Last week the U.S. Postal Service released revisions to its proposed mailing standards as part of the pending rate case, which if approved will be implemented in May.
The revisions were published in the Federal Register on Jan. 17 (www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/a070117c.html). Comments on the proposed revisions are being accepted through Jan. 31. You can send written comments to: Manager of Mailing Standards, U.S. Postal Service, 475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3436, Washington, DC 20260-3436.
With the rate case, which it introduced in May 2006, the USPS is trying to align how much it charges for postage with the actual costs of processing the various types of mail. For that reason, a mail piece’s shape will be as critical as its weight in determining its postage. The current price structure is based primarily on weight, but the Postal Service has determined that certain large but lightweight pieces actually cost more to process than some smaller, heavier pieces.
Another goal of the rate case is to encourage mailers to take on more of the mail preparation tasks, such as sorting, by offering work-sharing discounts. Several of the revisions introduced in January relax the rules regarding sorting and bundling, however, most likely in hopes of encouraging more mailers to participate.
Among the revisions most pertinent to catalogers are
* relaxed standards for flexibility. In the updated proposal, the flexibility test–which determines if a flat is too rigid to qualify for automated processing and would there have to be charged a higher rate–is more forgiving of flats with rigid inserts. Most bound publications and catalogs do not need to be tested when they are not in a box and do not contain rigid inserts.
* relaxed standards for deflection—a.k.a. droop. Just as overly rigid flats cannot be processed via machine, neither can overly droopy ones. The revised deflection test allows pieces to droop to within one inch of length, up to a maximum of four inches, instead of up to four inches for pieces greater than 10 inches long and up to two inches for pieces less than 10 inches long.
* a relaxed definition of uniform thickness. Flats need to be of uniform thickness in order to qualify for automated processing and discounted rates. The revised proposal allows for a variation of up to 0.25 inch in thickness, not counting selvage.
Next month the USPS will publish another revision of the rate case in the Federal Register incorporating the latest comments, which will serve as the final rate case proposal. The USPS Board of Governors cannot vote on the rate case for at least a month after the final revisions are published.