Tag Archives: USPS

Pillory of the Postmaster

Earlier this year, newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified in front of a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He was brought to the pillory to answer for changes made to the USPS that included cutting overtime and limiting post office hours, which caused politicians and postal workers across the country to hit a panic button. These very reasonable directives are necessary as DeJoy will attempt to turn-around the, often-misunderstood, health of the US Postal Service.

The USPS is an independent agency of the executive branch of the federal government and is not funded by appropriations. However, it is not independent of rule from the government. Back in 2006, Congress passed a law that guaranteed the entity would continually face a financial battle by passing the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. The PAEA requires the Postal Service to pre-fund its post-retirement health care costs, 75 years into the future. This extraordinary financial burden applies to no other federal agency or private corporation.

If the costs of the retiree health care mandate were removed from the USPS financial statements, the Post Office would have reported operating profits in each of the last six years. Many people may be surprised to learn that in the third quarter of fiscal 2020, the Postal Service reported an increase in total revenue of 3.2% compared to the same period last year. Credit goes to the increase of shipping and package delivery due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we anticipate the trend to continue given the surge in e-commerce. The PAEA retirement mandate created a financial “crisis” that has been used to skew public perception of the postal service and allows politicians to “throw rocks” at those who do understand the real challenges facing the USPS today.

Moving the mail is all about logistics. Making the entity that delivers the mail more efficient and streamlined will decrease delivery time, keep product pricing down, and just might allow the largest transportation fleet in the world to grow into an amazing success story.

For over 30-years USPS leaders have been searching for ways to sort and process mail using more automation and increase the amount of time carriers spend delivering mail. It is simply ludicrous when politicians claim that the closure of a rural post office will delay delivery of prescriptions or imply that five-day delivery is somehow denying citizens their right to receive mail. As with any organization that needs to become current and profitable, we must all keep an open mind on ways the USPS can successfully operate throughout the 2020’s.

After sitting on the Washington DC hot seat, DeJoy suspended many of his controversial changes and promised not to make any more until after the November elections. Rest assured that mail is being delivered and marketing via direct mail remains a viable and money-making way to market. We will keep you abreast of the latest happenings as they unfold.

Louis DeJoy, US Postmaster General. Daylight or Dark for the USPS?

On June 16, 2020, Louis DeJoy, a successful businessman from the private sector and Republican Party fundraiser, was sworn in to serve as the USPS CEO and our nation’s 75th US Postmaster General. DeJoy was appointed in May by a unanimous selection of the USPS Board of Governors.

DeJoy represents a new era of Postmaster General because he is not a career postal employee unlike his predecessors dating back over 19-years. John Potter served from 2001-2011. He was a second generation postal person, and his career spanned over 30-years. Up next was Patrick Donahoe, USPMG from 2011-2015. Donahoe worked at the US Postal service for over 35-years before retirement. And finally, there is Megan Brennan, the first female USPMG. Megan started as a letter carrier in 1986 and grew through the ranks during her 29-year career.

75th USPMG Lois DeJoy

75th USPMG Lois DeJoy

DeJoy’s career prior to the USPS was serving as chairman and CEO of New Breed Logistics. He spent decades in collaboration with the U.S. Postal Service, Boeing, Verizon, other public and private companies to provide supply chain logistics, program management and transportation support. New Breed Logistics was a contractor to the U.S. Postal Service for more than 25 years, supplying logistics support for multiple processing facilities.

In 2014, New Breed merged with XPO Logistics, with DeJoy serving as CEO of XPO Logistics’ supply chain business in the Americas before his retirement in December 2015. He then joined the company’s board of directors where he served until 2018.

To some, Mr DeJoy is expected to be in alignment with the current administration because of his political background and affiliations, but for right now, we don’t know.  The postal unions are likely to be leery of him because of his political background and because he’s an outsider. The unions are unlikely to give him any slack, and will test his ability to deal with organized labor.

His biggest challenge will be dealing with the mailing industry, the businesses who bring the USPS’ lion’s share of revenue, and whose support he needs. Since Amazon is one of the USPS best clients, the tumultuous relationship between Trump and Bezos may have a determining factor on future policy for the USPS. Mr. DeJoy has donated over $300,000 towards the president’s re-election campaign since January of this year.

In the meantime, it is unclear what direction Mr. DeJoy will take the US Postal or what his long-term vision is for the struggling entity. We will keep you abreast of progress as it unfolds which should be unveiled by August.

 

 

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.