• on Mar 23rd, 2009 in Delivery & Collection | 37 comments

    Mail volume plummeted 4.5 percent — or 9.5 billion pieces — in fiscal year (FY) 2008. Reduced mail volume allows the Postal Service to combine delivery routes to maximize efficiency and reduce workhours, overtime, and other expenses. The Postal Service is seizing this opportunity by consolidating more than 87,000 city delivery routes — which could affect as many as 50 million addresses nationwide. Consolidating routes means some customers will receive their mail at a different time — earlier or later in the day. It also means the customer could have a different letter carrier who will have to become familiar with a new delivery route.

    There were more than 211,000 city carriers delivering mail to 87 million residential and business city delivery points at the end of FY 2008. On average, each carrier’s route has 500 to 700 delivery points. A carrier’s day involves two types of work: sorting mail in the office and delivering mail on the street. In the past, carriers typically spent several hours each day at the post office sorting mail for their route into delivery order. Now, machines sort most letter mail into delivery order automatically, and fewer pieces of mail means it takes less time for carriers to sort mail at the post office. This leaves carriers more time “on the street” allowing them to reach more delivery points.

    On the street, the length of time a carrier takes to deliver mail on a route depends on factors such as the number of delivery points and the distance between them as well as mail volume. For instance, a carrier can deliver 10 letters to an address almost as quickly as 1 letter. More than 400,000 new city delivery points were added in FY 2008. When adjusting routes, the Postal Service must consider both mail volume and delivery points — including new delivery points — to build a route with 8 hours of work.

    bar chart showing city delivery points FY 2005: 85,804,626; FY 2006: 86,292,173; FY 2007: 86,882,476; FY 2008: 87,285,380

    The Postal Service also relies on carriers to help ensure addresses on their routes are accurate by reporting vacant and abandoned buildings. If a carrier has 30 delivery points on her route and a 20-delivery-point apartment complex is torn down, it will reduce the route to 10 delivery points. Approximately 20 delivery points could be added to the carrier’s route.

    Do you think consolidating city delivery routes will have a positive effect on the Postal Service’s bottom line? Why or why not? Will it be difficult for carriers — particularly those who walk their routes — to spend more time on the street?

  • on Mar 16th, 2009 in Labor | 15 comments
    The federal government has two main retirement systems. Most employees hired since 1983 fall under the Federal Employees’ Retirement System, known as FERS. Unlike their counterparts under the old system called CSRS (Civil Service Retirement System), FERS employees do not receive any service credit for their unused sick leave upon retirement. As a result, there are concerns that some FERS employees may try to use up as much of their sick leave balance as they can prior to retirement — a practice often called the “FERS Flu.” Because FERS employees are expected to comprise almost the entire federal and Postal Service workforce by 2014, a widespread outbreak of the FERS Flu could have serious consequences. This past December, approximately 1,400 readers of FedSmith.com participated in an on-line survey regarding their attitudes about sick leave usage in the Federal Government. One survey response should raise concerns. Readers were asked, “Is it ethical for a federal employee to use sick leave without having an authorized medical reason for using the leave?” Fully one-third of respondents stated that this was fully ethical, while an additional 11 percent were unsure. Another on-line poll of federal employees was even more troubling. Of the more than 1,100 FERS respondents, more than 75 percent said they planned to use as much sick leave as possible during their last year before retirement. A Congressional Research Service analysis of payroll data on nearly 500,000 employees showed that FERS employees eligible to retire used nearly 35 percent more sick leave than comparable CSRS employees.
    FERS Flu...Is it catching? woman reclining in a hammock

    While the FERS Flu is a problem throughout the federal government, it could be particularly acute for the Postal Service for two reasons. First, much of what the Postal Service does is very time-sensitive. For example, if a letter carrier takes a day of sick leave, someone must perform the work in place of the absent carrier. Often, the Postal Service must replace that work at the higher overtime rate. Second, because Postal Service managers have set aggressive goals to minimize sick leave usage, many FERS Postal Service employees have accumulated very large sick leave balances, and will therefore, have large amounts of sick leave available to use. Legislation that would give service credit to FERS employees for their unused sick leave has been proposed in the current Congress. This legislation passed the House of Representatives during the 110th Congress, but was not taken up by the Senate. What do you think about the risk of FERS Flu for the Postal Service?

  • on Mar 9th, 2009 in Products & Services | 16 comments
    The Office of Inspector General (OIG) independently audits the efficiency and effectiveness of Postal Service programs such as the online shipping solution Click-N-Ship®. However, OIG employees are also customers of the Postal Service, with their own experiences. Tara, a member of the OIG’s Communication team, tried Click-N-Ship® over the holidays and volunteered to write about her experience.
    I knew Click-N-Ship® existed through promotions and obviously being an employee of the USPS OIG. And even though I pride myself on being very tech-savvy, I was hesitant to use it. To me there was just something comforting about making the time consuming trip to the post office to pay a real person to take and ship my package. Then I thought to myself, “I shop online, why not give this a shot?” Now I am a raving fan.

    With a simple digital kitchen scale, my computer, and credit card, I shipped approximately 50 packages out during the holidays from the comfort of my own home. Most were letter-sized, so I first placed an online order for the free Priority Mail envelopes the Postal Service provides online. They were delivered to my door within a few days. It was fairly easy to set up the account, enter addresses, print the shipping labels, and complete transactions. For no additional charge, I scheduled a carrier pick-up and confirmed delivery of my packages online. In fact, the carrier even left a notification that he picked up my packages.

    The only problem I encountered was not being able to ship anything for a day or so during the Postal Service’s technical glitch in the system in mid-December. Though mildly inconvenient, it wasn’t that big of deal to wait until the next day when the system was fixed. So now whenever someone tells me they are going to the Post Office to ship something, I tell them to give Click-N-Ship® a try.

    Have you ever used Click-N-Ship® and what was your experience? Was your experience similar to Tara’s? If not, what happened? What ideas do you have for the Postal Service to promote or improve this service?