Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2. Postal Service's Future: Mail Change Marches On

Postmaster General John Potter says the U.S. Postal Service has trimmed 25,000 staffers this year as it deals with enormous deficits caused by falling demand for its services. The Postal Service employs 635,000 people, down from 800,000 in 1999.

Thousands of routes have been cut as volume has declined, but unlike the decreasing business and job cuts in other industries, these reductions are, in the long run, a good thing.

Ebbing volume at the Postal Service has two causes, one permanent and destined to increase, and the other temporary. The massive migration of communication to e-mail, cell phones, text messages and tweets will not be reversed, and fewer personal messages are likely to be sent on paper via snail mail each year.

Overall, the Postal Service is likely to shrink over time. While the transition will be difficult, the change will save resources over the long haul.

The Postal Service is expected to lose about $6.5 billion this year. That's a serious problem because, unlike other government agencies, the Postal Service is by law supposed to be fully self-supporting.


The Postal Service expects to handle about 170 billion items this year, 20 percent below the peak of 210 billion several years ago. As volume declines, so do economies of scale, and it becomes harder and harder for the Postal Service to break even.

Each route eliminated by combining carrier routes saves about $100,000 per year and, in some cases, allows the elimination of a vehicle.

To increase savings further, Potter has also suggested to Congress that mail delivery be reduced from six days a week to five.

Technology and our dependence on it is getting more prevalent, not less. The volume of mail sent is going to continue to decrease.

Mail service is incredibly labor intensive. It burns up an extraordinary amount of fossil fuel and human labor, demands a tremendous number of vehicles and uses an awful lot of paper.
It will probably always exist in this country, because, while information can be sent via computer, objects cannot. Over time, though, that service will inevitably decline to five days a week and, eventually, to fewer days than that.

This all will be a change, and a big one, but it won't be a bad. In truth, e-mails and texts are better, cheaper, faster and more environmentally friendly ways to communicate in most cases. The sooner we stop depending on the Postal Service, the better off we will be.
(source: UNI Japan news)