Mail delivery slowdown part of USPS 10-year plan

There’s a reason why the letters, bills, tax documents and other mail you send out of state are taking longer to reach their destination.

The Postal Service on Friday launched new service standards for First-Class Mail and Periodicals, ones it says are aimed at “increasing delivery reliability, consistency and efficiency” for customers and across its network.

“Most First-Class Mail (61 percent) and periodicals (93 percent) will be unaffected by the new service standard changes,” Naddia Dhalai, a USPS spokeswoman, told this news outlet Monday. “Standards for single-piece First-Class Mail traveling within a local area will continue to be two days.”

USPS defines local area as “within a three-hour drive between originating and destination processing facilities.”

But under its “Delivering for America” plan, which aims to reverse a projected $160 billion in losses over the next 10 years, the Postal Service is increasing time‐in‐transit standards by 1 or 2 days for certain mail that is traveling greater distances.

So, while presorted local mail will take a day to deliver, mail traveling as far as 139 miles is allotted two days to reach its destination, mail traveling 140 to 930 miles is allotted three days. Mail traveling 931 to 1,907 miles is allotted four days and mail traveling 1,908 miles or more is allotted five days, with an on-time rate of 95 percent.

Packages will now arrive in two days if delivery is within an eight-hour driving radius, three days within 32 hours, four days within 50 hours and five days for anything beyond that. The previous service standard set delivery times for two or three days wherever the destination was.

“The service standard changes that we have determined to implement are a necessary step towards achieving our goal of consistently meeting 95 percent service performance,” the Postal Service said.

With the new standards introduced last Friday, standards for First-Class Mail and First-Class Package Service are no longer identical. FCPS is designed for standard sized letters and flats and FCM is primarily designed for shipping small, lightweight packages.

“Whether it’s 300 miles or 3,000 miles, the current standard for FCPS requires 3-day service for any destination within the contiguous U.S. with a drive time greater than 6 hours,” Dhalai said. “This is unattainable and forces us to overly rely on air transportation, yielding unreliable service. With this change of offering 2- to 5-day service based on distance, we will improve service reliability and predictability for customers, while also driving efficiencies across the Postal Service network.”

The service standard change also expands USPS’ 2-day FCPS reach to better position it in the 1- to 2-day market, a market that is growing as consumer expectations change, Dhalai said.

“For example, while we narrow the 2-day standard for FCM letters and flats from a 6-hour drive time to a 3-hour drive time, we will expand the 6-hour drive time for the 2-day FCPS standard to 8 hours,” she said.

Those changes would position USPS to leverage more cost-effective means to transport First-Class packages via ground rather than using costly air transportation, which is also less reliable due to weather, flight traffic, availability constraints, competition for space, and the added hand-offs involved, Dhalai said.

Customers may still opt to use Priority Mail Express and Priority Mail services to ship packages within the contiguous U.S. with a 1-to-3-day service standard, she said.

The 10-year, comprehensive plan also includes “a combination of investments in technology, training, Post Offices and a new vehicle fleet; modernizing the Postal Service’s processing network; adopting best-in-class logistics practices across delivery and transportation operations; creating new revenue-generating offerings in the rapidly expanding e-commerce marketplace and pricing changes as authorized by the Postal Regulatory Commission,” according to Dhalai.

Experts caution that the delivery changes will cause mail disruptions, and are a sign of regression that would mean a boost in costs to consumers.

“We’ve gone from the days of air mail in the early part of the 20th century, or optional air mail, to air mail for all long-distance mail starting in the 1970s to no air mail,” said Doug Carlson, an advocate for better postal services who cross-examined postal service officials during a June hearing before the United States Postal Regulatory Commission. “That’s a step backwards at a time when people would expect communications to be fast and not slow. It does a disservice to the nation and likely will hurt the Postal Service as well in the competitive shipping marketplace.”

Paul Steidler, senior fellow at the Lexington Institute and an expert on the postal service, recently took to social media, saying “America has stellar logistics capabilities. There is no reason it should take longer to deliver mail now than in the 1970′s.”

Steidler said the USPS plan, crafted by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, mirrors what the agency did in 2014 “and the results were bad.”

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

“Cost savings were not realized, the significantly reduced service standards were never met, and large amounts of first-class mail, USPS’s most profitable product, permanently left the system,” he said in a statement. “Then as now, USPS said having a lower service standard would be good because it would provide greater predictability in delivery times, thereby benefiting customers. Yet USPS never met the target to deliver 96 percent of first-class mail on time and first-class mail delivery times declined in five of the past seven years, as shown below.”

A definite increase in cost to consumers ahead of the holiday shopping season is USPS’ new, temporary price increase on mail and packages.

Instituted Sunday, the increases will last until Dec. 26 and range from an additional 75 cents to as much as $5 for Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express and first-class package service, according to the agency’s price list.


TIPS FOR CONSUMERS

With new service standards implemented on Oct. 1, USPS offers these tips for consumers:

Plan ahead: For mail or correspondence that requires a deadline, the Postal Service encourages consumers to plan ahead and send their mail early so the Postal Service can ensure it reaches its final destination on-time.

When sending mail long distance, mail early: If it would take you more than a day to drive your mail to its destination, make sure to give your long-distance mail some extra time to travel with USPS.

Keep mailing letters: The majority of First-Class Mail will be unaffected by the Postal Service’s new service standards.

SOURCE: USPS

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