You take sixteen billion, and what do you get? Another day shorter and lighter in debt — or so the Post Office hopes. The USPS went into the red in 2012 by an astounding $16 billion, and needs to find ways to cut costs. CBS News reports this morning that they will trim one-sixth of their deliveries by ending 150 years of Saturday service for first-class mail:
Get ready for some big changes in your mail service. After losing $16 billion last year, the postmaster general will make announce Wednesday that the Postal Service intends to halt Saturday delivery of first-class mail by this summer, Aug. 1, CBS News has learned. That means most mailers, letters and catalogs would not arrive on Saturdays, ending a 150-year tradition.
The plan to shrink delivery from six days a week to five would only affect first-class mail, while packages, mail-order medicines, priority and express mail would still get delivered on Saturdays.
I don’t really consider this a big change. After all, what I don’t get on Saturday, I’ll still get on Monday. Most of my first-class mail is either bills or letters from friends — at least the mail I actually care about — none of which are particularly urgent. Anything urgent comes to me by FedEx or UPS in most cases, or electronically in others.
In fact, I’m curious about just how much this actually will save. Senator Tom Coburn claims that the USPS can save $2 billion with this change, but again, all that mail will still need to be delivered on Mondays. If the trucks are running at a capacity where Saturday and Monday mail can be combined into the same single truck route without having to go back and run the routes in two trips, then maybe the excess capacity is really the issue, and not the number of days spent delivering the mail.
CBS also wonders whether this is a real strategy, or a way to force Congress to authorize a modernization:
David Walker, a former government watchdog, is part of a panel looking at possible postal reforms. Walker told CBS News the new measure “won’t come close to solving the postal service’s problem. It’s got to look at more fundamental changes in its infrastructure, its compensation costs, its retirement obligations, and also what it does and who does its business.”
But there’s just so much the Postal Service can do without congressional approval. Despite years of begging by postmasters general, Congress never passed a reform bill that would have given the Postal Service more flexibility to modernize and streamline its service.
If they’re doing this to pressure Congress, then they have to think that ending Saturday service will prompt outrage from voters. I don’t think that’s going to be the case, especially with package deliveries continuing. What do you think? Take the poll: