Global economic slump means consolidation of US Postal Service delivery routes

01/19/2009

A huge drop in the volume of mail passing through the U.S. Postal System will lead to consolidation of urban carrier routes, possibly affecting daily delivery times for millions.

Associated Press has reported that activities are underway to try and deal with the serious decline in mail volumes. “We’re facing the biggest decline since the Great Depression,” said Terry Penland, customer relations coordinator for the Postal Service in Kansas City.

The volume of mail in fiscal 2008 dropped more than 4.5 percent, or 9.5 billion pieces, which contributed to a $2.8 billion net loss. The Postal Service is an independent federal agency that is expected to operate like a business.

Postal officials cite the weakened economy as well as the growth of e-commerce and e-mail.

The Postal Service’s year-end review anticipates no economic recovery in 2009, with another drop of 8 billion pieces.

The Postal Service managed to cut costs by $2.2 billion last year through reductions in overtime, attrition and new labor agreements. But to meet its universal service obligations of delivery six days a week and to cover the average of 1.7 million new delivery points that have been added each year over the past four years is forcing the Postal Service to cut costs by consolidating some of the 85,000 urban delivery routes across the US. The changes could affect as many as 50 million addresses nationwide.

The National Association of Letter Carriers, a UNI Post & Logistics affiliate, is actively involved in trying to deal with the crisis.The union joined with the Postal Service to put in place procedures required to change routes.

Fewer pieces of mail means it takes less time for letter carriers to sort it at their stations and it takes less time on their routes to deliver it. A postal station may have several full-time routes but one or two that take less than eight hours to sort and deliver. The delivery points on those routes could be redistributed among the others for greater efficiency and cost savings.

NALC has said that their strategy is to ensure that career employees do not lose their jobs, but they might be reassigned. The Postal Service is offering early retirement to letter carriers but there have been no involuntary layoffs. The service is relying on attrition to reduce payroll so far and NALC is working to ensure this is the case.

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