“If you are generally well-equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse, you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack.” – U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Ali S. Khan, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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.
The U.S. Postal Service adds more than 600,000 new delivery points each year, mostly in the form of new residential homes. While most new residences include cluster boxes rather than to-the-door delivery to reduce costs, delivery remains the Postal Service's largest cost center. Canada Post, which has suffered losses recently after years of profits, has introduced a $200 per address charge that it is assessing housing developers for installing community mailboxes.
Imagine if customers didn’t have to wait at home for a package delivery or have to rush home from work to retrieve a package off their front porch. Or, what if they could avoid paying a fee to receive packages at another address? With 24-hour parcel lockers, their prayers are answered.
The U.S. Postal Service is a key player in a year-long trial of a unique public-private partnership effort that would let citizens securely and voluntarily sign up for online services at multiple agencies using a number of different digital identities. The user would then use whichever password and identity is most convenient – whether the identities are issued by the government or a private company – to log in across multiple government agencies.
After more than 20 years of service, the venerable POSTNet barcode on envelopes for automating and sorting mail retired on January 28. The Postal Service now requires that mailings have at least Basic-Service Intelligent Mail barcodes (IMb) to qualify for automation discounts. Mailers will need to switch to Full-Service IMb by January 2014 to receive maximum discounts at that time. Even though the Postal Service provided a lengthy lead time and a good deal of education on the discontinuance of the POSTNet barcode, the IMb requirement undoubtedly caught some smaller mailers by surprise.
The Postal Service is a leader among federal agencies in sustainability efforts. In 2009, it joined with 20 international postal operators to commit to a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, a goal it has made significant progress toward achieving. A major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is vehicle emissions. With the largest civilian fleet in the country – more than 213,000 vehicles – the Postal Service has both an enormous opportunity and an enormous challenge in reducing its fuel consumption. So far, the challenges have proved considerable.
The number of Postal Service patents has grown significantly in the past few decades, as have the patents for rival carriers FedEx and UPS. When compared to other industries, such as information technology and wireless communications, the Postal Service has not significantly leveraged its intellectual property or fully recognized the potential financial and strategic value of these assets. If the Postal Service considered the commercial significance of each of its patents and licensed its intellectual property, it might find a valuable source of significant revenue.
The Postal Service faced its own fiscal cliff in 2012 while the larger mailing industry continued to press for reform and innovation. But don’t count mail out just yet. A strong election season reminded many Americans that mail still matters, even in the digital age. And in Europe, one postal operator didn’t let 500 years of history stand in the way of reinventing itself.
The U.S. Postal Service delivery workforce consists of city and rural letter carriers, who perform similar duties, but have differences in compensation and work rules. City letter carriers typically work routes that are high density and low mileage. These routes are classified as either “mounted” routes (for those that require a vehicle) or “walking” routes (for those that are done on foot). City letter carriers are also given a $371 per year uniform allowance.