Because of its lesser sensitivity to fuel price increases and greater control of its own infrastructure, rail transportation has major, long-term strategic advantages over highway.

Rail transportation meets the needs of the Postal Service’s competitors and has become the industry standard for long distance surface transportation. Where the use of rail would allow it to meet service standards, should the Postal Service give it another try? Let us know what you think.

Comments (2)

  • anon

    Oh yes John the Railroads look at US Mail as a very important shipper today. Thanks to the efforts of all the ones that brought COFC and TOFC equipment and facilities available with Santa Fe Railway playing a big part in the early stages of it all. I feel it was Santa Fe that taught BNSF how important all this is and got them out of the thinking of just hauling coal and corn to make a profit today so they are now making major investments in many new facilities and planning new methods to expidite it all in the future now. Take Care Larry S.

    Jul 27, 2012
  • anon

    insp6883 I am a survivor of the PTS, RMS, RPO of the late Post Office Department. I spent a large part of my 40 plus years in the POD/USPS in distribution solutions and transportation/logistics. In the latter years of my career I was the Postmaster of one of the largest entry Post Offices in Pennsylvania and the US. I found out that the much of the mentality of the transportation system was very much into a "CYA Syndrome" rather than "we are ONE team and we should be taking advantage of what is available." I was witness to misuse of AMTRAK and other opportunities that would have saved dollars in other areas of the USPS if it was a team effort. I truly believe that exploration of what is out there and available and putting trust into field managers and what they find as an alternate or a solution should warrant a face to face rather than "it is not the policy" action or reply. Sincerely, John Johnson

    Jul 17, 2012

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