The Postal Regulatory Commission today issued its advisory opinion on the USPS’s plans to better spread advertising mail through the week by changing the daily delivery standards. The PRC found that the USPS hadn’t done enough testing to verify whether or not the plan would work, and has so far failed to gain support for the scheme from customers:
The Commission finds that the Postal Service’s Destination Sectional Center Facility (DSCF) Load Leveling Plan may provide a potential means of leveling DSCF Standard Mail daily delivery volumes. However, the limited testing is inconclusive regarding the effects of the plan on a nationwide basis. Accordingly, the plan appears to need further development. To that end, the Commission recommends certain actions for the Postal Service’s consideration.
The Postal Service’s initial assessment is that the Load Leveling Plan will facilitate workload equalization throughout the week for processing and delivery of DSCF entered Standard Mail. Load leveling is accomplished by changing the 3-day service standard to 4-days for DSCF Standard Mail entered after Critical Entry Times (CET) on Thursdays and before CET on Saturdays.
The Postal Service identifies potential benefits of the Load Leveling Plan as: a reduction in mail processing work hours and carrier overtime hours; earlier completion of carrier routes and return of mail collected on carrier routes; and an improvement in downstream operations and service for mail collected on carrier routes.
The Commission finds the Postal Service’s initial assessment and identification of potential benefits shows some promise, but cautions this evaluation is based on limited test information and sometimes anecdotal accounts. The Commission urges the Postal Service to undertake a more rigorous cost-benefit analysis, additional field testing and service performance analysis, and volume impact studies before committing to a nationwide rollout of the Load Leveling Plan.
The Commission is also concerned that the Postal Service has not generated more support within the mailing community for its plan. A Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) with representatives from 18 different companies was formed to consider options for workload equalization. The committee was unable to come to a consensus that the Load Leveling Plan is the appropriate solution that will smooth workloads across days of the week. The absence of significant support is an indication that the Postal Service may not provide the level of service desired by its customers, and thus may negatively affect mail volumes.
The Commission provides the following recommendations to the Postal Service for consideration before proceeding with its plan:
- The Postal Service should perform a cost-benefit analysis at the national level to ensure that the Load Leveling Plan is cost effective, while providing the anticipated benefits;
- The Postal Service should assess the plan’s impact on volume and co-mailing/co-palletization activities;
- The Postal Service should perform additional field testing, since the results of the limited testing may not be representative at the national level;
- The Postal Service should further analyze the plan’s effect on service performance; and
- The Postal Service should conduct more extensive customer outreach to obtain a clearer understanding of mailers’ questions and concerns.