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Kremlin on the Potomac: Postal Service Communications

Readers old enough to remember the Soviet Union also remember how skilled it was at saying nothing – about anything – no matter what.  If something happened, regardless of whether it was visible to the outside world, it simply wasn’t acknowledged.  A natural disaster?  Never happened.  The disappearance of an important figure?  He’s fine.  A bomber crash into a village?  No bomber, nothing happened.

If outsiders posed a question about any event, the basic answer, if there was one, was denial, deflection, or obfuscation.  The Soviets never admitted to anything going wrong, to any internal failures, or to any event or condition that might break the illusion they so ardently projected or that might provide an outsider a peek into what’s really going on.

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Parsing the Causes for an Historic Service Collapse – Analysis

Usually, after the busy fall mailing season and the holiday rush, things return to normal for the Postal Service and its commercial mailing customers.  As everyone knows, however, the current environment is anything but normal.

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USPS Issues Post-Election Report

In a perhaps unusual move, the Postal Service released a report in late December reviewing the 2020 election and its role in the vote-by-mail process.  Posted on its Link site on December 30, 2020, the 22-page document, Post-Election Analysis: Delivering the Nation’s Election Mail in an Extraordinary Year, summarizes the agency’s actions in support of the election process.

The report detailed its performance at the national level:

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Lack of Information Continues About Delays at USPS Facilities

As the latest wave of illness related to the ongoing pandemic sweeps across the country, the Postal Service, like other businesses, is suffering from staffing shortages as workers become sickened, or are absent to quarantine or care for family members.

Postal officials have stated that USPS facilities typically can have a 3-4% absentee rate – employees on leave for one reason or another – but that some are now facing staffing shortfalls of up to 20%.  For example, if an incoming dock operation at a plant had an approved staffing of 20, and could function with 19 or 18, it likely would be challenged to meet unload times if only 15 or 16 employees were available.

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Can Scan Data Be Believed?

One of the better features of many USPS mail categories and services is the use of a unique barcode on mailpieces that, when scanned by Postal Service machines or people, can yield information about the item’s location (and delivery status).  Of course, the value and accuracy of that information depend on whether the scan actually was captured at the time and location reported to the customer.

The USPS regularly details on its daily Link the percentage of expected delivery scans that actually occur.  For the week ending October 16, for example, the national score was 97.06%, down 0.14% from the previous week.  The areas and districts that do the best typically score in the mid- to high-ninety percent range, meaning that the others do more poorly; the agency doesn’t disclose them.

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The Postal Third Rails

As many people know, the third rail in a subway system is the one that’s electrified to provide power to the train motors; touching it would be fatal.  In politics, a “third rail” is an issue that’s equally dangerous and that, if tackled by a politician, can be fatal to the person’s political career.  Changing the social security system is often cited as a “third rail.”

The USO

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USPS Responds to Worries Over Vote-By-Mail

As has become all too apparent in the popular media, the viability of widespread voting by mail, and the Postal Service’s ability to timely process and deliver the associated volume, have become intertwined with other political controversies.

On one side, notably by the White House, vote-by-mail is portrayed as flawed or corrupt, and that regardless of its use, the Postal Service isn’t capable of handling the volume.  Concurrently, for that and other reasons, the administration is continuing its spiteful objection to any funds for the USPS being included in a COVID-related relief bill.

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Delivery Changes Met by Media Criticism

Changes to mail processing and delivery procedures being adopted by the Postal Service have been met with criticism in the general media.  News articles frequently cite customer and labor union concerns over delays in mail delivery and fault the USPS for placing budgets ahead of service.

Many examples

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Not a “Partner” the USPS Needs: Across the US in Only 27 Days

According to Google Maps, someone driving from Inglewood (CA) to Ft Myers (FL) at a steady 70 miles per hour would need 38 hours to complete the 2,659-mile trip.

Of course, in the world of commercial shipping, an item being sent from Inglewood to Ft Myers wouldn’t travel like that, instead taking a slower, likely longer route, perhaps through intermediate transfer points along the way.

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Lack of Transportation Impacting International Mail

The article below was produced by Merry Law, Mailers Hub’s expert, and consultant on international mail. Merry may be reached at [email protected].


COVID-19 closures, lack of transport capacity, self-declared inbound rates, expiring USPS consolidator contracts, no bilateral agreements with other countries: Taking this a piece at a time can make sense of what is happening, who it affects and how. Let’s start with the more temporary effects of the current pandemic crisis and move on to the longer-term matters.

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April Results Show COVID Impact

As the economic impact of the COVID pandemic came into full force, the consequences for mail volume, and Postal Service revenue, were reflected in the agency’s April financial results. Overlaid on this was the burden of various prefunding obligations and the usual fluctuating valuation of the Postal Service’s workers’ compensation liability.

Volume and revenue

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Still Time to Make The Mailers Conference on September 20, 2019

There is still time to make the 2019 Mailers Conference.

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FREE Mailers Hub Webinar - August 20, 2019

Our speaker will be Jason DeChambeau, Manager, Processing Operations at USPS HQ.

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A Complicated Answer to a Simple Question

Excerpted from the May 27, 2019 issue of Mailers Hub News. Subscribers click here to access the full version.

When I spoke recently at an industry gathering, one of the questions I got (after reviewing the PQ II service scores) was what the USPS could do about its service performance. Why is service so poor in some places? What can be done to improve it, especially in the chronically low-performing districts? What actions can management take?

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Focus on Printing Overlooks Impact on Logistics

Excerpted from the May 13 edition of Mailers Hub News. Subscribers can find the full edition and archived issues here
(Not a subscriber? Contact us.)

In case there’s any member of the hard-copy messaging industry who’s not noticed, the traditional distinction between a “printer” and a “mailer” has been blurred – sometimes erased – in recent years as printing companies add mailing capability and mail producers buy digital printing equipment.
(Of course, both are also adding agency, marketing, fulfillment, and other services.)\

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Postal Pintos - The Inflammable LLV Problem

Excerpted from the February 4, 2019 Issue of Mailers Hub News

It’s common knowledge in the postal community that the Postal Service’s fleet of about 140,000 “long-life vehicles” has more than outlived its name. Originally meant to last 24 years (but later extended to 30 years), the ubiquitous LLV is used by city and rural carriers nationwide. Out of production since 1994, the oldest trucks in the fleet are now 31 years old, but the anticipated replacement vehicles, expected to cost about $6 billion in all, have yet to be chosen.

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