The economy has changed dramatically over the last 12 months. The Postal Service’s financial situation has changed, as well as its target markets and the fortunes and requirements of its customers. If the Postal Service gathers appropriate data to fully understand customers’ needs and desires, and offers relevant solutions, customers are more likely to choose the Postal Service as their primary supplier of mail products and services. The customer experience includes attributes such as access, convenience, products, services, price and relationship with the Postal Service.
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 Postal Service has more than 10,000 prices contained in a 1,800-page customer manual known as the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM). The DMM provides individual and commercial mailers with information about postal services and standards for both domestic and international mailings. The Price List, also known as Notice 123, contains domestic and international retail and commercial prices for all postal products and services.
A number of media news articles in the last year have examined reductions in Post Office retail hours around the country. They report that some Post Offices are cutting back or eliminating Saturday hours, opening late in the morning or closing earlier in the afternoon during the week. The Postal Service faces significant legal and political constraints when it tries to close Post Offices, but faces few constraints when it acts to cut back on the hours a facility is open. However, eliminating hours amounts to a partial scaling back of retail service.
In a time when everyone is examining the dollars and cents of the postal business, people have a tendency to overlook the bigger picture: the greater role of the Postal Service in modern society. With that in mind, the Postal Regulatory Commission requested the Urban Institute to study the Postal Service. The focus was not a traditional look at the business but a study of the benefits of the Postal Service and its infrastructure to the American population.
In the past 18 years, the Postal Service has reorganized its field structure at least three times. In 1992, the Postal Service reorganized its field structure from five regions and 73 field divisions into 10 areas and 85 districts. From 2002-2006 the Postal Service changed its field structure to nine areas and 80 districts, and adjusted again in 2009 to eight areas and 74 districts.
“If it fits, it ships.” If this sounds familiar, you probably heard it from the Postal Service’s Priority Mail® Flat Rate advertising campaign broadcasted on TV or radio. The Flat Rate option offers a simpler way to ship — whatever fits in the flat rate box or envelope (up to 70 pounds) ships for one rate to anywhere in the United States. There is virtually no weighing or calculating. The packages reach their destinations in 1 to 3 days. Normally, Priority Mail prices are based on weight and destination.
Recent Government Accountability Office testimony to Congress stated processing capacity for First-Class Mail exceeds processing needs by 50 percent, and analysis by industry experts indicates an additional drop of 35 billion pieces in First-Class Mail by 2020. With mail volume declining, does this provide an opportunity for the Postal Service to capture savings by adopting industry best practices in its First-Class Mail processing operations?
The Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS) is one of the retirement programs of the U.S. government, and benefits are extended to U.S. Postal Service employees. FERS is administered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Congress established the guidelines for OPM to set contribution rates and can alter them by passing new law or amending an existing law. Postal Service employees who began their careers after December 31, 1983, are automatically enrolled in the FERS. For Postal Service employees, a majority of FERS funding is accomplished through Postal Service contributions.
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.