National News

May 23, 2017

einnewsUnder the proposal, a patented service called Postal Notice would work in tandem with the USPS’ Informed Delivery system to tell recipients the moment mail has arrived in their mailbox. The automated notification service would enable recipients to know when critical mail arrives such as Social Security checks, mail-in ballots and other legal documents. It also could provide public service messages, reminders to vote, weather alerts and other time critical data. The Postal Notice system, a notification system developed over a two year period, uses existing technology and is totally invisible to letter carriers. The result would be better service to Postal Service customers without an increase in cost for equipment and labor. The addition of Postal Notice to the USPS’ customer service mix could generate almost three quarters of a billion dollars annually. The revenue would be generated by a minimum monthly subscription, and through the addition of advertising. Postal Notice could also contain public service messages, and internet links to the delivery notification email.

May 22, 2017

PostalNews: The Washington Post is reporting that Donald Trump’s proposed budget, due to be unveiled on Tuesday, would cut federal workers’ retirement benefits. The Post story by Joe Davidson, lists the following changes to federal retirement benefits:

  • Increase Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) contributions from workers by 1 percentage point each year until they equal the government’s contribution. This would take five to six years and would result in increased out-of-pocket payments of about 6 percent over that period. Out-of-pocket payments by federal law enforcement officers would increase by the same amount, but would not equal the greater contributions from law enforcement agencies.
  • Base future retirement benefits on the average of the high five years of salary instead of the current high three
  • Eliminate cost of living adjustments (COLA) for current and future FERS employees
  • Cut the COLA for Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) employees by 0.5 percent from what the formula would allow
  • Eliminate supplement payments for FERS employees who retire beginning in 2018. The supplement approximates the value of Social Security benefits for those who retire before age 62.

May 19, 2017

TheHillThe U.S. Postal Service has just reached the halfway point for its 2017 fiscal year and the latest results only look like more bad news for the struggling agency – another loss of $562 million. For those counting, USPS has dealt with multi-billion dollar losses for 10 years running. Interestingly, despite its wayward financial path, Wall Street has grown bullish on the Postal Service’s outlook. The answer is the work of Congress. They are looking to give the USPS a leg up through misnamed legislation working its way through Congress, known as the Postal Service Reform Act of 2017. While the analysts do have some hesitation about USPS’ financial position, this bill has quickly allayed many major qualms based on the drastic measures that policymakers seem prepared to take. 

FederalNewsRadioThe Postal Regulatory Commission’s ruling later this year could give USPS some of the pricing flexibility on postal products that Postmaster General Brennan has repeatedly called for as part of a larger campaign to reform the Postal Service’s financial future. The current cost of a first-class stamp is 49 cents. The PRC in April 2016 repealed a 2 cent exigent postal rate increase that had been in place since the 2008 recession, bringing the price of a stamp down to 47 cents, but had reversed that decision this January. The PRC regularly reviews postal rates to keep pace with inflation. The PRC is reviewing the postage rate-setting system due to a mandate in a 2006 postal reform law, and must determine whether the current system meets nine viability criteria listed in the law.

PostalNewsThe USPS Office of Inspector General has issued a report criticizing the postal service’s use of social media to interact with customers: First, the Postal Service did not respond to all actionable customer inquiries. Second, when the Postal Service did respond, it did not do so in a timely manner — taking 16 hours on average to respond to customers’ initial posts. Only 43 percent of responses occurred within the Postal Service’s 6 hour target.  The OIG recommended management develop immediate strategies to address resources and staffing shortfalls to respond to all actionable customer inquiries posted on Postal Service hosted social media platforms within the Postal Service’s six-hour target; and enhance the coordination between the SMOC and customer care program.

May 18, 2017

PoliticoRep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is expected to announce Thursday that he is resigning before the end of this congressional term, according to three sources familiar with his plans. Chaffetz, 50, is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the top investigative body in the chamber. He recently subpoenaed James Comey's memos, and invited the fired FBI director to testify next week before his panel. Chaffetz told POLITICO last month he had begun exploring employment outside Congress. Several sources in the Capitol say Chaffetz has told his colleagues he will appear on Fox News.

May 16, 2017

PostalNewsUPS on Monday said it has integrated its customer-facing chatbot with UPS My Choice®, allowing customers to obtain information about their incoming packages and recent deliveries without providing a tracking number. UPS is the first U.S. package delivery company to offer a chatbot experience specifically designed for authenticated users. The chatbot enables a customer to log in to their UPS My Choice Account. It then can provide customized information, including package location and delivery detail – all without a tracking number. For now, the updated chatbot focuses on providing information about incoming packages. But UPS plans to add even more sophisticated UPS My Choice functionality to its chatbot in the near future. In the next planned iteration, members will be able to sign up for notifications via Facebook Messenger and Skype. They also will be able to manage the delivery time and location of incoming packages through this interface.

LinnsWhen Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan addressed the May 10 meeting of the United States Postal Service’s “Temporary Emergency Committee,” she made an open appeal to President Donald J. Trump.Specifically, she asked Trump to nominate some people for the Postal Service’s board of governors. There hasn’t been anyone on the board since December 2016, when the term of the last presidential nominee, James Bilbray of Nevada, expired. Under current law, there are supposed to be nine individuals who serve on the board of governors, overseeing the USPS and serving seven-year terms. A House bill would cut the number of governors to five, but as Brennan noted, there has not been any board nominee approved by the Senate for seven years.

AssociationTrendsAccording to Steve Kearney, Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, for those nonprofit mailers working on next year’s budgets, the outlook for postage rates is unclear at best. Here are three main factors you need to take into account. 1. The regular CPI-capped annual increase. We expect next year’s Consumer Price Index cap to be about 2 percent, double last year’s. But you cannot count on any specific type of mail being at or even near the cap. The rate announcement will probably come just before mid-October for a late January implementation. 2. Congressional pile-on possibility. The House Oversight Committee reintroduced a bill this year that will permanently add 2.15 percent to all postage rates. That’s a $30 billion net present value cost to mailers. It would be the first congressional setting of postal rates since 1968. 3. Postal Regulatory Commission rate review.  The PRC 10-year review of the pricing regulatory system set up in 2006 is a huge wildcard for 2018 and beyond. The PRC says it will issue a proposed rule-making this fall and might complete it in spring 2018.

PrintingImpressionsPostNet International Franchise Corp. (“PostNet”), a Lakewood, Colo.-based design, printing and shipping franchise with 660 locations in nine countries, has been purchased by MBE Worldwide, one of the largest third-party logistics, printing and communication service retail networks in the world with 1,600 locations globally. Financial terms of the transaction were not announced. The acquisition of PostNet gives Mail Boxes Etc. a strong presence in the U.S., and several other countries where the PostNet brand is well established and will continue to grow. Combined, the two companies will have an extensive reach of nearly 2,300 locations in 33 countries. MBE Worldwide acquired the worldwide Mail Boxes Etc. business — except for the U.S. and Canada locations, which remain under MBE Inc. — in May 2009 from UPS Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiary, MBE Inc.

myAJC: According to Fredric Rolando, President of the National Association of Letter Carriers, the Postal Service generally operates in the black. USPS revenue exceeded operating expenses by $610 million in Fiscal Year 2016, for example, bringing its total operating profit the past three years to $3.7 billion. This is all earned revenue, from selling stamps and other products and services; by law USPS doesn’t get a dime of taxpayer money.  As the economy gradually improves from the worst recession in 80 years, letter revenue is stabilizing. And as the Internet drives online shopping, package revenue is rising sharply (up 16 percent in 2016), auguring well for the future. There is red ink, but it stems from congressional politics. In 2006, a lame-duck Congress mandated that the Postal Service pre-fund future retiree health benefits. That $5.8 billion annual charge not only accounts for the “red ink,” it disguises the actual profits postal operations have been generating for years.  Addressing this elephant in the room — pre-funding — is imperative given the Postal Service’s role in so many facets of American life. 

GovExecMore than 200,000 U.S. Postal Service employees would be in line for a raise but face a slight decrease in health benefits under a recently unveiled tentative labor contract. The National Association of Letter Carriers, which represents 213,000 city mailmen and women across the country, reached the agreement with USPS management to avoid binding arbitration. NALC members will vote in the coming months on whether to formally ratify the contract, though the union’s executive council has unanimously recommended its members do so. The agreement would actually begin retroactively to May 21, 2016, and continue through Sept. 20, 2019.

Post&Parcel:  Nominations for the Postal and Parcel Technology International Awards 2017 have opened. The awards are designed to recognize and reward all the hard work currently taking place in the post and parcel industry. The awards cover various areas of the industry and nominations can be put forward by anyone working in the sector. The categories are: Sorting Center Innovation of the Year, Digital Innovation of the Year, Environmental Achievement of the Year, Delivery Innovation of the Year, New Business Diversification of the Year, Supplier of the Year and Service Provider of the Year. For more information on each category, click here.

May 15, 2017

PostalNewsThe National Association of Letter Carriers and the U.S. Postal Service have reached tentative agreement on a national labor contract, covering 213,000 active city letter carriers across America. The tentative agreement includes provisions rewarding all letter carriers for their contributions to the Postal Service’s extraordinary comeback following the Great Recession; narrowing the compensation gap between city carrier assistants (CCAs) and career letter carriers; creating a formal mechanism to address the problems that have undermined the workplace culture of the Postal Service for much of its history; and preserving the core achievements of our bargaining history, including regular general wage increases and cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs), protections against outsourcing and layoffs, as well as other contractual elements that define our standard of living.

OneNewsNowThe U.S. Postal Service continues to report big losses, leading experts to continue saying it's time for a change. The postal service has been losing money for ten years," notes Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute. "The volume of mail has plunged over the last decade." Edwards says any other business that is losing demand and losing customers wouldn't raise its prices. "They would reduce their prices to try to get customers back," he adds. "So here the government monopoly postal service is doing the exact opposite of what private sector companies would do, which is to increase their efficiency and reduce prices to try to win customers back."

May 12, 2017

BLSThe Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.2 percent in April on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index rose 2.2 percent before seasonal adjustment. Increases in indexes for shelter, energy, tobacco, and food all contributed to the monthly increase in the all items index.  While a smaller increase than the 2.4 percent rise for the 12 months ending March, this is still a larger rise than the 1.7 percent average annual increase over the past 10 years.  

PostalNewsAccording to National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando, today’s financial report shows the underlying business strength of the U.S. Postal Service while also indicating the need to address external matters beyond USPS’ control. That’s impressive for a government entity that earns its revenue and gets no taxpayer money while enjoying strong public and political support. It shows the importance of strengthening the unparalleled postal network—the centerpiece of a $1.3 trillion national mailing industry that provides 7 million private-sector American jobs. At the same time, two key matters—the pre-funding of future retiree health benefits and the rollback in stamp prices—need to be addressed.

May 11, 2017

InsideLouisville:  Former U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is urging Congress to close a gaping hole in the nation’s defenses that allows illicit, lethal drugs to be shipped from overseas into U.S. communities essentially without inspection. Legislation to address the issue has been introduced in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House. The House bill has gained bipartisan support and has 105 co-sponsors. David Partenheimer, a spokesman for the USPS, would not say whether the service supports the legislation, but told Insider via email that the agency “shares the goal of those calling for expanding efforts to keep illicit drugs and other dangerous materials out of the hands of the American public and maintaining the safety of our nation’s mail system.” Partenheimer said the service already “receives data on a substantial amount of inbound shipments” before the packages arrive in the U.S., which helps law enforcement agencies identify and intercept packages with contraband. “The Postal Service is committed to increasing the amount of mail for which it receives this crucial data,” he said. “New regulations that took effect in January 2017 that govern the exchange of international mail will enhance our ability to require foreign posts to send electronic data.”

FederalNewsRadio: Among the hundreds of political executives that the Trump administration must nominate to fill out the ranks of federal agencies, the U.S. Postal Service is calling upon the White House to submit names for its management board.The U.S. Postal Service currently has zero independently appointed governors on its board, and hasn’t had a new governor sworn in over seven years, Postmaster General Megan Brennan told reporters Wednesday. Without those governors at the helm, USPS cannot legally make several long-term decisions, like selecting a new postmaster general, introducing new postal products or revamping its business strategies.

May 10, 2017

WireUpdateRegional overnight parcel delivery company Postal Express (PEX) has been acquired by GLS and has become a sister company to GSO, based in Pleasanton, CA. By combining their resources, network infrastructure and geography, GSO and Postal Express will be able to provide Priority Overnight, Ground and Freight delivery throughout the West Coast starting May 15, 2017. This acquisition will enable both GSO and Postal Express to significantly reduce transit times throughout the West Coast by integrating operations and service areas.

May 9, 2017

LexingtonInstituteChange is frequently a difficult experience for many people, no matter how necessary or worthwhile they believe it to be.  This is certainly proving to be the case with the future of the U.S. Postal Service, one of our most visible, and treasured, American government institutions. The need for change is well documented and easily recognized. The Postal Service announced a $5 billion operating deficit last year, raising its total, cumulative losses to over $62 billion since 2007.  This vast debt burden amounts to roughly $250 for every American adult, with no solution in sight. Absent the right details, granting the Postal Service the increased flexibility for pricing its leaders have sought from Congress could escalate these losses. It is also necessary to consider that the Postal Service has largely ignored the requirement Congress placed in federal law that it fund looming healthcare benefits for its retirees.  The Government Accountability Office last year estimated the agency’s total liability for retiree health benefits to be $105.2 billion, more than half of which it determined to be unfunded.  In February, members of Congress from both parties introduced the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which would require vital security data on all packages shipped by mail from abroad. It has support from across the political spectrum and in our state. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R.), Ryan Costello (R.), Lloyd Smucker (R.), and Brendan Boyle (D.) are co-sponsors of the bill in the U.S. House, while Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale (D.) has announced his support of the bill. As a candidate, President Trump promised to close the loophole. And Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly agreed in a recent Senate hearing that the STOP Act would help law enforcement keep dangerous drugs out. There is no one solution to the opioid crisis. But to make any real impact, our elected officials must focus not only on treatment and prevention, but also on cutting the deadliest drugs off at their source. Closing the global postal loophole is a bipartisan, commonsense place to start.

FedWeekTwo senators active in oversight of the U.S. Postal Service have asked the GAO to review the accuracy of postal performance reports, including “whether there are formal or informal incentives or directives that may potentially cause postal employees to inaccurately collect or record mail performance data,” what controls are in place to detect possible misreporting and what actions USPS takes if it occurs. Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said they have received numerous reports of mail delayed to their constituents that call into question the Postal Service’s performance statistics.

KMBZ:  Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) are stepping up to address concerns about the accuracy of delivery data from the USPS. Sen. McCaskill released a statement saying they area calling for answers on what the USPS is doing to improve mail delivery throughout the country, especially rural communities. McCaskill also indicated the postal service needs to ensure its delivery data accurately reflect customers' experiences.Too many customers are reporting unreasonable delays, with mail taking as much as a week longer than its supposed to take, Sen. McCaskill said. Both Senators are requesting a report from the Government Accountability Office that would investigate how USPS holds its employees accountable for accurately scanning the mail at appropriate points in the delivery system. The GAO would would also be asked to determine whether there are informal or formal practices that result in employee misconduct.

KHON2:  More than 175,000 mail carriers across the nation will lead the U.S. Postal Service’s effort to “Stamp Out Hunger” by collecting food donations  in cities and towns across the country on Saturday, May 13, in the 25th annual National Association of Letter Carriers’ Food Drive. The drive is the nation’s largest one-day effort to combat hunger. More than 80 million pounds of food were collected nationwide last year; more than 1.5 billion pounds of food has been collected during the campaign’s first 24 years.

May 8, 2017

PRNewsPostal Notice is a patented system developed by Phoenix inventor Anthem Pleasant.Subscribers to Postal Notice can receive an email, text, or recorded phone call when a letter carrier has arrived at the subscriber’s mailbox. Pleasant has proposed the Postal Notice system to USPS headquarters as a cost effective subscription service to all postal customers. Postal Notice works in conjunction with the USPS’ Informed Delivery service, which scans each letter at the beginning of the day and sends a notice early in the day to its subscribers that a letter is out for delivery. Postal Notice takes it a step further by telling subscribers the exact moment the letter carrier has arrived at their mailbox. Under the proposed plan, the USPS would charge a minimal monthly fee of $3.00 for individuals and $7.00 for businesses for the service. Under this plan, the USPS could generate more than $700 million in revenues annually based on only 10 percent subscriber participation. A companion USPS customer service program named MoverSource allows the organization to receive revenue for additional services. That program generated more than $300 million for the USPS since it began in 2011.

PrintingNews: The Standard Group, a print marketing and logistics company located in central and eastern Pennsylvania that recently won the 2017 Irresistible Mail Award from the United States Postal Service. The USPS Irresistible Mail Award is a quarterly contest that recognizes innovative and effective mail piece designs. The Standard Group's Holiday Inkling Mystery Game leveraged direct mail, email, social media, and mobile to engage customers, prospects, and employees with an online experience inspired by the board game CLUE. The Standard Group sent out 2,500 personalized invitations featuring 16 customized elements, including a pop-up cube with a picture of the customer's sales specialist dressed as a suspect in the game. Recipients were directed to their own personalized web pages, which acted as the game board. Each day, players were directed to a new room, revealing a new character and new activities. In total, the campaign used six channels: direct mail (including variable data and digital printing), personalized websites, email, social media, mobile, and promotional products.

May 5, 2017

PostalTimesThe US Postal Inspector’s Office’s response to a Call Kurtis investigation on how easy it is for a scammer to re-route your mail isn’t sitting well with a local Congressman. Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton) is not happy with the Postal Inspector’s response to the inquiry and is calling for a hearing on Capitol Hill. A Call Kurtis investigation in November revealed how easy it was to re-route someone else’s mail. We filled out a form with a producer’s information, changed her address to the CBS13 station, and days later the mail started coming here. McNerney didn’t like what we uncovered and demanded answers in November, sending this letter to the Postal Inspector.

May 3, 2017

Franchising: Postal Connections announced today the launch of a new freight shipping service that delivers customers rapid, multiple job quotes with price choices and carrier service ratings. The new freight service is available in test stores across the country, offering customers free quotes for shipping household goods, vehicles, boats, home and office moves, heavy equipment, less-than-truckload, full truckload, pets and livestock. Postal Connections stores present the job quotes in 48 hours or less.

May 1, 2017

Linns:  A pretty significant stamp milestone passed last month with little notice. It was the 10th anniversary of the first United States forever stamp. Postal accounting officials say they celebrated the anniversary last summer when they devised a new formula for calculating how the stamps are used. The new formula “really revolutionized” how the U.S. Postal Service figures how many of the stamps are used, said Maura A. McNerney, USPS vice president and controller.  The accounting rules require that the Postal Service cannot count its stamp revenues until the stamp is actually used. This is why postal accountants long have fretted over the number of stamps held by the public. Stamps held by the public are “a liability” against the Postal Service’s promise to deliver a letter. These changes added to postal revenues, thus reducing the Postal Service’s net losses, but they did not add any cash to postal operations. 

DCVelocityUPS Inc. and FedEx Corp. are offering a new type of pricing for deliveries within a 50-mile radius, according to a person familiar with the companies' strategy, in a move designed to divert local "last mile" business-to-consumer traffic normally moving with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Short-haul shipments delivered by the two giants would fall under a new "zone 1" rating. UPS and FedEx would price those deliveries cheaply, largely because they wouldn't involve the use of over-the-road, line-haul services that add to the carriers' costs. The pricing has been made available to a select group of large customers that have requested it.