Postal Service could save money by reducing door-to-door delivery, report shows

A recent watchdog report shows that the U.S. Postal Service could save a substantial amount of money by cutting back on door-to-door deliveries in exchange for dropping off mail at curbside and community mailboxes, the likes of which are often seen in office parks and new residential developments.

The Government Accountability Office said in its analysis that the alternative delivery methods cost 35 percent to 55 percent less than shuttling mail to every doorstep.


(Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg)

In 2012, the agency spent $380 annually for every door-to-door dropoff, compared to $240 for curbside deliveries and $170 for community cluster-boxes, according to the report.

The analysis, released Monday, came out days after the Postal Service announced it lost $1.9 billion during the second quarter of fiscal 2014. Last year, the agency finished the year $5 billion in the red, despite gaining revenue for the first time in five years.

The findings could be used to justify long-sought postal-reform proposals, such as a bipartisan bill from Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) that would allow the Postal Service to phase out some door-to-door mail delivery in exchange for curbside and cluster-box dropoffs.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) proposed mandating conversions to cluster-box delivery in legislation he proposed in 2011 and last year to overhaul the postal system.

But comprehensive postal reform has proven elusive in recent years, with various bills failing in part because many members of Congress oppose the service cuts they would entail.

The GAO said any plans to switch to alternative delivery methods would face resistance from customers, industry groups and postal employees.”Stakeholder concerns include personal safety, mail security, and difficulty finding suitable urban locations for boxes to deliver mail to a curbside or centralized location,” the report said.

USPS already implemented new regulations in 2012 that require the less-costly modes of delivery for new addresses unless the agency approves exceptions. The agency also began allowing businesses to convert voluntarily to the alternative methods last year.

Despite the Postal Service’s recent financial report, the National Association of Letter Carriers claims the agency could make a profit if not for a 2006 congressional mandate that requires the USPS to prefund its employee healthcare benefits to the tune of about $5.6 billion per year.

Postal Service Chief Financial Officer Joseph Corbett rejected the NALC argument, saying that “nothing could be further from the truth.” He noted that the agency’s liabilities exceed its assets by $40 billion and that it still needs to invest billions in new equipment.

The USPS has defaulted on its past three annual payments, and Corbett said the agency expects to do so again this year.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks(at)washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, and The Fed Page for more federal news. Submit news tips and suggestions to federalworker@washpost.com.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks · May 15