Postal proposal would eliminate door service

June 6, 2014

By Tonda F. Rush


WASHINGTON—The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in May carried out its second attempt to move postal reform legislation through the 113th Congress by approving a measure that would phase out door-to-door mail delivery.

H.R. 4670, Secure Delivery for America Act of 2014, would require the U.S. Postal Service to begin cluster-box or curbside service on 15 million addresses currently served by door service. USPS claims such a conversion could save $2 billion annually. USPS would convert 1.5 million addresses a year, focusing first on new neighborhoods.

The bill passed the committee on a party-line vote and now heads to the House floor where it will join the previously passed Postal Reform Act of 2013 to await floor action. The previous postal reform bill has not seen final passage because controversy in the House over ending Saturday mail delivery. The Senate similarly has not moved forward on the companion bill.

In other action:

• The National Newspaper Association joined a wide coalition of mailing organizations to urge Congress not to pass yet another bill sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA, OGR chair, on postal reform. Pointing to endorsements by the Obama administration of five-day delivery and a continuation of the extraordinary 3.4 percent exigency postage increase imposed by USPS last January, Issa tried to move a bill that would have mandated both measures. After a massive outpouring of opposition, he was forced to cancel his committee’s session to recommend the bill.

• USPS reported that it continues to lose money, racking up a $1.9 billion loss for the fiscal year as of March 31. There was some good news buried in its report. On operations alone, the organization had about a $1 billion in positive earnings. However, the obligations to prepay its future retirees health benefits, imposed by Congress in 2006, drag its balance sheet into red ink every year. Although USPS accounts for the liability, it has not actually made a required $5 billion annual payment to the U.S. Treasury for several years. Postal Service executives told the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee in May that it does not expect to make the 2014 payment either.

• USPS will begin in July to formally implement a hub system for mail entry of direct containers at many of its closed Sectional Center Facilities. Following up on an initiative by NNA begun last July to permit direct 5-digit containers of newspapers to bypass lengthy transportation to mail processing plants, USPS has studied ways to permit the bypass for more mail. Although NNA’s authorization was granted in March, a more sweeping initiative will begin to roll out in July. NNA members can get dock transfer of direct containers within their former SCF under the policy to keep mail from traveling great distances and back.

• USPS also shared with NNA in May that it would begin a test to scan newspaper bundles at delivery units, provided mailers can identify them with a barcode. The test would attempt for the first time to generate electronic documentation on mail that misses expected delivery dates. Before the test can begin, more work is needed with postal software companies to design and implement a bundle barcode. NNA will continue to be involved with this experiment, according to NNA Postal Committee Chair Max Heath.

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