Postal service could stop Saturday delivery

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Staff Writer

Saturday deliveries from the mail carrier could fall into the same category as those made by the milkman and iceman.

Facing a decrease in demand for services and products and the rapidly rising costs, the United States Postal Service is looking at some cost-cutting measures that could include reducing delivery to only five days a week.

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The Postal Service Board of Governors has directed management to study different options.

With the announcement on Tuesday, the board reinforced its call for the need of statutory reform of the laws governing the Postal Service. Without the needed flexibility of a new regulatory model, the USPS must consider steps such as those requested by the board in order to pay the costs of maintaining universal service.

The call to study how the USPS can continue to cut costs came after last week’s announcement to reduce spending by $2.5 billion by 2003. Plans also include eliminating 75,000 work years, cutting administrative cots by 25 percent and reducing transportation costs by 10 percent.

"It would definitely be a way to save some money," Troy Postmaster Cody Ward said of eliminating Saturday routes.

He said considering that action would cut miles and hours worked by one-sixth, a great deal of money would be saved.

But, he hopes it does not come to that sort of action.

"I would hope that somehow, some way, we can cure our economic ills without doing that," Ward said.

However, he realizes if the cuts are not made somewhere, postal rates will have to increase.

"Right now, they’re just studying their options," Ward said of the USPS managers.

Among the fiscal challenges being faced by the Postal Service is a potential loss of $2 billion to $3 billion this fiscal year.

Contributing factors include little control over some labor costs, arbitrated wage rate increases that can exceed the rate of inflation, escalating fuel costs, changes in the type of mail being processed, an increasingly competitive communications marketplace and forecasts calling for the diversion of some First-Class mail to electronic alternatives.

Employee compensation accounts for 76 percent of the USPS costs. The law governing postal operations provides neither a mechanism to control wage rates nor to adjust postage rates quickly in response to market changes.

Members of the Board of Governors have also asked postal management to freeze capital construction commitments at more than 800 facilities.

In addition to the possibility of bringing a halt to Saturday delivery, the USPS is also considering consolidating some postal facilities.