NATIONAL POSTAL FORUM: Lofty plans, but few promises

USPS hopes to expand Priority Mail deliveries and two-day guarantee

The U.S. Postal Service didn’t reveal any details on its upcoming rate case (see “Expect rate hike by 2001,” below) during the National Postal Forum (NPF), held Sept. 26-29 in Chicago. But USPS representatives did disclose developments involving Priority Mail service and delivery confirmation, as the agency continues its efforts to build its parcel delivery business.

For one, Bernard Coley of the USPS’s sales alliance team announced that Priority Mail deliveries will be made on the two Sundays prior to Christmas this year. “We’ll look to keep it coming on Sundays across the country after Christmas as well,” he added, though he made no guarantees.

Coley also noted that the USPS is developing a system that would guarantee Priority Mail delivery within two business days. Currently Priority Mail is a nonguaranteed service that usually results in two- or three-day delivery. But “we’re not sure how close we are to reaching that goal at this point,” Coley admitted.

In another NPF session, USPS business program manager Paul Bakshi said the USPS is expanding its mail confirmation service, which it’s been testing with first class and standard A letter mail for the past two years. “We’ll start testing with flats [including most catalogs] by the end of the year,” he said, with the system expected to be completely up and running by early spring. But while the confirmation service is free for now, Bakshi anticipates that the agency will start charging an as-yet-undetermined fee by next November.

As for parcel delivery confirmation – the service in which letter carriers scan barcodes when making Priority Mail and Parcel Select (standard B) deliveries – Julie Rios, USPS manager, information services, said that the agency may add a proposal to expand the confirmation service to include standard A parcels to the upcoming postal rate case.

And next year the delivery confirmation service may be able to confirm more than the fact that the postal carrier dropped off the package, Rios said. Beginning around March 2000, postal carriers will be able to electronically collect and transmit consumers’ signatures. Development of the signature procedure has been held up for the past year, according to Rios, because the agency faced equipment development snafus. At the same time, the USPS was working its way through privacy concerns about consumers’ signatures being transmitted electronically.

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