• on Jul 3rd, 2013 in Delivery & Collection | 14 comments

    “If you are generally well-equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse, you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack.”U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Ali S. Khan, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    Hurricanes, floods, wild fires, snowstorms, tornadoes, zombie apocalypse – you name it, the U.S. Postal Service is prepared to deliver. Part of the Postal Service’s extensive operational planning includes contingency plans to make sure mail gets delivered safely after every type of weather event, power outage, and undead uprising. Ok, maybe the Postal Service isn’t preparing for a zombie apocalypse, but its emergency preparedness plans could seemingly handle even that type of catastrophe.

    The Postal Service’s immediate priority after a storm or major weather event is the safety of its employees. Once safety issues are addressed, the prompt delivery of mail and packages to affected areas becomes the focus. The resumption of mail delivery to a disaster-affected area is often a welcome event in recovery. Citizens are frequently without power and phone service, which severely limits communications. Mail delivery allows for the exchange of information, including relief checks and government services, and can even provide a small feeling of a “return to normalcy” for citizens. Sometimes after a storm, a letter carrier is the first direct contact a citizen has with another person. Postal employees are often dealing with disasters in their own homes, yet show up faithfully for work.

    Halfway into 2013 and the year is shaping up to be an historic weather one. Winter storm Nemo, May tornadoes in Oklahoma, wild fires in Arizona, late spring snowstorms from Arkansas to Minnesota, flooding in many parts of the country, and record-breaking heat in the West all took place in just the first 6 months of this year. And hurricane season has only just started. This puts added pressure on the Postal Service to have sufficient controls in place to ensure employee safety and mitigate interruptions to service. Adding to the contingency challenge is the fact that postal facilities are often damaged in these weather events, forcing rerouting of mail and relocation of retail services. For example, the October 2012 Hurricane Sandy, which caused extensive power outages and infrastructure disruptions up and down the east coast, resulted in numerous postal facilities being damaged.

    Share with us your experiences with the Postal Service during major weather events. Could the Postal Service improve its preparation and response efforts in dealing with extreme weather to minimize disruptions? 

  • on Mar 4th, 2013 in Delivery & Collection | 9 comments

    Imagine if customers didn’t have to wait at home for a package delivery or have to rush home from work to retrieve a package off their front porch. Or, what if they could avoid paying a fee to receive packages at another address? With 24-hour parcel lockers, their prayers are answered.

    Last spring, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled gopost™, a self-service parcel locker system. The Postal Service is pilot-testing the 24-hour secured locker systems in the Washington, DC, area at locations such as shopping centers, grocery stores, pharmacies, and transportation hubs. Many gopost locker systems are accessible 24-hours a day, have a security camera, touch screen operations, and they provide mailing receipts.

    Customers can register online to send or receive packages, with no fee to register and use the lockers. Instead of using residential addresses, customers can have shipments sent to the address of a selected and convenient gopost locker system. They then pick up their package at a time that works for them.

    Additionally, once registered, the customer can receive communications through either email or by text when their package arrives. More details about gopost operations are at the Postal Service’s website.

    The growth in packages is expected to rise steadily as Americans do more of their shopping online and via digital devices. In just the past few years, the Postal Service has seen volume growth in package services of about 15 percent. Increasingly, customers want the security and convenience of picking up packages from a location other than their own address.

    What other factors should the Postal Service consider as it deploys more parcel locker systems to other locations? Would you like a gopost location near you? How often do you think you would use a gopost locker?

  • on Dec 17th, 2012 in Delivery & Collection | 30 comments
    The U.S. Postal Service delivery workforce consists of city and rural letter carriers, who perform similar duties, but have differences in compensation and work rules. City letter carriers typically work routes that are high density and low mileage. These routes are classified as either “mounted” routes (for those that require a vehicle) or “walking” routes (for those that are done on foot). City letter carriers are also given a $371 per year uniform allowance. Rural letter carriers typically work routes that have a lower density of delivery points and higher mileage than those of city letter carriers. They work mounted routes, leaving their vehicles only to deliver to grouped mailboxes or to deliver an item that must be taken to a customer's door. However, rural routes have expanded to suburbs and exurbs, which are more densely populated and urbanized. These routes are similar to mounted “city” routes. Because suburban areas in the country continue to flourish, the rural carrier craft is the only craft in the Postal Service still growing. Postal Service policy states that rural carriers must present a neat, clean, and professional appearance reflecting a positive postal image, but does not require rural carriers to wear uniforms like their city counterparts. The 114,000 rural carriers and non-career rural carrier associates serve as a post office on wheels. They perform many of the services that a customer could receive at a retail counter. They sell stamps and money orders; provide Priority Mail flat rate boxes; accept Express and Priority mail; offer signature and delivery confirmation; and collect mail and parcels. Rural carriers provide their own vehicles to deliver mail on nearly half of the more than 73,000 rural routes. Now that the rural carrier craft is becoming more "urbanized," they are more visible to the public. Also, the past few years has seen an increase in the number of rural carriers delivering mail in Postal Service vehicles with the logo on the side. Do you think a uniformed shirt for rural carriers would be an overall positive change for the Postal Service as far as image, branding, marketing, and security? Would a uniformed shirt for rural carriers give employees a larger sense of unity and ownership to the mission of the Postal Service? Or is the idea of a uniform old-fashioned?

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