Mail volume plummeted 4.5 percent — or 9.5 billion pieces — in fiscal year (FY) 2008. Reduced mail volume allows the Postal Service to combine delivery routes to maximize efficiency and reduce workhours, overtime, and other expenses. The Postal Service is seizing this opportunity by consolidating more than 87,000 city delivery routes — which could affect as many as 50 million addresses nationwide. Consolidating routes means some customers will receive their mail at a different time — earlier or later in the day. It also means the customer could have a different letter carrier who will have to become familiar with a new delivery route.
There were more than 211,000 city carriers delivering mail to 87 million residential and business city delivery points at the end of FY 2008. On average, each carrier’s route has 500 to 700 delivery points. A carrier’s day involves two types of work: sorting mail in the office and delivering mail on the street. In the past, carriers typically spent several hours each day at the post office sorting mail for their route into delivery order. Now, machines sort most letter mail into delivery order automatically, and fewer pieces of mail means it takes less time for carriers to sort mail at the post office. This leaves carriers more time “on the street” allowing them to reach more delivery points.
On the street, the length of time a carrier takes to deliver mail on a route depends on factors such as the number of delivery points and the distance between them as well as mail volume. For instance, a carrier can deliver 10 letters to an address almost as quickly as 1 letter. More than 400,000 new city delivery points were added in FY 2008. When adjusting routes, the Postal Service must consider both mail volume and delivery points — including new delivery points — to build a route with 8 hours of work.
The Postal Service also relies on carriers to help ensure addresses on their routes are accurate by reporting vacant and abandoned buildings. If a carrier has 30 delivery points on her route and a 20-delivery-point apartment complex is torn down, it will reduce the route to 10 delivery points. Approximately 20 delivery points could be added to the carrier’s route.
Do you think consolidating city delivery routes will have a positive effect on the Postal Service’s bottom line? Why or why not? Will it be difficult for carriers — particularly those who walk their routes — to spend more time on the street?