The United States Postal Service is one of the oldest and most reliable American institutions. The origin of the USPS actually predates the country, dating to 1775 when the Continental Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin as the first postmaster general. Since then, it has grown into a sophisticated national organization, with advanced logistical and tracking capabilities that citizens, organizations and businesses rely on.
However, beginning in 2020, a series of Postal Service delays and hastily-implemented restructuring programs caused concern among organizations, public servants, and private citizens alike, leading to questions about the future of the organization. Now, with the USPS in the midst of a new phase of restructuring, business leaders are understandably worried about the possible impact on mail delivery.
Fortunately, there’s no need to worry! While USPS logistical changes will have some impact on first-class mail delivery windows, Lob customers can still count on prompt delivery. Here’s what you need to know about the ongoing USPS logistical changes.
The Roots of USPS Logistical Changes
For many years, the USPS was famed as the only federal organization that yielded a profit. That changed, not as a result of market changes or issues with USPS governance, but because of an act of Congress.
In 2006, congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, a pre-funding mandate that requires the service to pay for retiree benefits at least 50 years in advance. This held the postal service to a standard not forced on any other federal institution, requiring them to stock away billions of dollars per year and creating serious cash flow problems.
It was also the beginning of the public perception that the Postal Service was an unsustainable institution, which has since been used as a rationale for cuts and restructuring.
The 2020 USPS Restructuring Controversy
In the lead up to the 2020 presidential election, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy began a rollback of postal services, which he described as a cost-cutting measure.
The Postmaster took a number of actions that led to accusations that he was trying to slow down ballot deliveries to suppress voter turnout. These included the removing high speed sorting machines from postal facilities across the country, requiring postal vehicles to leave at set times even if the mail was not ready for delivery, and prohibiting return trips to delivery centers to pick up and deliver mail that arrived later in the day.
14 states sued to stop the changes, and a federal judge granted an injunction stopping further changes until the election, calling the changes “a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service.”
This injunction postponed changes until after the election, tamped down the controversy in the short term, and slowed the rate of USPS logistical changes. However, the organization is still undergoing a transformation, and in 2021 has begun some major changes as part of a long-term restructuring plan.
2021 USPS Postal Logistical Changes
This round of USPS changes are part of a multi-phase program, begun in August 2020. The current phase, announced in March 2021, has three main components: a District Consolidation Plan, Centralization of Marketing functions, and Realignment of Logistics and Processing Operations.
- District Consolidation Plan: The USPS will rearrange its 67 districts into 50 districts. It’s not clear what effect, if any, this will have on consumers.
- Marketing Centralization: Postal marketing, which has been handled “at the area and district levels” will now be centralized.
- Logistics Realignment: The USPS will create a thirteenth division to handle Logistics and Processing Operations.
The USPS is also offering Voluntary Early Retirement to non-bargaining employees across various offices
What Do the USPS Changes Mean for Businesses?
While the internal restructuring itself may not have any impact on postal deliveries, the USPS has also made changes to their first-class mail delivery processes. Previously, first-class mail could travel from one side of the contiguous United States to the other within three days.
According to the Washington Post, the new plan adds four-day and five-day standards for longer distances while cutting air service. That means if you wanted to send a first-class letter from, say, New York to Seattle, it could take as long as five days to arrive, instead of the previous three.
These changes are likely to result in somewhat slower deliveries on average, and impact Western states and parts of the South in particular. The Washington Post calculates that the biggest impacts will be felt by Western states, Florida and Texas. Here are the top states affected, and the percentage of mail that will be slowed by the logistical changes:
- Nevada (70%)
- Florida (60%)
- Washington State (58%)
- Montana (57%)
- Arizona (55%)
- Oregon (55%)
While this represents a significant reduction in services, it's important to note that average slowdown will not be great. In the areas with the greatest slowdown — parts of Oregon and Washington — mail will only take one day longer to arrive on average.
What This Means for Lob Customers
Lob has built an extensive print network, and partnership with the USPS, enabling us to produce and deliver mail quickly and efficiently. Using our sophisticated logistical tools, we’ll be able to compensate for the changes in delivery times. As a result, the effects of these changes on Lob’s performance will be minimal, and you can continue to expect the same excellent level of service you have become accustomed to. That means your mail will still be delivered on exactly the day you want it delivered.