The U.S. Postal Service’s network was designed to deliver First-Class Mail in 1 to 3 days. If you drop a First-Class letter going to a local address in the mail, you can expect it to be delivered the next day.
These basic delivery standards date from a time before e-mail and other electronic methods of of communication. Now, as some First-Class Mail shifts to electronic alternatives, are these service standards worth the cost?
The overnight First-Class Mail service standard requires the Postal Service to keep its processing plants open through the night and on Sundays. The Postal Service needs more labor, machines, and facility space to meet the compressed time schedule. Two trips are often needed to take mail to the delivery unit so that carriers can start sorting manual mail while machines at the plant finish sorting automated mail. In addition, the tight transportation windows required by the overnight service standard limit the size of plants’ service areas, reducing the Postal Service’s ability to consolidate the network.
The Postal Service has evolved with the needs of a growing country for more than 230 years. A vast and complex network of processing facilities and transportation links was created to meet its universal service obligation. Today, the Postal Service has 260 Processing and Distribution Centers located throughout the country. This highly automated processing technology network provides incentives for its customers to presort the mail and drop ship it deeper into the network. As the likelihood of stagnant or decreasing mail volumes grows, there is a mismatch between the existing network capacity and user needs.
For several years, the Postal Service has introduced plans to consolidate its mail processing plants and reconfigure its transportation network. The Postal Service has made some progress, closing all but two Air Mail Centers (AMCs), initiating and implementing numerous AMP consolidations, and transforming the Bulk Mail Center (BMC) network in the Network Distribution Centers.
The U.S. Postal Service has experienced a significant decline in mail volume in recent years, yet its contracted surface transportation remains largely unchanged. While mail volume dropped almost 16 percent from fiscal year 2008 to 2010, the Postal Service contracted out around 1 percent more miles of highway transportation over the same period. During the same time, the Postal Service has had considerable success minimizing the number of labor hours employees spend on mail processing.
The following factors may have mitigated the effects on transportation from a volume drop:
• Network Distribution Center restructuring.
• Postal Service efforts to move more mail from air to surface transportation.
• Postal Service efforts to sell the newly empty space to other shippers through a collaborative logistics program.
Transportation represents the second largest cost component for mail delivery after labor, but the Postal Service has substantially more authority to cut contracted miles. The Postal Service could use its greater flexibility to end unnecessary contracts, alter necessary contracts, or redesign the system altogether. Highway transportation provides a strong opportunity for cost savings.
What do you think of the current contracted surface transportation infrastructure?
How would you adjust to new mail volumes?
This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).Read More
Every day, thousands of containers holding letters and large envelopes are flown across the country to meet Postal Service standards. As you might expect, in almost every case, it costs more to fly mail than to ship it on a truck or by train. Because of this, from a cost standpoint, it’s important that each mail container is filled to capacity.
The Postal Service established International Service Centers (ISCs) in 1996 to become more competitive in the international mail market. ISCs distribute and dispatch both incoming and outgoing international mail. The ISC network has facilities located in five major cities: New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The Postal Service hoped that ISCs would improve service and provide the structure needed to support new products and increase revenue.
However, International Mail volume has not increased as projected by the ISC marketing and sales plan. During the period FY 2007 to FY 2010, International mail volume declined by approximately 29 percent (from 858 million to 609 million mailpieces).
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.Read More