Postal Forum Report: Some Good News

Some encouraging news about postal rates: In his speeches at September’s National Postal Forum in Boston, Postmaster General Jack Potter promised that because the U.S. Postal Service has been able to cut its annual loss to less than $1 billion for the fiscal year just ended, “there will be no general rate hike until well into 2004.”

Potter also announced that the USPS has begun implementing its Confirm delivery tracking service on a subscription basis. Confirm uses Web-based data technology to enable mailers to find out the status of their mailings as they go through their processing systems. Confirm’s key feature is its ability to enable postal operations managers to isolate operational problems and then improve service and deliverability predictability.

Potter said his goals for 2003 include continuing the push to work with the Postal Rate Commission (PRC) on alternatives to the postal ratemaking process. As part of the effort, the agency inked a deal in mid-September for its first negotiated service agreement (NSA). The deal with banking giant Capital One Services was proposed to the PRC in the form of a rate case. (In early October, the USPS was expected to file a second proposal with the PRC that will offer small-circulation periodicals a means of achieving work-sharing discounts akin to those of larger magazines.)

On the technical side, the Postal Service signed a contract on Sept. 20 with manufacturer Lockheed Martin to receive 74 new high-speed small-parcel processors to be deployed by the end of this year. The new machines can handle more than twice the volume that the USPS’s existing small-parcel processors and bundle sorters can, according to Thomas Day, vice president of engineering for the Postal Service.

In the meantime, the USPS is trying to fix a problem catalogers have had with its flats sorters tearing their covers off, Day told Forum attendees: “We’re looking for funding approval for a feeder enhancement that greatly diminishes the problem.” Day said that the USPS’s worst problems with catalog covers occurred in April. “But through some enhancements in operational procedure, we’ve greatly diminished the problem.”

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