US Postal System Maintains Ugly Delivery Numbers

The United States Postal Service (USPS) released its delivery performance through the seventh week of its fiscal fourth quarter. It is a regular part of its reports to show that it has made progress, at least for customers. The numbers were not impressive, given the size and scope of the USPS.

The time to deliver mail pieces and packages averaged 2.5 days. The USPS does not give out a median figure, which would likely be a more accurate reflection of its performance. Ninety-three percent of First-Class mail was delivered on time, based on its own “service standard,” which is a low bar.

The delivery performance is part of what the USPS calls its “Delivering for America,” which is its 10-year plan.

The USPS did not put its performance in the context of its bloated size, which is slated to change relatively little. The service boasts that it has the largest delivery system in the country at 230,000 vehicles. It has no plan to take tens of thousands of these vehicles out of its fleet. It has a retail network that is larger than Subway or the Dollar Store, as if this were something to brag about.

Most staggering of all, the USPS has a summary of its service, which reports on figures that are three years old. It shows it has 31,000 post offices and 630,000 employees. The USPS has not put forward a plan to cut thousands of these post offices (especially small ones) and cut tens of thousands of employees.

At least two things would greatly improve the USPS’s financial fortunes. The first is to admit it is slow in delivering mail and to own that fact by cutting deliveries to three days a week. Second, it should raise the price of its service sharply. The First-Class basic price should be a dollar. Since people have no alternative, it is not likely volume would tail off. The decision is one any well-run business would make.

The delivery time the USPS posts is dismal. It might as well raise prices, cut service and admit its delivery goals will not get better. At least people will know what to expect.

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