Postal Updates

PRC again questions USPS mail delivery plan

Oct 9, 2021, 11 AM

By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent

Two days before the United States Postal Service inaugurated a new, slower mail delivery plan, the Postal Regulatory Commission once again cast doubt on key elements in the plan.

But the commission conceded in a Sept. 29 news release that it was powerless to enforce any of its suggested changes.

While the PRC said it found the “stated goals … appear reasonable,” it declared that the overall slow mail plan is based on facts that “have not been demonstrated.”

After reviewing the critical comments from the commission, the USPS said it would not implement new mail delivery standards on first-class packages on Oct. 1 as it had planned.

Changes for first-class letters and publications began on that date.

Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer said Sept. 29 that the agency would set a new date shortly for first-class packages but did not elaborate.

What prompted the commission’s ire was Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s plan to slow mail deliveries to reduce the agency’s continuing multimillion dollar deficits.

His Delivering for America plan would lengthen delivery times for approximately 31.2 percent of first-class mail by one to two days, the commission said.

The plan eliminates the old requirement that all first-class letters should take no more than three days to be delivered.

The PRC first attacked the plan in a July 20 advisory opinion that raised many of the same issues it renewed in its Sept. 29 opinion.

Asked why the commission repeated its complaints, spokeswoman Gail Adams said: “The Commission found similar issues of concern in the second advisory opinion that it did in the first and explained and repeated them again in its order. Each advisory opinion is its own document and should meet an appropriate standard.”

The commission found the proposed changes to first-class packages consistent with postal regulations, but questioned the agency’s ability to execute them and save millions of dollars.

Partenheimer said the delay for packages did not mean that DeJoy’s overall plans were in trouble.

“As an initial matter, we agree with the Commission’s conclusions that the changes we proposed are consistent with the applicable statutory requirements and that our stated goals for making these changes are reasonable, and we are confident in our ability to successfully implement them,” he said.

“Further, while we intend to review the Commission’s recommendations, we note that they are generally consistent with our plans, and we are therefore likely to largely adopt them,” Partenheimer added.

“Modifying select service standards will allow additional transport time for long-distance package deliveries and increased network efficiencies,” he said.

“The proposed new service standards for First-Class Package Service will also enable additional package volume to be transported by surface transportation, which is more reliable and affordable compared to air transportation,” he said. 

“The service standard changes are part of the Postal Service’s Delivering for America strategic plan and will help the organization achieve its goal of consistently meeting 95 percent on-time service performance,” Partenheimer said.

The PRC saw the issue differently and appeared to be challenging DeJoy’s 10-year plan in both its opinions. Both questioned the Postal Service’s ability to implement the overall plans and expressed doubt that they could achieve the financial savings the USPS was predicting.

“It is unclear when the Postal Service plans to realize the full impact of its proposed changes to the service standards,” the commission said in the Sept. 29 news release.

“The proposed changes may have a positive impact on the Postal Service’s ability to meet its service performance targets,” the PRC said, adding that the plan contained no interim service standards to judge its success.

The Sept. 29 opinion also questioned the cost savings of switching the transportation of  mail from airplanes to trucks and wondered if the USPS was “operationally capable of running a complex surface network.”

The Postal Service has largely depended on a national contract with Federal Express to carry much of its first-class mail.

DeJoy, a former logics company executive, wants to see more mail moved on highways.

The latest PRC opinion also urged the USPS to establish interim goals and “rigorous analytical methodology” to track the costs of the changes.

One major mail group had noted changes in the mailstream before the new delivery plans became effective.

Stephen Kearney, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, said in his organization’s Sept. 28 bulletin that many of his members were already reducing their use of first-class mail.

“They had been choosing this service over marketing mail because it was delivered reliably faster,” he said.

“With the pandemic, much first-class mail has slowed down to more closely resemble much-cheaper marketing mail,” Kearney said.

How will the new slow mail affect your letters?

The Washington Post has an answer for what it believes the new, slower delivery plans will do.

Just enter your five-digit ZIP code at the paper’s website and it will show you how long it should take your letter to arrive at its destination.

As predicted by some critics of the plan, the paper’s model says that the “most impacted seem disproportionately ... states west of the Rocky Mountains and the country’s mainland extremities, including large swaths of southern Texas and Florida.”

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