• on Jun 11th, 2012 in Products & Services | 14 comments
    A 100-year old temperance-era law prohibits the Postal Service from shipping alcohol and benefiting from the growth in online purchases of wine, beer, and other spirits. As states have loosened their restrictions on inter-state alcohol shipments, FedEx and UPS have seized this burgeoning opportunity. The Postal Service needs to secure new sources of revenue in an era of declining mail volume. Shipping of alcohol could create an additional revenue stream, while capitalizing on the Postal Service’s strength in last-mile delivery. Shipping of alcohol would require the Postal Service to establish a strict set of rules. First, it would have to be sure no one under age 21 receives alcoholic shipments. Second, it would have to comply with varying state laws, some of which prohibit the shipment of out-of-state alcohol directly to consumers. Other states allow direct shipments to consumers but restrict those shipments to producers, such as wineries. The Postal Service has indicated it would put proper restrictions in place, such as requiring an adult signature for shipments of alcohol. It even appears to have ideas around flat rate boxes that could hold two, four, or six bottles of wine. With the right restrictions in place, should the Postal Service be allowed to ship alcohol and tap into this growing market? Or should an organization that is part of the federal government stay out of the business of shipping alcohol given the negative images sometimes associated with alcohol consumption? What do you think? Share your comments below. This blog is hosted by the OIG's Office of Audit.
  • on Sep 5th, 2011 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 5 comments
    The U.S. Postal Service has aggressively moved to reduce costs by consolidating its processing network and realigning its delivery facilities. However, it has essentially eliminated rail transportation, which is the least costly way to move mail long distances. During the recent economic downturn, railroads invested heavily in infrastructure to improve service. Private industry shippers of time-sensitive materials have responded to these improvements by shifting volume from highway to rail. UPS (the largest rail customer in the U.S.) attempts to put any package traveling over 750 miles on rail. JB Hunt, one of the Postal Service’s largest highway contractors, has shifted a substantial freight volume to rail and now earns more than one-third of its overall revenue from intermodal rail transportation. The potential benefits to the Postal Service are clear. Rail is a less expensive and more environmentally friendly transportation mode compared to trucking. Recent estimates show that intermodal rail service can improve fuel efficiency by about 3.5 times relative to highway tractor-trailer service. In addition, rail gives the Postal Service more capacity flexibility as this mode can operate one-way, while highway transportation must be purchased in round-trips. Since Postal Service volumes tend to flow from north to south and east to west, utilizing rail would avoid the cost of paying for empty or near-empty trucks on the return trips. Rail is also far less susceptible to the weather interruptions that can wreak havoc on highways. The shift to rail, however, is not without its drawbacks. On average, rail is slower than highway transportation. It would also require greater monitoring and pre-planning and complex decision-making by management. For example, the Postal Service would need to choose when to dispatch to rail yards versus alternatives such as dispatching a highway trailer to a network distribution center or other consolidation points. Although it would require some additional efforts, the potential savings to the Postal Service of converting from highway to rail could be tremendous. While concerns related to speed of service moved the Postal Service almost completely away from rail, other shipping companies are embracing rail with vigor. This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Aug 15th, 2011 in Products & Services | 18 comments
    In today’s world we have the opportunity to do just about anything with just the click of a mouse and a few key strokes. Recent studies show online retail sales continuing to grow despite the economic slowdown and decline of overall retail sales. A previous blog, Could Radio Frequency Identification Make the U.S. Postal Service the Premier Delivery System, stated, “Last year Americans spent $155.2 billion shopping online. This year Americans are projected to spend more than $190 billion.” Purchases made online have to be shipped and this provides a great opportunity for the Postal Service to increase parcel delivery service. The Postal Service delivers almost half the world’s mail and more than 171 billion pieces annually, of this amount, roughly 3 billion are packages (Source: 2010 Report on Form 10-K, United States Postal Service). In addition, the Postal Service is often the last mile option for delivering FedEx, UPS and DHL packages. In 2007, if given a choice, 46 percent of consumers would select the Postal Service to deliver their packages.(Source:Package Delivery Study conducted by comScore, March 2007.) The Postal Service has received several ideas for improving its parcel delivery service. Many suggest the Postal Service could be more competitive if it offered an improved track and trace and confirmation system. Other suggestions include reliable on-time delivery, increased speed of service, and a better loss and damage policy. This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Sales and Service Team.

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