Trying to Deal With an Outdated Postal Service

I read a recent opinion piece in the The Washington Post about the U.S. Postal Service and the fact that no one can seem to figure out what to do to either make it a viable entity or replace it entirely.

A few interesting numbers in that story:

  • USPS’s 574,000 employees trails only Wal-Mart among civilian employers
  • Its more than 215,000 vehicles (the world’s largest fleet) travel 1.25 billion miles and use nearly 400 million gallons of fuel a year
  • Total mail volume of 213 billion in 2006 dropped to 171 billion in 2010, with stamped mail declining 47% in the last decade

Beyond the numbers is the more troubling stance of the American Postal Workers Union, which would prefer to close its eyes rather than face reality:

On its Web site, the American Postal Workers Union disputes  the notion that “hard-copy mail is destined to be replaced by electronic messages.” Mail volume was down, it says, because its principal component — advertising — had fallen in the recession. “As the nation and the world emerge from economic stagnation, hard-copy mail volume will expand,” it asserts. But that, of course, ignores the rise of the Internet, and its ever-growing use for checking bills or sending payments — with no need for that army of 500,000.

The Internet can’t be used to tele-transport packages, of course, and our use of package delivery services, including the Postal Service’s, has grown with e-commerce. But the Postal Service is running large deficits, bumping up against the $15 billion limit it is permitted to borrow, and is on the brink of default unless Congress comes to the rescue.

Is this where the Postal Service wants to make its stand, as a package delivery service, one among several providers? Does anyone really care whether the Postal Service or U.P.S. drops the package at the doorstep? 

Postal Future a Stormy One

The organziation that once promised that rain, sleet or snow would not prevent it from completing its appointed rounds is now facing a cloudy future because it is bleeding money at unprecedented levels.

A few facts (and then seeking your opinion):

  • A $2.4 billion quarterly loss for the U.S. Postal Service, extending its string of red ink to at least the last three years
  • A projected mail volume decline as high as 20% between 2008 and 2010
  • The potential closure of nearly 700 post offices around the country
  • Shockingly, lawmakers, postal officials and union leaders are at odds about what to do next

My take: the model is broken; don’t tinker around the edges; don’t prop it up with additional government subsidies (our taxpayer money). It’s a whole different mail delivery world, requiring innovative solutions. Do downsize; do privatize if that is deemed best; do create a system that will serve us well into the future.

Your thoughts?