on Jan 16th, 2012 in Delivery & Collection | 23 comments

City and rural carriers deliver and pick up mail, including letters and packages. In addition, they are familiar figures who care about the people they serve, often helping in dramatic ways while making their rounds in neighborhoods 6 days a week. The U.S. Postal Service has many examples of carriers sending for help when senior citizens fail to collect their mail, alerting residents of fires, aiding accident victims, and even stopping burglaries.

But what else can carriers do? Could they provide additional services because, after all, carriers and their vehicles are present 6 days a week in every neighborhood in the U.S.? Each potential service opportunity for carriers should be evaluated by three criteria: the investment required, the risk assumed, and the potential benefits that could be achieved. So, what are some other responsibilities that carriers can take on while delivering the mail that would result in a positive return on the Postal Service’s investment?

How about:
  • Meter Reading.
  • Gathering data on road and weather conditions in metropolitan areas by placing Global Positioning System (GPS) devices in carrier vehicles.
  • Collecting Census Data.
  • Updating mapping components in metropolitan areas (new addresses, etc.).
  • Delivering other items besides mail. Right now, the Postal Service offers last mile delivery service to UPS and FedEx. Who else can benefit from this service?

What do you think about carriers handling non-postal related tasks? Do you think the Postal Service should provide additional services that can be handled by carriers? In addition to the services listed what would you suggest? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

This blog is hosted by the OIG's Delivery Directorate.


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Our union a couple of years ago said we may need to deliver other items besides mail. I believe what ever revenue we can bring in to protect our job is the right way to go. We just need to keep programs more than one month and then get rid of it.

The postal carrier that we have now, is not very nice, has decided that he will not come back our driveway to pick up any mail upon request in our rural area, and is just nasty. The problem that I have is being rural, we have had mail stolen from out of our mailbox, checks worth 17K, and other postal items, that were insignificant. If he can't or won't pick up mail when I need him to, I will send my mail in other ways. I hope he loses his job!! Who do I complain to?

You are talking about extensive safety training in electricity, meters etc. The postal service is a mail delivery service and should keep that objective as its core responsibility. Some of the task are tied to the local government in a community. It takes years to understand the network of water and sewer and electricity in a community. Leave this to the people who understand and can figure out why one meter could be off and another on. Water pressure is another whole entity on to itself. Not much one person can do in a emergency situation of some of the magnitudes. That is why the city or town has teams, of able physically people. Census data may sound easy, you are collecting the data from households that have not responded to the census pamphlet. Forget about this time consuming waste of man power. Weather gathering, forget about that too, another field of extensive knowledge must be obtained. Some other the other things that could be delivered may need specialized equipment, forget it.
The postal service is there for the mail. Final Answer!

To anonymous, great post. I am a mail carrier & first of all I'm completely disturbed that there would be consideration by the OIG to have postal carriers take jobs away from other middle class Americans at a time when that is the last thing we need to see happen. Not to mention many of these possibilities are only being looked at because of serious misinformation provided to Congress by senior postal management about the decline of mail volume and the loss of revenue. The financial problems of the Post Office are neither as significantly large nor caused by the internet as Postal Management has tried to convince Congress and the public of. That same misleading information is what led to proposals by right-wing republicans to not only gut the UPS service to the public but also to destroy the rights of its workers to bargain for not only fair pay & healthcare but also for workplace safety measures, a fair adjustment program to deal with any changes in work volume on an annual basis, and many other things. They have tried to destroy what made this nation great, hard working middle class Americans who make this economy run. Now it seems they've decided to see if they can go out & take others jobs away to support a supposed drop in work volume for carriers? I've been on this job for 7 years and mail volumes are as high now as they've ever been since I've been here. Thank u for your post. Not only do mail carriers not need this extra work, but taking away from others to give to us is wrong..

Street delivery should be eliminated on Sat.. Sat. delivery is a past need used in the 20th century. The advancement in communication technology has made the need for Sat. mail delivery a past tradition not needed in the 21st. century. First class volume has decline resulting in loss of revenue. The demand for postal products has declined. Services provided by USPS exceed demand resulting in massive debt. No means to create new revenue has been introduced. Operations must be cost effective to decrease debt. Americans are being encouraged by government agenices and business to go "PAPERLESS" and reward customers or make it mandatory as by direct deposit being required for SS checks by March 2013. E Mail marketing is increasing which will reduce advertising junk mail in time. Americans no longer feel the need to purchase a postage stamp for delivery to a physical address when so many technological options such as the Internet are available for instant messaging.
Eliminating Sat. delivery, 52 days a year, would reduce massive cost for petroleumn products and reduce workhours in delivery operations. Sat. mail delivery had its need but time and technology has made it a past tradition.

I fully disagree. I go in the opposite direction: I would expand service to 7 days a week. But this has to be tied in to having the USPS delivery network "rationalized" as the economists would say. This may not be the blog for this, but standards of convenience, effectiveness, and efficiency need to be set for urban, suburban, and rural post offices. And Congress needs to keep its collective noses out of the process. The latter could be done via a method that the Dept. of Defense used in the 1970's ("base closure ... commission") May sound silly, but the rural standard could be as easy as specifying that a USPS facility would be within 2 miles of a Wal~Mart located in a rural area. If people will travel to a Wal~Mart, they will travel to a rural post office. Suburban PO would probably be the toughest with more criteria making up the standard, but also the most likely to yield significant closures and "right-sizing". While urban should be one of the easier standards.
The other party that would tend to hobble this effort would be the postal union. But adding full service on Saturday and Sunday would add back jobs cut by the delivery standards.

I think the carriers should focus on the mail. However, It seems logical to me that carriers could work between 2200 and 0700 in most areas.
Most urbak areas are lighted enough to deliver mail. A headlamp might be
necessary for property access, if single address delivery continues.
However, I theink the cluster boxes are definately in the future of residential mail delivery anyway. ALL OF THE REST OF THE USPS WORKS 24 x 7!

Wear a headlamp, NO Traffic, NO Interference, Regular Schedule, Neighborhood watch duty pay from municipalities, because of all of the public safety cutbacks, less miles traveled (with cluster boxes), healthier people because the neighborhood has get some exercise to go to the cluster box to pick up their mail, a feeling of neighborhood unity... (like the 50's/60's) by
going to get the elderly or disabled mail. Accountaables can be delivered by the Postmaster if necessary. It's a win win for evrybody. Who wouldn't want this? Oh yeah, I know the one's with the current banker's hours...

Working inside with lights and working outside at night is completly different. I deliver rural, and getting in and out of a vehical to deliver to NDCBU's in the dark is dangerous and unnecessary. I'll work (and have) from sunup to sundown, but not outside in the dark!!!

Letter carriers already work long and hard hours each day with the implimintation of the new Flat Sequencing Sortation method. In some cases it is physically impossible to cover the geographic area we are now asked to deliver. To have Letter Carriers do other services while delivering your mail will not only delay that delivery even more but will jeopardize the the sanctity of the mail and the safety of the Letter Carrier. Timely universal service is or was the goal of the USPS and it should continue. Postal officials should return to what is good for the people of this country and stop trying to be fortune 500 wannabes.

Well, I don't know much, but I do know they don't pay you guys & gals enough money. And, if you are "serving" a dual purpose already, I personally appreciate it. The bankers hours comment was absolutely not intended to make it sound like you had it easy....

What's next a Gun and a Badge?????

It seems unthinkable to add additional responsibility to carriers who have the increasing responsibility of scanning accountable items, the constant pressure of time constraints, and the continuous threat of discipline for any misstep. The only feasible compromise would be to decrease the carriers' delivery workload to accommodate the added duties.

It seems unthinkable to add additional responsibilities to carriers who already have the increasing responsibility of scanning accountable items, the constant pressure of time constraints and delivery deadlines, and the continuous threat of discipline for any misstep. The only feasible compromise would be to decrease the carriers’ workload to accommodate the added duties. Other issues to contemplate are: contractual restrictions, safety concerns, and training/competency limitations.

Making postal carriers jacks of all trades is a plausible idea, but not very realistic with the workload they currently have.

Being a postal carrier is a really hard and intense work. Why then not make surgeons do massage during the surgery, just because they have access to the body (who cares about fixing the patient)? Why not train every taxi driver to be a professional DJ, just to make extra money (and who cares about safe driving)? Why not teach your local plumber to be a doctor, teacher, baker, dentist etc as well? Why care about profession and specific job properly done at all? Sorry if I sound too rude. But I don't really thing it's a good idea.

this would be rediculous to make people learn new jobs. efficiency comes with looking at the processes used ina a specificx job. efficiency is never about diverse activvities by one person, this is how the safety pin process changed mass production.

I don't think that's a good idea. I am a mail carrier and we have enough responsibilities while we are out on our routes. With all the route adjustments and our routes are getting longer and we do not get any more time to do a longer route how are we suppose to stop and check a meter and record that information? We get pivots almost everyday and if we are running late we get in trouble how are we suppose to do more work? We are getting hurt just trying to deliver the mail I couldn't imagine doing more in the same time with the same pay. If we did more, we are only taking away someone elses job and the economy is bad enough. I thought the government was trying to produce jobs not take them away?

I work for the postal service. How about delivering pizza for the service . We could work for the United States Pizza Service! Wouldn't have to change any of the lettering on the trucks! Still the USPS!

With new duties. Mail carriers will demand hefty raises. USPS can't afford this!

The carriers already do enough and we also deliver the last mile. We donot need to take jobs away from other people, we are still trying to hold on to our own jobs with the USPS trying to cut 120,000 jobs soon. If you need to adjust routes so rural carriers don't have to work six days every week due to smaller route...make them bigger and let us do our job!!!

Postal carriers could take the time to know the names of people on their routes -- like in the "olden days." I shipped a package to my sister, who lives a block away from the Post Ofice in Lansdowne, PA and because I didn't remember to write S. Landsdown Avenue on the (priority mail) package, it was returned to me, as "unknown." It was my fault, but having a carrier who gave a darn would have helped.

Collect household batteries (D, C , A, AA AAA, and 9 volt, perhaps others). Supposedly these may be throw out with the trash, but who would drink from a pitcher full of corroding batteries and water? Used batteries in a waste dump are not safe for the environment and are a loss of quality raw materials.
Rule would be that batteries would have to be placed into transparent bags no larger than a 1 quart size, and be the designated type battery. Perhaps USPS would charge for the bags, with recycling mandatory (this may be taking this too far.)
USPS could contract with a recycler to dispose of the batteries. Initially this might be at cost or a loss, but with a steady volume of batteries delivered to it, a vendor would surface to buy the batteries. USPS costs would be temporary storage and transport (as needed) to a disposal vendor.
If necessary, Congress could underwrite the start-up as a public service/environmental initiative, and perhaps have a tax on battery sales.