• on Jul 28th, 2014 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 85 comments

    What should the postal vehicle of the future look like? The U.S. Postal Service recently put that question to its carriers and vehicle maintenance personnel and is currently reviewing the feedback. It’s an important question because the delivery fleet is aging and the Postal Service needs to quickly replace it. In fact, our recent audit on the topic found the current fleet can only meet delivery needs through fiscal year 2017 – and that assumes no unexpected decrease in vehicle inventory or increase in the number of motorized routes.

    About 142,000 long-life vehicles (LLVs) out of the 190,000-vehicle total delivery fleet are near or have exceeded their expected service life. Replacing these aging vehicles is daunting, particularly given the Postal Service’s financial constraints.

    But fleet replacement isn’t just a major challenge; it’s also a big opportunity. Because the LLVs are up to 27 years old, they aren’t as fuel efficient as newer models. They also lack many of the safety features now considered standard for vehicle fleets, such as back-up cameras, front airbags, and anti-lock brakes. The next generation of vehicles can incorporate the latest safety and environmental bells and whistles, which will protect employees, cut down on fuel costs, and help the Postal Service meet its sustainability goals. Also, given the growth in packages, new vehicle designs could address the challenges of larger and irregularly shaped items.

    The Postal Service has a short- and long-term vehicle fleet acquisition strategy, but we found the plan lacks details such as vehicle specifications and green technology features. Also, despite 3 years of effort, the plan has not been approved or fully funded due primarily to the Postal Service’s lack of capital. Given the urgent need to upgrade the fleet, we are encouraging the Postal Service to make some incremental purchases while formalizing a more specific long-term plan for the next generation of LLVs.

    What are your thoughts on future postal vehicles? What should they look like? What safety and environmental features or other technologies would you like the Postal Service to add? 

  • on Jul 21st, 2014 in Delivery & Collection | 11 comments

    The Internet may have eaten into the U.S. Postal Service’s First-Class Mail volume and revenue, but digital devotion does bring good news, too. Package shipping is on the rise, due in large part to the ever-increasing popularity of online shopping. The Postal Service’s future could brighten considerably because of this expanding market, but is the Postal Service prepared to compete effectively in it?

    Our new white paper, Package Services: Get Ready, Set, Grow!, essentially probes that question and comes up with several intriguing findings. As our auditors have noted, the Postal Service has done a good job of managing package growth in terms of mail volume and workhours. But it could do more. And it will have to, not only because UPS and FedEx are offering modernized, end-to-end products and services in response to customer demand, but also because some e-tailers, like Amazon, are expanding to offer their own shipping and delivery options.

    Last year American businesses and consumers spent more than $68 billion to ship packages domestically; the Postal Service accounted for almost two-fifths of the total volume but less than one-fifth of the total revenue. That worked out to an average $3.37 of revenue per package for the Postal Service. UPS’s and FedEx’s average revenue per piece for their domestic packages were $9.39 and $9.70, respectively. The main reasons for the disparity? The Postal Service excels in lightweight and last-mile package delivery, which generate comparatively lower revenues.

    The white paper says the Postal Service could increase its revenue-per-package average by adding new services that customers want. For example:

    • Improving tracking service and package-return service
    • Offering email and text alerts to parcel senders and recipients
    • Specifying time-windows for delivery

    What do you think? How could the Postal Service expand its dominance in lightweight packages to higher-revenue packages? What package services would make you use the Postal Service more than you do now? How much online shopping do you do compared to in-store shopping?

  • on Jun 23rd, 2014 in Delivery & Collection | 8 comments

    When you think German ingenuity, perhaps high-end automobiles or precision cameras come to mind. Might be time to add individual residential parcel box lockers to the list.

    Don’t laugh. Deutsche Post DHL plans to roll out individual locked parcel boxes to interested German households, and if successful pilot tests in two cities are any indication, the idea could prove to be a lucrative hit.

    The German postal operator is convinced residential parcel boxes are a key element in its strategy to secure more of the growing package business. Deutsche Post sees these home-based parcel delivery lockers as a more convenient option for e-commerce customers, who would otherwise probably have to trek to their local shop or parcel terminal to collect their parcels.

    Deutsche Post isn’t claiming it’s the greatest development since sliced bread, just since the invention of the mailbox. Customers can choose among different designs, sizes, colors, and mounting methods. In addition to receiving parcels, they can also place outgoing packages in the box.

    The parcel lockers are aimed at single-family and two-family homes or those apartment complexes with enough space and easy accessibility for delivery. At a rental price starting at 1.99 euros ($2.70) per month or outright purchase starting at 99 euros (about $135), it’s not clear how many customers will jump on the offering. But Deutsche Post thinks the convenience factor and improved customer experience will win over a number of residents.

    Home parcel lockers are another way the German postal operator is trying to serve customers in a rapidly changing ecommerce market, where double-digit growth is expected to continue for the next 4 years. The U.S. Postal Service is also seizing the opportunities ecommerce provides, and its 20 percent growth in package revenue over the past few years is a testament to the promise of this market.

    Do you think home-based parcel box lockers would work in the U.S.? Would you be willing to pay a small monthly rental fee or buy a box for a more secure home delivery of parcels? If yes, how much would you be willing to pay?

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