Getting the delivery you deserve in shrinking postal network

February 26, 2015

New hub discounts to begin in April

The National Newspaper Association tries to reinforce best practices to its members so they can maximize the quality of delivery in a world where the number of postal processing plants appears headed for further reduction. USPS plans to close 82 more plants in 2015 since Congress failed to come up with a relief package for arbitrary charges it levied in 2006 to help the federal deficit at mailer expense, among other things.

One key feature that has cost some newspapers more money so far this year is the use of transportation Hubs. The U.S. Postal Service granted a one-year moratorium on removal of the Sectional Center Facility discount for those dropping SCF-sorted mail at these Hubs, or previous SCF plants. 

The postponement of a price increase from January to April this year meant the moratorium ended before something could take its place in new rates or rules changes accompanying the price changes.

NNA sent a special advisory to its members the second week of February with assurances that certain mail dropped at Hubs will regain its SCF discount with new prices expected April 26. Although told initially that it would be available through PostalOne!, the Business Mail Entry accounting system, NNA is seeking a DMM change to make it visible to newspapers and postal personnel alike.

Mail sorted in 3-digit or SCF containers for the old SCF territory will not regain the discount, because it has to be sent “upstream” to the more distant sorting plant into which work was merged. 

But “Direct” containers of 5-digit, Carrier-Route, or a mix of both (M5D sortation) going from the old SCF (now Hub) to destinations within the old SCF network should retain the discount when dropped AT the SCF. (That is because the 5D, CR, or M5D sort is to a lower-level destination than SCF. They don’t qualify for DDU discount unless dropped at the post office of delivery.) 

Many newspapers are either located or print at a central plant in a former SCF town (now Hub) and drop some portion of their mail at the Hub. It is also possible to earn DDU discounts for carrier-route sorted copies for the 5-digit ZIPs delivered on routes from the Hub office.

The greatest value of Hubs to most newspapers is that entry of Direct containers at one post office destinating at other ZIP codes within the former SCF territory should get “dock transferred” at the Hub to avoid being sent to the new, more distant SCF only to return without being opened. In such cases, the SCF discount is not allowed, but the timely handling should be no different than what it was before the SCF moved.

Newspapers need to maximize the address hygiene on all addresses, but especially to other ZIPs within their former SCF territory. That helps ensure they sort to 5-digit or Carrier-Route, and stay out of SCF trays.




A new tool available to at least some newspapers is the shift from Basic to Full-Service IMb (Intelligent Mail barcode). NNA opposed mandatory Full-Service as a requirement since not all its members could use it for one reason or another, and the paucity of meaningful data from USPS from mail pieces that are not sorted on machines was a disincentive for our participation. USPS is trying to improve the data issue, and we are hopeful of progress in 2015. Even though the Postal Regulatory Commission properly ruled it a price increase in late 2013 so USPS declined to implement it as mandatory with the January 2014 rates, Full-Service IMb is very much alive and relevant to solving future delivery problems. 

It can be  useful now as a delivery tool within the Postal Service network. For instance, NNA’s Publishers’ Auxiliary, a two-fold Machinable tabloid, is mailed as Full-Service now. While the extra discount is a miniscule one-tenth of a cent, its value is the tracking capability for individual pieces and containers from entry through delivery.

That can be even more valuable for weekly newspapers than monthly trade publications, however. Joanie Griffin, publisher of the Wallis (TX) News-Review west of Houston, reports improvement in delivery of her two-fold broadsheet newspaper. She converted to electronic documentation (eDoc) after joining the first of two webinars conducted so far by Brad Hill, president of Interlink Software and a Mailers Technical Advisory Committee rep serving NNA in Washington.

Then she moved up another notch to Full-Service IMb (eDoc is a requirement), and with help from Interlink staff and postal personnel, was operable within a couple of weeks. USPS relies increasingly on this tool to measure service, so having it operable has psychological as well as practical value. Even if pieces are not scanned by machines, the tray barcodes and other details of the mailing help track progress in the network. And even if you can’t “major” in its reporting capabilities, USPS can, thus providing the value.




Although written about in depth in past columns, let me quickly review the Best Practices list for delivery quality for newcomers or as a refresher.

• Exceptional Dispatch to post offices within your trade area. Your entry postmaster approves, there is no pre-verification, and you deliver anytime you want, earning DDU-discount on carrier-routed copies. This rule only applies to Periodicals and not Standard Mail (DMM 207.28.3).

• Unsacked bundles of up to 40 pounds each may be dropped to your entry post office and Exceptional Dispatch offices. No wasted time and money to make up trays or USPS to open. This applies to both Periodicals (DMM and Standard Mail shoppers (DMM 203.3.10)

• Use Flats Trays instead of sacks. Periodicals have had the option to prepare mail destined outside DDUs in white tubs (technically flats trays) since 2006. Green lids are required by rule, but many post offices prefer them unlidded for nesting in trucks leaving their towns. (NNA is working on a rules change to allow that in the DMM for intra-SCF destinations.) Supply is adequate. Flats Trays are a First-Class container and often move in the same mailstream on trucks. (DMM 207.22.7)

• Overnight drop policy at entry office. A policy between NNA and USPS since 2009 allows drops overnight, after Critical Entry Time or before CET the next morning, for Periodicals mailing no more than 750,000 copies per year. Next-day delivery standard is assured for mail entered before CET, but this broadens that. eDoc is required. NNA is awaiting a long-promised updating. Contact NNA for help.

• Use Hubs as either entry point or hand-off hub for direct containers, as explained above.

• Full-Service IMb may improve attention to and provide delivery tracking for your mail, as mentioned above and in NNA webinars. © Max Heath 2015


Max Heath, NNA postal chair, is a postal consultant for Athlon Media Group, publisher of Athlon Sports magazine, Parade weekly, American Profile semiweekly, Relish, and Spry monthly newspaper supplements, and also for Landmark Community Newspapers, LLC. Email

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