No one can claim 2013 was an uneventful year in the postal world. Early in the year, the U.S. Postal Service made the blockbuster announcement that it would move to 5-day delivery, but by mid-year it had changed course and pulled the plan. Then, on Christmas Eve, the Postal Regulatory Commission issued a momentous decision to approve the exigent price increase, only temporarily through surcharges. Sprinkled in between were drones, barcodes, and Sunday delivery. Read on for the list of top 10 postal stories of 2013 (in reverse order of impact), as compiled by the staff of the Office of Inspector General. Let us know if you agree or disagree. And vote for your top story of the year.
10. Cloudy with a Chance of Success – The Postal Service is tapped to run the technology behind the cloud-based authentication program known as the Federal Cloud Credential Exchange. The program, known as FCCX, will allow citizens to use their existing online passwords and credentials to gain access to government online services.
9. Just Drone it In – Delivery competition heats up as some of the biggest players look to get an edge. Amazon suggests it will use drones to deliver small packages in a few years. DHL, also eyeing drones, is testing crowdsourcing delivery in Sweden. And major retailers and their shipping partners ramp up same-day delivery offerings.
8. Trolls, Barcodes, and Patent Law – Litigation by non-practicing entities (a.k.a. patent trolls) threatens to stymie wider adoption of the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) as mailers face lawsuits and steep legal fees to fight charges of patent infringement. The action raises questions of whether a similar approach could be applied to other new technologies, like augmented reality and near-field communications.
7. Reality Bites – Posts around the world announced significant changes to their operations or business models to adjust to a new reality of communications. Royal Mail went public; New Zealand Post began a move to 3-day delivery in urban areas; and Canada Post said it will end to-the-door delivery by 2016.
6. Nay to 5 Day – It looked like 5-day delivery of mail might happen in 2013 when the Postal Service unveiled plans in February to eliminate Saturday delivery of letters and flats. But the Board of Governors put the plan on ice for now.
5. Intelligence Delayed – The long-awaited full service Intelligent Mail barcode requirement falls victim to the Postal Service’s annual price adjustment. The Postal Service delays the planned January 2014 implementation of IMb full service to accommodate the PRC order that stated price changes associated with the IMb requirement would violate the price cap.
4. Growth Spurt – The Postal Service marks its first revenue increase in 5 years, taking in $800 million more than the previous year. Boosts come from Standard Mail, packages, international mail, and an accounting adjustment on unused forever stamps.
3. You Say Potato – The Postal Service goes on a rebranding spree, first changing the name of its Parcel Post product to Standard Post, and then changing Express Mail to Priority Mail Express.
2. Sunday Driver – Sunday is no longer a day of rest for the Postal Service. It inks an historic deal with Amazon.com to deliver packages on Sunday in some markets.
1. It’s the Recession, Stupid – Well, sort of. The Postal Regulatory Commission approves, by a 2-1 vote, the Postal Service’s request to raise prices above the inflation-based price cap (including a 49-cent stamp) but only temporarily. The PRC directed the Postal Service to institute temporary rate surcharges to compensate only for losses due to the Great Recession, not for electronic diversion.