Excluded Mail Continues to Reduce Volume “In Measurement”

Despite its generalized service performance claims, the volume of market-dominant mail that is excluded from the Postal Service’s measurement process continues to justify questions about whether those claims are representative.

Because the USPS measurement process relies on pieces bearing an intelligent mail barcode, documentation from mail preparers, and processing over automated equipment, any mail not meeting one of those basic requirements reduces the volume of mail potentially eligible for measurement, even before other reasons for exclusion apply.

Data

The latest data filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission by the USPS are for its second fiscal quarter (January 1 – March 31, 2022).  According to the PQ II Revenue, Pieces, and Weight report, the total mailpiece volume of Presorted First-Class Mail was 9,552,094,920; the total volume of Marketing Mail letters was 12,843,624,237; and the total volume of Periodicals was 803,828,462.

According to the PQ II Quarterly Result Aggregation for Presort First-Class Letters/Postcards, 5,535,528,933 pieces – about 58% of total volume – were “in measurement.”  The remaining 42% – over four billion pieces – were excluded from measurement because they fell into one of the fifteen categories of exclusion used by the USPS; see the chart below.  About three-fourths of total excluded volume – roughly 2.7 billion pieces – were not counted because of the “long haul” and “no start-the-clock” exclusions.  (The USPS has recently announced changes to reduce the volume of “long haul” exclusions.)

For Marketing Mail, according to the PQ II Quarterly Result Aggregation for USPS Marketing Mail reports for destination entry and origin entry letters, 8,253,743,888 letters – about 64.3% of total volume – were “in measurement.”  The remaining 33.7%, about 4.33 billion pieces, were excluded from measurement for one of the fifteen reasons, over 70% of which, about 3.01 billion pieces, because of “no piece scan” or “no start-the-clock.”

For Periodicals, according to the PQ II Quarterly Result Aggregation reports for Within- and Outside-County Periodicals, 58.1% of the mail (467 million pieces) was “in measurement.”  Of the remaining 41.9%, about 394.7 million pieces, exclusion for “no piece scan” or “no start-the-clock” was the reason 67.7% (267.2 million pieces) were disqualified.

Claims

As noted, the USPS continues to issue weekly press releases presenting homogenized class averages, but the underlying data paints a less deceptive picture.  By excluding significant volumes of mail for a long list of reasons – of which some, like “no piece scan” or “no start-the-clock” are the fault of the USPS, not the mail preparer – the agency can limit the mail on which its scores are based to only the “best.”

Some observers might find such a practice disingenuous, if not outright misleading, but under PMG Louis DeJoy, who always puts things in the most favorable light, not surprising.

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