Some have argued that the U.S. Postal Service should be allowed to raise prices in order to increase revenue and ensure that the sales of their products cover their costs. Others have argued that the current costing system may overstate the cost of some products, as it assumes the Postal Service is able to adjust its capacity, such as quickly closing a facility or eliminating a tour, to match the decline in mail volume. So, the second argument goes, if the Postal Service is unable to adjust its capacity, it should temporarily lower the prices of certain products, in order to encourage volume, as it did in the past with its “summer sales.”
The latter argument was briefly discussed in the OIG’s recently released paper “A Primer on Postal Costing Issues.” As a follow-up to that paper, we asked Professor Michael D. Bradley of George Washington University, an expert in postal economics, to co-author a paper on the use of short-run costing and pricing. Essentially, short-run costing varies from the current costing system in that it does not assume that the Postal Service can reduce its capacity as fast as volume falls. Using short-run costs to develop prices would allow the Postal Service to temporarily lower prices, at least on some products, to encourage volume that would make use of the excess capacity while the Postal Service creates a plan to reduce the excess capacity.Read More
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).
It’s that time of year again. Those of us helping on the Office of Inspector General blog have come up with a list of the top 10 postal stories for 2010. Tell us about any stories we missed and add whatever comments you think appropriate. In particular, we would like to get your input on the top story, so take a minute and vote in the poll below.
10. OSHA Fines the Postal Service – At plants across the country, the Postal Service receives sizeable fines for electrical hazards.
9. e-Tipping Point – A flurry of activity in 2010 bolsters the notion that the Digital Revolution has trumped paper-based communications: Apple introduces its iPad tablet computer; all e-reader sales are up nearly 80 percent over last year; the Kindle becomes Amazon’s biggest seller and the company predicts e-books will surpass paper books within a year; Netflix announces that more customers watch streaming videos than DVDs.
8. Congress Takes Notice – Members from both houses of Congress – and both sides of the aisle – introduce legislation to fix the Postal Service’s overpayments to the federal government, which contributed significantly to the Postal Service’s massive net losses over the past few years.
7. America Wakes Up – Widespread mainstream media coverage on a number of postal issues, including 5-day delivery and the financial challenges plaguing the organization, spark a national interest in our postal system.
6. Reports Address Flawed Business Model – The Government Accountability Office confirms that the Postal Service’s business model is ”not viable.” The Postal Service issues its action plan to address declining mail volumes, changing communications habits and other systemic problems.
5. Stakeholders Debate 5-Day Delivery – The Postal Service’s plan to eliminate Saturday delivery generates heated debate, massive press coverage and congressional input. The Postal Regulatory Commission holds a series of public hearings on the topic.Read More
The U.S. Postal Service is used to delivering large amounts of mail. Last year, it delivered more than 177 billion pieces. More mail pieces are sent per person in the United States than almost anywhere else in the world. But mail volume has been declining. How will the Postal Service change if volumes continue to fall? Is the Postal Service even financially sustainable at lower volume levels?
GMU researchers looked at how mail volumes of 150, 125, 100, and 75 billion would affect the Postal Service’s financial position and cost structure. Their results are encouraging. They found that the Postal Service is financially sustainable at volume levels down to 100 billion pieces per year, although price increases above inflation would be needed. The cost structure of the Postal Service would also change at lower volume levels. For example, delivery would account for a much larger share of total costs.
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?Read More