The United States Postal Service proposes to end regular Saturday mail delivery to street addresses as part of a comprehensive plan to ensure that it can continue to deliver affordable service to the American people.
Technology is reshaping how Americans communicate and conduct business. Many activities formerly done by mail are now accomplished online, and as a result, the volume of mail delivered has plummeted, from 213 billion pieces in 2007 to 177 billion pieces in 2009. Volume is expected to continue to fall to 150 billion pieces by the end of the decade.
The sharp decline in volume has profound implications for the continuation of universal mail service in the United States. The Postal Service is not funded by taxpayers. It is directed to operate as a business does, funded entirely by revenue from its products and services.
While the drop in mail volume has dramatically reduced revenue, postal costs are largely fixed because carriers still stop at each address even if that address receives fewer pieces of mail. The result is a large and growing gap between revenues and costs. Without fundamental changes, this gap will grow every year, producing cumulative losses of $238 billion by 2020.
Under the Postal Service plan for five-day delivery:
- Mail will not be delivered to street addresses on Saturday, and mail will not be collected from blue street collection boxes or Post Offices on Saturday. Also, there will be no Saturday pickup of mail from homes and businesses.
- Mail addressed to Post Office Boxes will continue to be delivered on Saturday.
- Post Offices will remain open on Saturdays. No Post Office will be closed as a result of the change to five-day delivery.
- Express Mail will continue to be delivered seven days a week.
- Outgoing mail may still be dropped off at a Post Office or in a collection box on Saturday, and will be canceled and processed on Monday.
- Bulk mail acceptance that now takes place on Saturday and Sunday will continue.
The Postal Service does not take this change lightly and would not propose it if six-day service could be supported by current volumes. However, there is no longer enough mail to sustain six days of delivery. Ten years ago the average household received five pieces of mail every day. Today it receives four pieces, and by 2020 that number will fall to three. Reducing street delivery to five days will help rebalance postal operations with the needs of today’s customers. It also will save about $3 billion a year, including reductions in energy use and carbon emissions.
Most customers will accept a switch to five-day delivery to support the Postal Service’s financial stability. It is clear from market research and multiple opinion polls that customers appreciate the need for the change and are prepared to adapt.
In formulating its plan, the Postal Service conducted extensive outreach across business and consumer groups. The meetings were invaluable for the Postal Service to understand customer concerns clearly and adapt its plan as necessary. Many key elements of the plan were made as a result of these consultations. The Postal Service will continue to work closely with customers to prepare for five-day delivery, and will provide at least six months notice prior to implementing the change, which would not occur until mid-2011 at the earliest.
In order for the Postal Service to make this change, Congress must agree not to enact legislation that would require that mail be delivered six days a week after the end of FY 2010. The Postal Regulatory Commission also must be given an opportunity to issue an advisory opinion.
If permitted to move forward with five-day delivery, the Postal Service expects a smooth transition. It is developing detailed plans for every area of postal operations. Moreover, it has years of experience delivering five days on those weeks that contain a federal holiday, about one week in five.