Updated April 04, 2011In the opinion of the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has failed to properly evaluate the impact ending Saturday mail delivery would have on rural America.
After suffering an $8.5 billion loss in 2010 alone, the USPS is seeking the permission of Congress to eliminate Saturday mail delivery in an effort to reduce its soaring operating costs. As required by federal law, the Postal Service asked the PRC to formulate an "advisory opinion" of its request to change its level of service. Not only did the PRC conclude that the USPS had overstated the resulting savings, it had failed to "evaluate the impact of the ending Saturday mail delivery on customers who reside or conduct business in rural, remote, or non-contiguous areas."
Also See: Is Ending Saturday Mail Such a Good Idea?
Saturday Mail Substitutes in Rural Areas 'Inadequate'
In its submission to the PRC, the USPS contended that Express Mail and post office box delivery, which would still be available on Saturdays, would substitute for Saturday home mail delivery. The PRC, however, found them to be "inadequate alternatives."
Along with being 30% more expensive, Express Mail has limited availability in rural areas, noted the PRC. Weekend Express Mail delivery is available only in areas close enough to open post offices that Postal Service employees will be available to make deliveries.
The PRC also found a post office box to be an "imperfect substitute" for home Saturday delivery. "Mail must be sent to one specific address, either to a post office box address or a street address; a customer could not choose to have street delivery Monday through Friday and post office box delivery on Saturday. Furthermore, rural areas may not have convenient access to post office boxes," wrote the Commission.
Access to Rural Postal Services Suffers
The USPS contends that ending Saturday mail delivery would have minimal impact of the ability of people to access postal services since, "Post Offices and other retail locations will continue to sell products and services on Saturday."
Not quite so, said the PRC, which found that although post offices in rural areas would remain open, rural letter carriers would not be available to collect Saturday outgoing mail from customer mailboxes at the time of delivery, or transact other postal business. Furthermore, no collection from street-side mail boxes would take place on Saturdays, further reducing access to the mailing system.
In addition, found the PRC, customers in rural areas not served by post offices would suffer "significantly reduced service" compared to urban residents due to the lack of rural mail carrier service on Saturdays.
"A number of post offices in rural areas are not open on Saturday or operate on a limited-hour basis, and the Postal Service has not indicated if it will maintain existing post office hours," wrote the PRC. "Furthermore, the Postal Service is also proceeding with plans to close post offices, stations, and branches and reduce the number of blue collection boxes available."
USPS and Congress
Ending Saturday mail delivery is just one of a series of money-saving steps proposed by the USPS that require the approval of Congress. Others include a drastic restructuring of its retirement system, greater flexibility in setting prices for postage and other postal products, and the ability to introduce new products in a timely manner.
The USPS estimates it will lose $238 billion over the next ten years unless the proposed cost-cutting measures are approved by Congress.
Also See: Will Congress Save Saturday Mail… Again?