• on Aug 11th, 2014 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 4 comments

    Say you’re about to drive off for vacation in less than 48 hours, but you suddenly realize your license has expired. The nearest DMV office is 15 miles away, the waiting line probably just as long, and there’s just too much else to do to get ready. But imagine now that you can go to your local Post Office, which can handle the renewal right there and then.

    That’s just one of the many possibilities discussed at a roundtable we recently co-organized with the Postal Innovation Platform. The topic: opportunities for postal operators everywhere to simultaneously expand business while partnering with their respective governmental agencies to better serve the public. Experts from academia, government, and the private sector looked at how postal operators could leverage their assets and capabilities to successfully meet the changing needs of government. Our newest white paper recaps in detail the main points and highlights of the roundtable.

    Perhaps the most significant point raised: Posts in every country have features and resources that give them competitive advantages over others in the e-government space. For instance, they have unrivaled networks of post offices and delivery services, which could help bring government services closer to remote areas, where Internet access is minimal or nonexistent. Given their traditional role as trusted intermediaries, posts can also offer services that require privacy and security: payments, document certification and notarization, management of electronic health records, and voting by mail, among others.

    Several postal operators already partner with government in some of these ways. The U.S. Postal Service, for example, has long helped the U.S. State Department process passport applications, and Poste Italiane issues notices of traffic violations and collects payments. But tell us: What other government services would you like the Postal Service to be able to offer? Driver license renewal? Marriage licenses? Any of the services listed above? Something else?  

  • on Aug 4th, 2014 in Delivery & Collection | 34 comments

    Delivery is its bread-and-butter. And service is in its name. So, the U.S. Postal Service takes pride in delivering mail to every address in America.

    But declining mail volume, changes in the network, a downsizing of its workforce, and evolving customer needs have led to changes in delivery. Further, a wide range of variables, such as weather, employee absences, or new carriers to a route, can affect delivery every day. These changes and variables pose challenges to the Postal Service in meeting its targeted “24-hour clock initiative,” which is to collect, distribute, and deliver mail on time and to have 95 percent of letter carriers off the street by 5 p.m.

    In recent years, more carriers have been returning after 5 p.m. That percentage increased nationally from 25 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2011 to 38 percent in FY 2013. Mail delivery after dark raises carrier safety concerns while late mail makes consumers unhappy.

    Our recent audit report looked specifically at the Capital District, which experienced a 14 percentage point increase in city carriers returning after 5 p.m. We found the increase was due to (1) delayed delivery of mail from the processing facilities to the delivery units, and (2) supervisors failing to properly supervise city delivery operations. Our recommendations centered on modifying operating plans to get mail to the delivery unit earlier in the day and on adhering to policies and procedures for supervising city delivery operations.

    Also, we encouraged management and union officials to work together to address carrier safety. External stakeholders have already offered some ideas worth considering, such as brightly colored, reflective clothing to make carriers more visible, and realigning delivery routes so carriers can start earlier in dangerous areas.

    We welcome your suggestions as well. What more could be done to get carriers off the streets by the targeted 5 p.m. return time? Given all the variables that can affect the ability to complete deliveries by 5 p.m., what additional precautions could be taken to enhance carrier safety? 

  • on Jul 28th, 2014 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 90 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? 

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