The U.S. Postal Service is ending curbside delivery for new home construction in favor of cluster boxes, which would require residents to go to a central location in the neighborhood, much like what is done at apartment complexes.
The change was announced in an April 26, 2018, revision to Part 631 of the Postal Operations Manual, an internal document for postmasters and employees to follow. As the Postal Service continues to lose money, it is looking for opportunities, and this has been discussed over the years.
By MAX HEATH, NNA Postal Consultant
“Centralized delivery is the preferred mode of new delivery for all residential and commercial developments,” the manual change said. “Curbside, sidewalk delivery and door modes are generally not available for new delivery points, with very rare exceptions, as determined by the Postal Service in its sole discretion, on a case-by-case basis.” The mail receptacle and location must be approved by local postal officials in advance of occupancy of the residence or business.
The only exception to the revised policy are “apartment homes and transient mobile or trailer homes.”
Where curbside delivery is allowed, “mail receptacles must be grouped two to a property line, where possible.” There is no indication that this requires relocation of existing mail boxes.
Sidewalk delivery may be provided to boxes located near the public sidewalk, but only with prior approval of USPS.
Door delivery may be provided to boxes located at or near the door of a business or residential delivery, or through a door slot, and only with the prior approval of the district manager.
POSSIBLE HARM FROM CHANGE
Although it will only apply to new addresses, for now at least, this is disappointing to advertising mailers, including charities, and possibly even newspapers, but even more to those mailed Periodical newspapers with shoppers sent by Standard Mail.
The fear is that residents are less likely to pick up their mail every day if delivery is made to central locations in the neighborhood rather than a box at the end of their driveway. And with fewer checks and bills in the mail, homes are more likely to get only advertising mail, both letters and flats.
Just recently, I had a daily publisher tell me that her paper had lost subscribers after converting to mail, at least in part, because residents of her town in the northwestern U.S. did not pick up their mail every day. That’s the first time I had heard this mentioned for any reason.
Informed Delivery, the USPS offering that allows consumers to receive digital scans of incoming letter mail, has reached nearly 10 million users, Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan announced at the National Postal Forum recently.
“Informed Delivery broadens the definition of the mail moment by bridging the digital and physical. It allows consumers to connect to their physical mail anytime, anywhere,” she said. Since its national rollout last year, Informed Delivery is adding about 135,000 new users per week.
But that cuts both ways, and people getting the daily email and seeing no First-Class envelopes or packages could more easily decide that they can pass on the “mail moment,” and wait until later to get their mail.
USPS FINANCIAL CONDITION
This decision on limiting new deliveries to cluster boxes was announced in the Postal Bulletin just a few weeks before the release of Postal Service finances for the fiscal second quarter.
Net loss for the second quarter totaled $1.3 billion, compared to a net loss of $562 million for the same period last year. “The continued secular decline in First Class Mail, rising costs and legislative and regulatory constraints resulted in larger losses this quarter,” said Chief Financial Officer Joseph Corbett.
The quarter continued to reflect multi-year trends of growth in package volume and declining letter volumes, he said. Package volume grew by 69 million pieces, or 5.0 percent, while mail volumes declined by 700 million pieces, or 2.1 percent, compared to the same quarter last year.
“Despite growth in our package business, our financial results reflect systemic trends in the marketplace and the effects of an inflexible, legislatively mandated business model that limits our ability to generate sufficient revenue and imposes costs upon us that we cannot afford,” said Brennan. “America needs a financially strong Postal Service that can invest in its future and can continue to fulfill the needs of American businesses and consumers. With continued aggressive management and greater legal authority to respond to changes in our marketplace and to control our costs, the Postal Service can return to financial sustainability.”
The National Newspaper Association is lucky to have Tonda Rush as director of public policy and general counsel. She has worked doggedly on a postal reform bill, difficult though it has been since the last one in 2006. Most of the Postal Service’s 10-year loss comes from the provision requiring prepayment of retiree health benefits to the tune of about $5.5 billion a year for 10 years, a budget gimmick added late in the 2006 bill.
And now comes word that Rush will be one of a select group meeting with the President’s Task Force on the U.S. Postal System. Her efforts at ensuring rural delivery measurement will continue as well.
(© Max Heath 2018. Max Heath is a postal consultant for Landmark Community Newspapers, LLC, and NNA members. He is sponsored by Interlink Software. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)