The U.S. Postal Service’s current fleet of more than 219,000 vehicles includes approximately 146,000 delivery vehicles, most of which are long-life vehicles (LLVs). The first LLVs were produced in 1987, and they average about 10 miles per gallon. The vehicles are right-hand drive to accommodate drivers delivering numerous mailpieces to curbside mailboxes. These iconic right-hand drive delivery trucks are nearing the end of a 24-year life cycle and are costly to maintain. In a recent audit, we noted that it cost the Postal Service about $524 million to fix the LLVs in fiscal year 2009.
The debate about the Postal Service’s future is heating up and Pushing the Envelope is interested in your views. Last week the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security held a hearing on the Future of the Postal Service. The week before there was a hearing in the House on the Postal Service’s financial crisis and future viability, and on April 12, the Government Accountability Office issued a report laying out the strategies and options to maintain the Postal Service’s viability.
Public policy debates about solving the Postal Service’s financial crisis have largely focused on reducing costs by cutting service such as Saturday delivery, transitioning from brick and mortar post offices to alternative retail sales channels, or limiting other functions performed by the Postal Service. There has been less talk about the costs of meeting delivery service standards, which were reviewed following the passage of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006.
As the Postal Service examines its business model and contemplates changes meant to increase its efficiency, Congress’s role in postal operations has captured public attention. A prime example is the Postal Service’s recent efforts to trim its retail operations. As a cost cutting initiative, on July 2, 2009, the Postal Service filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission a list of Post Office stations and branches it was considering closing. After the filing, many entities questioned the Postal Service’s authority to close these facilities. An article published on the U.S.
March 18 marks the 40th anniversary of one of the most momentous events in postal history — the postal strike of 1970. The night before, postal workers in New York voted 1,555 to 1,055 to go out on strike in protest of a House committee vote to limit their wage increase that year to 5.4 percent on the heels of a 41 percent increase in Congress’s own pay. The wildcat strike and picketing were effective in shutting down postal operations in New York and quickly spread to about 30 other cities. Within days about 152,000 workers in 671 locations were on strike.
On March 2, Postmaster General John E. Potter presented a 10-year “action plan” to meet the challenges faced by the Postal Service as it encounters declining mail volumes combined with increasing overhead costs. The plan comes as a product of a yearlong study by the Postal Service and a number of leading consultants to identify and analyze over 50 different actions that could help counter the changing marketplace. The Postmaster General warned that if the Postal Service continues to operate as it is, it will run a cumulative debt of $238 billion over the next 10 years.
In these challenging times, reducing the cost of delivery operations — one of the Postal Service’s largest expenses — could save millions. One option the Postal Service is considering is to discontinue Saturday city and rural delivery and collection services.
Providing mail delivery is central to the Postal Service’s mission. Delivery is the Postal Service’s largest operational function and accounted for approximately one-third of its nearly $78 billion in total expenses during 2008. Postal Service management is working hard to reduce delivery costs while continuing to deliver to 149 million addresses in the most efficient manner possible. Despite declining mail volumes, the Postal Service is challenged to provide cost efficient and effective service to a delivery network growing by more than 1 million addresses each year.
It’s 7:30 am and you’re a letter carrier . . . so take a moment and imagine the following as a typical workday. First, you walk into the office, clock in, and check in with the boss. Then, you load up the vehicle with the mail that is already prepared for your route. Finally, at 7:45 am, you jump into the vehicle, drive off and begin delivering the mail. At no point are you required to manually sort mail. Is that day far off in the future . . . or, is it just around the corner?