Today, the National Academy of Public Administration released a report studying a postal reform concept we outlined in a white paper earlier this year. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such a distinguished organization to review a concept that we think should be part of a comprehensive solution to ensure the long term success of the nation’s vital postal delivery network.
The concept we advocate is a network where the USPS simply sets a delivery charge and delivers mail and packages “the last mile” to a home or business, but is no longer burdened by the need to operate extensive upstream mail collection and sorting infrastructure. We are pleased that NAPA found this concept worthy of consideration as part of a postal reform effort.
When we first met to discuss the best options for ensuring the long term viability of the postal delivery system, we soon realized that despite our varied background in postal management, labor, regulatory agencies and academia, we believed this concept and the promise of innovative service and product initiatives it could offer was politically realistic and was important to help preserve universal, affordable mail service.
The NAPA report also called for further study as to how the concept would work in practice. Although not examined in detail in the NAPA report, we believe much of the answer can be found in the extremely successful model that currently enables the USPS to deliver packages the last mile for UPS and FedEx.
In FY 1993, (early in the evolution of the last mile model for parcels), the Postal Service delivered about 100 million parcel packages for other carriers. In FY 2011, the Postal Service delivered 381 million. That same model can be expanded to other deliveries, especially letters, magazines, and direct mail advertisements.
This last mile delivery model offers much more than just a change in who does the existing work of the postal service. It is a model that creates a market that invites and encourages creative ways to use the universal delivery network, improve efficiencies, and expand the types of mail that can be delivered by our local Postal Service letter carriers. Of course, the Postal Service will continue to ensure the safety and sanctity of the mail.
Under this model, the USPS could conceivably perform much more of the last mile delivery for FedEx, UPS and DHL packages than it already does plus provide additional deliveries for any number of companies including small, local businesses that get items to the final sort facility and pay the delivery charge. Rather than having multiple delivery trucks visit a home or office, many of those deliveries can be accomplished through the USPS carriers – ensuring maximum volume through the universal delivery network.
By setting a simple delivery charge by the Postal Service, we can unleash the creativity of the American public to find new and better ways to utilize our national delivery network and make it more productive, less expensive and available for decades to come.
We appreciate the work of the Academy panel in outlining areas for additional review and research. We look forward to working with our colleagues from across the postal policy spectrum to help find new and creative ways to keep the mail bags full, the prices low and the service reliable.
We offered this paper as a very high level concept paper recognizing that numerous difficult issues would have to be addressed before it can be implemented. It is not surprising that a concept that calls for significant change to the status quo would cause many to have some reservations about its viability, especially if they had an interest in maintaining the current structure. It is certainly true that any serious reform will involve substantial issues of political will, change management, integration, management challenges and other issues associated with a transition of this sort. While the depth of those issues were beyond the scope of our paper, with significant preparation and proper policy and administrative approvals, we are confident those issues are all able to be resolved.