The U.S. Postal Service is in the middle of a difficult transition to position itself as a 21st century communications provider. The Postal Service sees new opportunities, but its current cash shortage makes it difficult to invest in modernizing aging facilities and vehicles, or developing new products to serve changing communications and delivery needs. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are an increasingly popular way for governments to achieve policy goals and develop infrastructure, while shifting short-term financial burdens away from taxpayers and strained government coffers.
A recent study from a Washington think tank argues the U.S. Postal Service should provide only last-mile delivery of mail and open all other aspects of the mail system to competition. The report from the non-partisan Information Technology and Innovation Foundation came to a similar conclusion as an earlier proposal from a group of four mailing industry leaders who released a concept paper that also proposed a public-private partnership with the Postal Service focusing on final delivery. Those authors envisioned that this so-called hybrid model would encourage innovation and efficiency.
The national agreements between the U.S. Postal Service and two of its unions give the Postal Service greater flexibility to use non-career employees for clerk and mail handler duties. The Postal Service pressed for the new employee categories in its separate labor negotiations with the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and the National Mail Handlers Union, because it wanted greater workforce flexibility in scheduling and aligning employees with the work available.
Powerful forces like globalization and the digital revolution are changing how, when, and where things are produced, purchased, and delivered. Look at how our shopping habits have changed in just the past few years. With your smartphone or tablet you can shop anytime, anyplace. Offshore production trends are reversing, and some manufacturing jobs are returning to the United States. And major urban areas continue to grow and link into a global transportation supergrid that connects people, commerce, and ideas.
This is the fourth and final blog in our week-long series on What America Wants from the Postal Service.
Nowhere has the digital revolution been more disruptive than in communications. The rapid evolution in Internet-based technologies has changed the way businesses and individuals communicate and transact. They now rely on both digital and physical communications. This dramatic shift has certainly challenged the Postal Service, but also created opportunities for it to expand into digital services to meet customers’ needs.