Tag Archives: USPS

USPS Robotic Arm Patent Approved

In August, the USPS was granted a patent for a sorting robot intended to work inside a delivery truck’s freight bay while making deliveries.

The robot will grasp items and move them between storage bins, grouping mail and packages together to be delivered to the same address and shrink wrapping them.

It is suggested that the robotic arm would be able to pass items through a window from the freight bay into the cab of a delivery vehicle to the driver for delivery, and one or more robotic arms could be used in a single vehicle.

The robot outlined in the patent is not complicated. The arm would have some dexterity, commonly seen in today’s manufacturing environment already, but it could replace some of the work generally performed by humans. Most mail and parcels come to a local post office presorted by zip code but must be further grouped by route and address from there. Performing the final phase of this sorting while driving to the delivery point, could cut down on delivery time and labor.

Just because a patent is granted does not mean a technology will ever see the light of day. However, labor has been a source of financial strain for the USPS, so technological solutions are being considered with more weight than in previous times.

The patent states that current methods of delivery are expensive, at least in part due to labor costs. Methods and systems to reduce the human workload along a delivery route are needed to reduce the cost.

Where is Houston Informed Delivery?

If you’re part of the estimated 800K+ subscribers to the USPS Informed Delivery program in the Houston metropolitan area, or a marketer utilizing it from other parts of the country, you’re probably wondering where it went?!  It’s another casualty of Tropical Storm Imelda, but don’t worry – it will soon be back on track.

The USPS is working on linking the subscribers from the Houston area market to the seven facilities outside of the area that are processing mail since last week after the North Houston facility roof caved in during the storm. (For details on the contingency plan and where your mail is being processed, click here.) We anticipate the uploading of subscribers to be completed by the end of this week.

As soon as the subscribers are linked and Informed Delivery for Houston is fully operational, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Houston Postal Delivery Update

Due to serious flooding caused by Tropical Depression Imelda:

  • All Post Offices within the following 3-digit ZIP Codes are closed: 775, 776 and 777.
    • All operations are suspended.
    • There will be no mail delivery or retail operations.
    • Drop shipments are not being accepted
  • North Houston is closed due to safety issues.
    • Drop shipments will not be accepted until further notice.
  • Beaumont plant is closed and not accepting any drop shipments.
  • Conroe Post Office is closed.
    • There will be no mail delivery or retail operations or drop shipments accepted.

We anticipate a contingency plan to be published on Monday or Tuesday of next week.We will share with you immediately, as soon as alternate delivery and acceptance locations are announced.

 

 

USPS Driverless Test Run

The US Postal Service has entered into a contract with self-driving truck startup TuSimple to haul mail between Dallas and Phoenix. Founder, Xiaodi Hou says that this USPS pilot gives them fuel to help validate their system and expedite the technological development and commercialization progress.

TuSimple will complete five round trips between May 28 and June 10 while a safety engineer and licensed driver ride along in the cab. Its Level 4 self-driving system (see below for self-driving categories defined), uses 8 cameras to detect cars, pedestrians, and other obstacles over one-half a mile away, even in inclement weather.

TuSimple’s camera-based system allows it to achieve three centimeter (1.18 inch) precision for truck positioning even in inclement weather and tunnels with real-time decision making. By keeping aware of traffic flow ahead, trucks are able to maintain a given speed more consistently than human drivers which can cut fuel consumption by as much as 15%.

The USPS has been interested in self-driving technology for a long time. In 2017, a report published by the Inspector General detailed plans to add semi-autonomous mail trucks to its fleet as early as 2025. Placed into service on 28,000 rural routes, they would free up about 310,000 postal workers to sort and deliver packages.

TuSimple has R&D labs in San Diego and test facilities in Tuscon. It expects to close out 2019 with a 200-truck fleet in the US and a 300-truck fleet in China, making it the largest self-driving truck solutions company in the world.

Later this year, TuSimple will operate several self-driving trucks for 22 hours each along the I-10, I-20, and I-30 corridors through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. It says freight along the I-10 corridor accounts for 60% of the US’s total economic activity. It expects its semi-autonomous trucks to be a frequent sight along that route in the months ahead.

Self-Driving Systems are categorized by five-levels:

Level 1- Driver Assistance-Under specific conditions, the car controls either the steering or the vehicle speed, but not both simultaneously. The driver performs all other aspects of driving and has full responsibility for monitoring the road and taking over if the assistance system fails to act appropriately. Cruise control is Level 1

Level 2- Partial Automation- The car can steer, accelerate, and brake only in certain circumstances. Maneuvers such as responding to traffic signals or changing lanes largely fall to the driver, as well as scanning for hazards.

Level 3- Conditional Automation-The car is able to manage most aspects of driving, including monitoring the environment. The system prompts the driver to intervene when it encounters a scenario it can’t navigate. The driver must be available to take over at any time.

Level 4 -High Automation-The vehicle can operate without human input or oversight but only under select conditions defined by factors such as road type or geographic area. In a shared car restricted to a defined area, there may not be any. But in a privately owned Level 4 car, the driver might manage all driving duties on surface streets then become a passenger as the car enters a highway.

Level 5- Full Automation-The vehicle can operate on any road and in any conditions a human driver could negotiate.

Carlson Sues the USPS Over Rate Hike

Self proclaimed Postal Watchdog Douglas Carlson is suing the USPS over the five cent increase on the First Class Stamp.  He sites that the increase will be the largest increase in history for the one postage price that most Americans pay. As a percentage, the 10-percent increase is the largest since 1991, and it is about four times the average increase since 2006.  Read more here.

USPS Q1 RESULTS

WASHINGTON – February 8, 2019 – The U.S. Postal Service reported total revenue of $19.7 billion for the first quarter of fiscal 2019 (Oct. 1, 2018 – Dec. 31, 2018), an increase of $553 million, or 2.9%, compared to the same quarter last year.

First-Class Mail revenue declined by $81 million, or 1.2%, on a volume decline of 428 million pieces, or 2.8%, compared to the same quarter last year. Meanwhile, Marketing Mail revenue increased by $218 million, or 4.9%, on volume growth of 1.0 billion pieces, or 4.8%, compared to the same quarter last year. Shipping and Packages revenue increased by $516 million, or 8.7%, on volume growth of 93 million pieces, or 5.4%, compared to the same quarter last year.

Total operating expenses were $21.2 billion for the quarter, an increase of $1.6 billion, or 7.9%, compared to the same quarter last year. Excluding the impact of the $621 million non-cash workers’ compensation expense increase resulting from changes in interest rates and actuarial assumptions, operating expenses would have been $20.6 billion for the quarter, an increase of $939 million, or 4.8%, compared to the same quarter last year. The remaining operating expense increase was largely driven by increases in compensation and benefits of $657 million, due to additional hours and contractual wage adjustments, and transportation costs of $207 million, due to higher fuel costs and highway contract rate inflation.

The net loss for the quarter totaled $1.5 billion, an increase in net loss of nearly $1.0 billion compared to the same quarter last year.

“We continued to drive growth in our package business and expanded use of the marketing mail channel during the quarter. Nevertheless, we face ongoing financial challenges. We remain focused on aggressive management of the business, legislative reform, and pricing system reform, all of which are necessary to put the Postal Service on firm financial footing,” said Postmaster General and CEO Megan J. Brennan. “Our nation is best served by a financially sustainable Postal Service that can invest in its future and meet the evolving mailing and shipping needs of the American public.”

The controllable loss for the quarter was $103 million, compared to controllable income of $353 million for the same quarter last year.

“Overall volumes increased this quarter driven primarily by growth in Marketing Mail and our package business, which resulted in total revenue growth of $553 million,” said Chief Financial Officer and Executive VP Joseph Corbett. “This growth was offset by increased work hours and related salaries and benefits, increases in transportation costs due to these higher volumes and the continued focus on meeting customers’ needs.”

First Quarter Fiscal 2019 Operating Revenue and Volume by Service Category Compared to Prior Year – READ MORE HERE

USPS Rate Comparison First Class

In an order issued on November 9th, the Postal Regulatory Commission(PRC) approved the Postal Service’s proposed prices for market-dominant products. In its 63-page decision, the PRC found that the proposed rates do not violate the price cap and that the workshare discounts meet statutory requirements; proposed classification changes also were approved.

Earlier the commission also approved USPS price changes for competitive products.

As a result, the price changes announced last month by the USPS will be implemented as planned on January 21, 2018.  Below is a price comparison chart for First Class Rates.  For a downloadable PDF of the January First Class Rates, click here.

WHAT IS INFORMED DELIVERY

Informed delivery is a free and optional notification service that gives residential consumers the ability to see a preview of their letter mail, wherever they are,  BEFORE IT ARRIVES.

Participating customers (20 million strong so far), receive an email containing an image of the outside of their  letter-sized and package mailpieces that will be arriving soon.

Notifications can also be viewed on the dashboard at informeddelivery.usps.com.  Notifications are not sent on days when there is no mail to be delivered, or on  Sundays and federal holidays.

There is a lot of potential for marketers as this program takes root.  You have the option to make the images  interactive by connecting to your website or landing  pages.

 

HOW DO I SIGN UP?

  • Visit informeddelivery.usps.com
  • Click View My Mail
  • Go to My Preferences. Under Account Management, you will see a box for Informed Delivery.  Click Manage Your Mail
  • Opt IN to Informed Delivery by selecting the check box and confirm your address.  Complete ID verification process.
  • Start receiving notifications within the next few days!

 

Postal Rate Case Update

Today the USPS filed it’s rate case with the PRC (Postal Regulatory Commission), for a rate hike to take effect January 21, 2018.

As expected, the overall postal rate increase falls just short of 2%, excluding Nonprofit (NP), Marketing rates.
As noted within our newsletter, the Bureau, the USPS is trying to change the way nonprofit rates are calculated. Click here to read more.
If the PRC accepts the request (which is uncertain as a legal challenge will most likely follow), nonprofit prices could increase anywhere from 3.3% – 6.9% over and above other increases. As the rate case stands now, Marketing Mail Nonprofit Auto Letters are proposed to increase by 2.9%. All news isn’t bad in the NP realm, USPS marketing Mail 5-Digit Auto Flats entered at Origin are proposed to drop by 6.97%.
First Class stamps are slated to rise to 50¢ and international first class letters, cards, and flats won’t increase at all.
The PRC has up to 45-days to respond and suggest changes. We’ll keep you posted as the rate case moves through its channels.

The Nonprofit Postal Rate Controversy

The PRC (Postal Regulatory Commission) has been petitioned for approval to amend its method of calculating Standard and Nonprofit (NP) prices.

Since 2000, the 60% rule applies to NP rates.  That means that the average NP revenue per piece should be 60% of the estimated average revenue per piece rate, class-wide.  The USPS wants to revert to using a methodology that was used prior to the passage of postal reform legislation where  regular and ECR (enhanced carrier route) rates are considered subclasses of mail.  The Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers alerted members that by reverting to the prior methodology, prices could increase 3.3% to 6.9% over and above other increases that are proposed for implementation in January of 2018.

The PRC Public Representative recognized the potential “rate shock” facing nonprofit mailers, and urged the USPS to apply any corrective price adjustments (over the annual CPI cap increase) over more than two       price-adjustment cycles.

There isn’t a time constraint applicable for the PRC to issue a decision on the matter, and the comment period on the USPS proposal ended on September 18th.  Knowing the possibility of a legal challenge, the PRC may be more deliberate in issuing its ruling than usual.  We’ll keep you posted as this issue unfolds.

*from The Bureau-October 2017 issue