Post officials looking at five-day mail delivery

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY, Ga. -- Hearings are currently underway in Washington, D.C., and throughout the country to look at the possibility of eliminating Saturday mail delivery sometime next year.

"The process to restructure (the delivery system) is a lengthy process," said Nancy Ross, south Georgia spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service. "To meet the end date, we need to prepare ahead of time."

The Postal Service has proposed to end regular Saturday delivery to street addresses as part of a comprehensive plan they say will ensure that it can continue to deliver affordable service to customers.

They argue that many activities formerly done by mail are now accomplished online, resulting in mail volume dropping from 213 billion pieces in 2007 to 177 billion pieces in 2009. The Postal Service predicts that volume will continue to fall to 150 billion pieces by the end of the decade.

Ten years ago, the average household received five pieces of mail every day. Today it receives four pieces, and it is expected to be three pieces in the next 10 years.

Postal officials say limiting street delivery to five days a week will help re-balance operations with the needs of customers and save about $3 billion a year, and will also result in reduced in energy use and carbon emissions.

"With the reduction in mail volume, we have to cut cost," Ross explained. "It's unfortunate that we have to reconsider our business plan, but it's necessary."

The Postal Service is not funded by taxpayers, but rather through revenue from products and services. Since carriers still stop at each address, postal costs are largely fixed. Unless some fundamental changes occur, postal officials predict the gap will grow each year -- producing cumulative losses of $238 billion by 2020.

The proposed plan states the following:

Mail will not be delivered to street addresses, and will not be collected from blue street collection boxes or post offices Saturday. There will be no Saturday pickups from homes or businesses.

Mail will continue to be delivered to post office boxes Saturday.

Express Mail will still be delivered seven days a week.

Outgoing mail may still be dropped off at a post office or in a collection box Saturday, and will be processed on Monday.

Bulk mail acceptance will still continue Saturday and Sunday.

Postal officials say they have been getting feedback from the public indicating that they are prepared to adapt to such a change.

"We've gotten a strong response from the public that they would support this," Ross said.

Early on in the process, there were other days of the week that the Postal Service was considering. It was eventually decided that Saturday would make the most sense.

"We have a lot of commercial and business deliveries and most (businesses) aren't open Saturday," Ross said. "We took a look at other days of the week, but they just weren't viable. Saturday is definitely the ideal day of the week."

The Postal Service is expected to provide at least six months notice to customers should a change occur. In order for the Postal Service to make the change, Congress must agree not to enact legislation requiring mail to be delivered six days a week after the end of Fiscal Year 2010.

Officials anticipate that, if the proposed plan goes through, a final decision will be made in October with the implementation occurring in mid-2011 at the earliest.

The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) is holding hearings in Washington, D.C., and in various cities nationwide to get a sense via individual testimonies from officials on the national and local level as to how the change would impact them.

"The hearings are going well," PRC spokesman Norman Scherstrom said.

The field hearings have been ongoing since May 10 and will run through June 28. The next session will be in Chicago on June 21. So far, they have included representatives from businesses, government agencies, postal offices and the general public.

"There is certainly a lot of public interest," Scherstrom said. "We have been going into the local communities and reaching out to the public to let them know what is going on."

At this time, postal officials are not looking at adjusting rates, Ross said.

"Any rate adjustments announced will be a separate issue," she said.

To date, the PRC has gotten roughly 8,000 e-mails and phone calls regarding the possible change. More information regarding the hearings, including a list of witnesses providing testimony, is available at www.prc.gov.