The U.S. Postal Service has a long and storied history of moving mail on rail dating from the beginning of the railroad industry in the early 1800s. Mail was sorted on trains and Post Offices and processing facilities were located near rail stations. Many innovations and changes to rail, including the very development of modern freight rail service, were closely tied to the movement of mail. Today, however, the Postal Service meets its surface transportation needs almost entirely by using trucks owned by highway contractors. By contrast postal competitors and many others have taken advantage of the dramatic changes in the rail industry in recent years and greatly expanded their use of rail, realigning their networks with the nation’s railroads.
The Office of Inspector General’s new paper Strategic Advantages of Moving Mail by Rail studied this rediscovered opportunity and found:
• Shifting a portion of mail volume to rail without changing the overall transportation network could save $100 million per year.
• If the Postal Service made an even greater commitment to rail, altering its network, it could realize even greater savings.
• The use of intermodal rail can contribute significantly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the Postal Service’s environmental goals.
• Because of its lesser sensitivity to fuel price increases and greater control of its own infrastructure, rail transportation has major, long-term strategic advantages over highway.
Rail transportation meets the needs of the Postal Service’s competitors and has become the industry standard for long distance surface transportation. Where the use of rail would allow it to meet service standards, should the Postal Service give it another try? Let us know what you think.