National News

September 23

Post&Parcel: Target is expanding the coverage for its Restock next-day essentials delivery service to eight new US markets. The retailer has been testing the service over the summer in Dallas, Denver and Minneapolis. In a statement issued yesterday (21 September), Target said it is now expanding the Restock coverage to include Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C./Baltimore areas. Customers can choose from a range of 15,000 “essential” items and orders place online by 2:00 p.m. Monday through Friday will be delivered next day for $4.99.

Post&Parcel: US retailer Walmart has announced that it is teaming up with August Home and Deliv to test new delivery concepts, which including putting groceries in customers’ refrigerators. August Home is a developer of smart locks and smart home accessories; and Deliv is a crowd-sourced on-demand delivery company. Sloan Eddleston, VP, Walmart eCommerce Strategy & Business Operations, explained that the test will involve Deliv drivers accessing the customers’ homes using a one-time passcode for their August Home smart locks. “As the homeowner,” explained Eddleston, “I’m in control of the experience the entire time – the moment the Deliv driver rings my doorbell, I receive a smartphone notification that the delivery is occurring and, if I choose, I can watch the delivery take place in real-time.

USPSNewsLink: Hurricane Irma has proven no match for the Postal Service employees who are leading recovery efforts in the Caribbean and the southeastern coastal areas. Like employees in all the affected communities, USPS workers in the Florida Keys, one of the hardest-hit regions, are relying on grit, dedication and postal pride to restore normalcy. The Postal Service employees’ efforts in the Florida Keys and other affected areas have impressed colleagues across the nation — including Southern Area VP Shaun E. Mossman.“Postal employees are committed to service, including during times of crisis,” he said. “Even in the face of personal loss, employees throughout areas impacted by Irma showed up to work, ready to deliver for our customers.” Mossman said he appreciates the leadership of the district managers, their teams and the special recovery team working on site in South Florida to restore full mail service to residents. “I am extremely proud of the entire Southern Area team and the dedication, strength and commitment they’ve shown.”


September 21

PIWorld: Beginning January 1, 2018, Quad/Graphics will supply paper purchasing, printing and mail/distribution services for all 13 of Bluestem Brands online retail brands. Currently, Quad/Graphics prints catalogs and provides premedia services, including prepress, digital photography and video production, for the online retailer’s Fingerhut and Gettington brands. Soon, Quad/Graphics will begin printing catalogs for 11 additional brands, all of which are under Bluestem’s Orchard portfolio. The newly signed multi-year contract valued at more than $450 million over the term.

DCVelocityFedEx Corp. said that, effective late January, it will apply so-called dimensional pricing—rates based on a package's dimensions instead of its weight--to its "SmartPost" service, in which FedEx parcels are inducted deep into the U.S. Postal Service's (USPS's) vast infrastructure for last-mile deliveries.Separately, Memphis-based FedEx said it will apply a 2.5-percent surcharge on all shipments that are billed to a third party that is neither the shipper nor the consignee. The action would mostly hit large e-tailers with steep shipping discounts that instruct third parties like fulfillment houses and so-called drop-ship vendors to use the e-tailers' account numbers when the e-tailer discounts are greater than the third party's price breaks.


September 20

DenverPostThe United States Postal Service is gearing up for the busy holiday shipping season by hiring scores of people in Colorado, Denver 7 reports. Officials said USPS will hire more than 1,000 workers at post offices and mail processing facilities up and down the Front Range corridor. Open positions include mail carriers, assistant and associate carriers and postal support workers. The postal service is looking to fill a variety of different shifts, with wages ranging from $12.00 to $17.40 per hour.

KTVH:  A new government report shows 2 billion pieces of mail were delayed in delivery over the course of one year. Montana’s U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, who sits on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which oversees the Postal Service, has demanded accountability for the reported intentional delays. Tester’s press release stated that postal employees have reported that supervisors have been intentionally delaying mail in order to meet arbitrary quotas and goals. However the report did not outline or identify deliberate delays. In the release, Tester also called it unacceptable and demanded the Postal Service immediately fix the problem to ensure that families and small businesses receive timely mail service. 

PubExecDeclining demand is supposed to cause lower prices, but the magazine industry’s key suppliers are likely to defy the law of supply of demand in 2018, with both paper companies and the U.S. Postal Service raising prices by a little – and perhaps by a lot. In our print forecast for 2017, we warned that “significant moves in the currency markets . . . could be especially disruptive for U.S. buyers of magazine-quality paper.”  What we know for sure is that postal officials are planning to increase Periodical rates an average of about 2% in January. Co-mailed and large-circulation titles will pay less than the average, while smaller titles that don’t co-mail will pay more. But the big worry is the unknown – what will come out of the Postal Regulatory Commission’s 10th anniversary review of the law that established the inflation-based cap on rate increases.

FedSmith:  Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) recently sent a letter to Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan expressing concerns about reports of mail being inaccurately reported, and in some cases, intentionally misreported. One of the reports in question was issued by the Postal Service Office of Inspector General in August. It found that from March 1, 2016, through February 28, 2017, mail processing facilities underreported late arriving mail by about 2 billion mailpieces. The report said that the problems generally stemmed from a lack of training for the employees. Consequently, the IG recommended that management require formal training for all personnel involved in supervising, conducting, and reporting daily mail counts.The IG report did not, however, make reference to mail that was deliberately delayed or misreported. In his letter, Tester also referenced a separate investigation in which he said “Postal Service supervisors manipulated mail delivery records and inaccurately reported delayed mail” and that “employees have reported mail being intentionally delayed in order to meet local goals of having workers in their offices at arbitrary times.”

Senate.govU.S. Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota are calling for the United States Postal Service (USPS) to take immediate action after the USPS Inspector General found that serious management problems potentially contributed to an estimated 2 billion pieces of delayed mail being inaccurately reported as delivered on time. “For too many Missourians, delayed mail could mean missing a dose of a medication or losing out on a contract because a small business couldn’t get shipments on time,” said McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Falsely marking mail as delivered when it hasn’t been is unacceptable, and USPS needs to take action now to improve their customer service in Missouri and across the country.” The USPS Office of the Inspector General found last month that pieces of mail were processed after the established cut-off time and inappropriately marked as delivered due to a of lack of management training and oversight.

Post&ParcelResponding to the growing demand for electric vehicles, Kuehne + Nagel has launched “KN BatteryChain”, which it claims is the first integrated supply chain solution for lithium batteries. KN BatteryChain complies with international dangerous goods regulations and is certified against ISO9001 and the automotive standard ISO16949. The solution spans from transportation by sea, air, rail and road from the manufacturer to the assembly line to warehousing for production logistics and aftermarkets as well as returns of used and faulty batteries from dealers.

GrubNews: Amazon’s tentacles are extending even further into booze delivery, a realm known for giving almost every would-be “disrupter” a headache, thanks to all the legal and logistical problems associated with shipping alcohol. Just to scratch the surface: USPS won’t deliver at all, and UPS and FedEx will, but only if specific requirements are met. Back in August, the company very quietly added a handful more cities where Prime members can pay $8 for one-hour beer, wine, and spirits delivery (or get it for free, if they’ll wait two hours). This service is now available in a total of 12 cities: Cincinnati, Chicago, Columbus, L.A., Minneapolis, New York, Phoenix, Portland, Richmond, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. Another 20 are supposed to be added soon. 

PostalNewsFedEx Express, FedEx Ground and FedEx Freight, subsidiaries of FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX), will increase shipping rates effective January 1, 2018. FedEx Express will increase shipping rates by an average of 4.9% for U.S. domestic, U.S. export and U.S. import services.  FedEx One Rate pricing will increase by an average of 3.5%. FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery shipping rates will increase by an average of 4.9%.  FedEx SmartPost rates will also change. FedEx Freight shipping rates will increase by an average of 4.9%.  This rate change applies to eligible FedEx Freight shipments within the U.S. (including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands), between the contiguous U.S. and Canada, within Canada and between the contiguous U.S. and Mexico. FedEx Freight rates within Mexico will also change. Effective January 22, 2018, a Third Party Billing Surcharge will apply to FedEx Express and FedEx Ground shipments that are billed to a third party.

NewsTribune:  U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill and Heidi Heitkamp want Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan to take immediate action to improve U.S. Postal Service operations. In a two-page letter sent to Brennan Monday, they cited an Aug. 10 Postal Service Inspector General's audit report finding that, "when extrapolated nationwide the number of delayed mail pieces was staggering — approximately 2 billion pieces over a one-year span." Both senators are Democrats — McCaskill from Missouri and Heitkamp from North Dakota — and both are members of the Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. In a news release announcing the letter, McCaskill said: "For too many Missourians, delayed mail could mean missing a dose of a medication or losing out on a contract because a small business couldn't get shipments on time. "Falsely marking mail as delivered when it hasn't been is unacceptable, and USPS needs to take action now to improve their customer service in Missouri and across the country."

WRDP: Louisville's letter carriers are delivering the mail on high alert while facing the growing threat of dog attacks. The United States Postal service is launching a new campaign in high-bite areas across the city. The United States Postal Service is sending postcards with safety tips to areas served by the downtown, Iroquois and Annshire postal stations. These are the service areas with the highest dog bite rates in all of Louisville.  The cards advise homeowners to place pets in a separate room and close the door before opening the front door to receive mail. USPS also suggests to keep pets leashed when they’re roaming in your yard, even if it’s fenced in. Finally, avoid allowing your kids to be handed mail in your pet’s presence, because this can be seen as a threat. 


September 19

PostalNewsUPS today announced it will place in service three medium-duty electric trucks from Daimler Trucks Fuso brand, called the eCanter. The company will be the first commercial customer in the U.S. to use this series-produced vehicle. UPS will deploy the trucks in the U.S. at locations to be determined. The new EV trucks build on UPS’s Rolling Laboratory fleet of more than 8,500 alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles. The all-electric medium-duty truck is Daimler Trucks answer to the public’s need for a zero-emission, zero-noise truck for inner-city distribution. The FUSO eCanter has a range of approximately 62 miles and a load capacity of two to three tons – depending on body and usage. The vehicle’s electric powertrain contains six high voltage lithium ion battery packs with 420 V and 13.8 kWh each. In comparison with a conventional diesel truck, Daimler says it offers savings of more than $1,000 in operating costs for approximately every 6,200 miles.

USAToday: The central battleground in America’s war on super-potent synthetic opioids is a concrete and corrugated steel mail facility at one of the country's busiest airports. In fiscal year 2016, officers seized seven fentanyl packages; this year, they’ve seized 64 so far, with another half-dozen suspected fentanyl packages in the pipeline for testing. Sixty percent of U.S.-bound international mail comes through the JFK facility. Customs officers cannot examine every one of the 1 million packages that pass through the JFK facility every day. So they use information from law enforcement and other sources to help them narrow their search. Country of origin is a key factor. Most of the fentanyl coming into the U.S. is from China, which has a robust pharmaceutical industry and thousands of underground labs manufacturing counterfeit and illicit drugs. 


September 18

Post&ParcelThe auto makers Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi have announced a new six-year plan – called Alliance 2022 – for developing common platforms for electric and autonomous vehicles. In a statement issued, the companies said that main objectives of the plan are: More than 9 million vehicles to share four common platforms, Proportion of common powertrains to rise from a third to three-quarters of total volumes, Additional synergies expected from electrification, connectivity and autonomous technologies, 12 pure electric models to be launched, utilizing common EV platforms and components, 40 vehicles to be launched with autonomous drive (AD) technology, To become an operator of robo-vehicle ride-hailing services.

Post&ParcelFluence Automation, the new company which was formed following a spin-off from Bell and Howell in August, has announced it is “set to deliver fresh innovation in the sorting and labeling equipment and software industry for companies worldwide that handle large volumes of mail and parcels”.  The new company provides customers with an integrated suite of solutions – sorting, high-speed encoding and labeling equipment – backed by an array of software offerings and customer support.

MiamiHeraldCheck your mailbox. It should be starting to fill up again — unless you’re in parts of Northwest Miami-Dade, north Broward and the Lower Keys. “Most of our Post Offices are open for business and we are delivering to homes and businesses, wherever it is safe and accessible to do so,’’ according to Friday night’s statement from the U.S. Postal Service. 


September 15

FedNews: The Postal Service’s traditional method of measuring its interactions with the public, a count of transactions, far understates the number of visits to postal facilities, an IG report has said. The 877 million transactions in fiscal 2016 is only about a third of the number of individual “foot traffic” visits, a report said, based on surveys, sampling at more than 30 sites and modeling techniques. “In reality, most visits do not include a transaction. Instead, customers may check a PO Box, pick up shipping materials, or deposit a letter in the slot. These actions are key elements of the Postal Service’s value chain, and omitting them dramatically underestimates customers’ use of post offices,” it said. Better tracking of foot traffic could help USPS decide on need for physical space at its facilities as well as “to make more informed decisions about its retail network, improve sales and customer service, and better assess potential opportunities for retail partnerships.”

DMA: A proposed change in postal rates targeted at the nonprofit sector has leaders at the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) – formerly the Direct Marketing Association – seeking public comments in opposition by Monday, Sept. 18. Mail, as many know, comes in variety of classes from first class and on down, said Xenia Boone, general counsel for the DMA and executive director of the DMA Nonprofit Federation & Email Experience Council. The average increase is expected to be around the consumer price index (CPI) of 2 percent, but nonprofits would pay close to a 4 percent increase on top of the CPI, per the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) vice president of pricing and costing. Leadership at the DMA are concerned about the subclass-focused price increase on a precedential level as it takes mailers to a time of greater pricing uncertainty as was the case prior to CPI. Boone said that the actual cost will vary from organization to organization, some attributing mailing costs as the highest organizational cost after staffing. Potential future pricing volatility for such a prominent expense has the potential to create challenges in budgeting, she added.

ACMA: If you have yet to come across this article, which appeared on September 6th in the Washington Post, New York Times, NY Daily News, and other major news outlets, it’s worth a read, but with a grain of salt. Before you click on it, in a nutshell the article says the “Postal Service is currently petitioning the agency that oversees it, the Postal Regulatory Commission, to grant the biggest change to its pricing system in a half century: the authority to lift a cap on postal rates. The commission’s decision is expected within weeks.” Rest assured, the USPS has not filed for such an increase. The headline of the story, “Analysis: Postal woes demand jump in stamp price to 60 cents,” relates to the price increase needed to close the gap in postal finances in once fell swoop.” (You also can click here to read a clarifying statement the USPS just released this afternoon.) What we do know right now is the Postal Service will have the authority to file for a CPI-capped rate increase within the next month or so, and that amount will fall much more closely in line with the relatively small increases in recent years.


September 14

BLS: The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) rose 0.4 percent in August on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index rose 1.9 percent. Hurricane Harvey had a very small effect on survey response rates in August.  Price collection late in the month was disrupted in 2 of the 87 collection areas.


September 13

Linns: At a time when mail volume continues to drop precariously and stamp sales are slumping, the United States Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General has produced a report with a surprising number. The new report says there are far more people visiting the nation’s 30,000 post offices than the Postal Service’s official estimates indicate. In a white paper published Sept. 11, the inspector general says it believes 2.7 billion people visited the Postal Service’s retail outlets in fiscal 2016, a number more than triple the USPS official estimate of 877 million. That’s the conclusion of “Billions Served: Foot Traffic at the Post Office,” the new paper pointing out that much of the traffic actually is at what the inspector general describes as the Postal Service’s “mega” locations, about 450 large post offices that have “as much foot traffic as Best Buy stores.”


September 12

AAF.org: The United States Congress and the White House are expected to release a federal tax reform proposal in the next few weeks.  Members of the House and Senate tax-writing committees are currently working to determine how to pay for the bill. Advertising is at great risk.  In a meeting this week with representatives of the ad industry a senior tax advisor to a member of the Senate leadership told us that advertising “is on the chopping block for sure” and may be close to a “done deal.” The House version of the last comprehensive tax reform proposal in 2014 would have created at $169 billion tax on advertising over 10 years.  It looks as if Congress and the Trump Administration may be going down that road again. It is vital that you and other members of your company or ad club contact your Senators and Representative and urge them to oppose any effort to place a tax on advertising by reducing the amount of advertising a business may claim as a normal and necessary business expense. You can find contact information for your Senators here and Representatives here.

HomelandPrepNews: Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the United States Postal Service (USPS) should assess whether the costs of the new Electronic Advance Data (EAD) program outweigh the benefits. In 2014 and 2015, USPS and CPB launched two pilot programs at the New York International Service Center (ISC) to target some pieces of mail for inspection using some of the EAD received through data-sharing agreements with foreign postal operators. Under these programs, CBP tagged certain mail for inspection. When USPS employees scan a tagged item, they receive an alert and set the item aside. Locating targeted mail once it arrives at an ISC, however, has presented challenges. USPS was only able to provide 82 and 58 percent of the tagged mail for the two pilot programs. In its report, GAO recommended that USPS and CBP set measurable performance goals for pilot programs and evaluate the costs and benefits of EAD targeting programs as compared to other targeting tactics. CBP and USPS agreed with the recommendations. CBP plans to implement them by Feb. 28, 2018.


September 11

FedScoop: A new report from the U.S. Postal Service’s inspector general has found that while the agency offers a number of Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, for its customer base, it is not utilizing the user data from them as a predictor of future needs. The report, which examined USPS’s Web Tools API strategy, found that the agency’s 34 APIs—which included digital services like package tracking, price calculation and shipping labels that could be used by both customers or be incorporated into e-commerce websites—were configured and managed with industry best practices. USPS also offers more external solutions than competitors like DHL, UPS and FedEx, the report said. But while it collects user data from its APIs and distributes it to stakeholders, USPS does not analyze the data to develop strategies for future API needs. The report said that agency management had yet to determine a group within the organization that was responsible analyzing and making strategy determinations from the user data.


September 10

TimesTribuneGiven Congress’ politically paralyzed lack of performance over the last decade, many members might view a 22 percent postage rate increase as a means to hold down the flow of angry letters. They should, however, recognize that boosting the cost of a stamp from 49 cents to 60 cents negatively would affect the economy and the government itself in many ways. Despite decreased mail volume, many Americans still heavily use conventional mail. And governments still use it as the primary means of official correspondence. Three states use it exclusively to conduct elections. All of that should prompt legislators to attack the U.S. Postal Service’s deep financial problems from the other side of the ledger.


September 9

WSVN: United Postal Service representative tells 7News that the company secured their facility and suspended service in order to allow employees to seek shelter prior to Irma’s arrival in South Florida. UPS says they will make “every effort to provide service and commitment” to their customers once it is safe to do so. Federal Express released a list of affected cities in the southeast that have had their service suspended, showing most of Florida will be unable to receive deliveries until after the storm passes. According to a USPS news release, delivery and retail operations, as well as drop shipment acceptance, has been suspended until further notice. Residents served by the following post office zip codes will experience adjusted USPS operations:

CyclingNews: The whistleblower lawsuit against Lance Armstrong will not go to court this fall. USA Today reported that the case has been postponed until May 2018 because of a scheduling conflict involving one of his attorneys, John Keker, who together with Elliot Peters has represented Armstrong in the case since it was filed by Floyd Landis and his attorney, and later taken on by the US Government. District Judge Christopher Cooper accepted the request and moved the trial's start date from November 6, 2017 to May 7, 2018.


September 8

MiamiHerald: The United States Postal Service has suspended mail delivery to the Florida Keys amid a mandatory evacuation order for the islands and Hurricane Irma approaching likely landfall in South Florida this weekend. The agency said all 11 of its post offices would stop delivering mail and shipments through Monday, Sept. 11 and provide more information on when service will be restored when conditions improve. The Keys issued a mandatory evacuation order this week telling visitors to leave the islands Wednesday and residents to get out Thursday. 

FoxOrlando: The U.S. Postal Service Suncoast District is preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Irma by advising customers that normal service operations in the path of the storm may be affected in the event of unsafe conditions such as high winds, flooding, or impassable roads.  In an abundance of caution, and to ensure the safety of both postal customers and employees, the Postal Service is temporarily adjusting operations at some Post Offices. Customers may call 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-274-8777) for updated information and visit the USPS Service Alerts website at http://about.usps.com/news/service-alerts/welcome/htm and the PostalPro website at http://postalpro.usps.com/.


September 7

Post&Parcel: The US House has passed a bill which will pave the way for more widespread test of autonomous vehicles on US roads. The bill - entitled the “Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution Act” [H.R. 3388] or “SELF DRIVE Act, for short – passed on a voice vote yesterday (6 September). Amongst other measures, the bill would enable the the federal government authority to exempt automakers from some safety standards that are not applicable to the technology, and also allow for far more self-driving cars to get on the roads. The bill would permit the deployment of up to 25,000 self-driving vehicles in its first year, rising to 100,000 vehicles annually in the third year. This would be a significant increase on the number of vehicles that have been tested on US roads so far (through agreements with various state-level bodies). The US Senate’s Commerce committee are reportedly working on a Senate bill for autonomous vehicles.


September 6

ABC: The largest one-time price increase in the history of the U.S. Postal Service may happen soon. It is seeking to raise prices of mailing letters and packages by 20 percent to avoid bankruptcy and improve delivery services, the Associated Press reports. The cost of a stamp would move from 49 cents to 60 cents. The USPS acknowledges a decline in mail has been part of decreased income, but also says Congress is partly to blame because of burdensome retiree health benefit costs. The USPS is petitioning the Postal Regulatory Commission to grant the change and give authority to lift a cap on postal rates. A decision is expected sometime this month, the AP says. One concern with the increase in delivery pricing is with mailers such as magazines and greeting cards. Those industries fear a 20-percent price increase will be catastrophic for them.


September 2

Post&Parcel:  Global technology provider Pitney Bowes has announced that its second annual Parcel Shipping Index has revealed a 48% increase in global parcel volume between 2014 and 2016. According to the report, parcel volume grew from 44 billion parcels in 2014 to 65 billion in 2016, and the increase in growth shows no sign of slowing down, with the Index estimating parcel growth will continue to rise at a rate of 17-28% each year between 2017 and 2021. The Index measures parcel volume and spend for business-to-business, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-business and consumer consigned shipments with weight up to 31.5kg (70 lb), across 13 major markets including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the UK and the USA. China, a new addition to this year’s Index and by far the largest market examined, grew parcel volume by 52%. The USA (13 billion) and Japan (9 billion) were also among the largest markets by parcel volume. In terms of investment, the USA ranked highest, spending US$96bn on parcel shipments, followed by China at US$60bn and Japan at US$22bn.

Ecommercebytes: Don't panic if you print your shipping labels online, but sellers who purchase postage for First Class Packages at the Post Office should be aware of a change in rates that goes into effect on Sunday. On August 9, 2017, the Postal Regulatory Commission ("PRC") approved the transfer of the First-Class Mail Parcels ("FCMP") product from the market-dominant product list to the competitive product list. The approved new rates (13 rate cells in total) can be viewed on the Postal Explorer website at pe.usps.com and will go into effect on September 3, 2017.  There is no change in the rates for online sellers printing postage online.

TRTWorld: Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong sought Friday to delay until next year his long-awaited battle against a $100 million lawsuit over whether he committed fraud by doping, currently set for trial in November. In an application to the federal court in Washington where the case will be heard, Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for using performance enhancing drugs, said there was a scheduling conflict that would prevent one of his lawyers from appearing on November 7 when proceedings are due to get underway. The US Justice Department is seeking $100 million in damages from Armstrong, claiming he defrauded the government when he cheated while riding for a team sponsored by the US Postal Service (USPS).


September 1

FedSmith:  The Postal Service Office of Inspector General recently concluded that the Postal Service had violated the Hatch Act during the 2016 election by granting 2,776 days off of leave without pay to help the union in its campaigning efforts. Although the IG said the Postal Service violated the Hatch Act, it did not recommend any disciplinary action. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has now taken an interest in the matter and recently sent a letter to the Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General asking to take a closer look at their findings and documents from the investigation. The letter does not state whether or not the House Committee plans to hold a hearing to look into the matter further. That presumably is something the Committee would decide after it reviews the requested information from the IG.

TheEagle: Some mail service resumed in ZIP codes that begin with 778 Thursday, but U.S. Rep. Bill Flores of Bryan says that the inconvenience to businesses and residents should have been rerouted in the first place. Aside from calls from constituents looking for ways to help the Harvey-ravaged coast, Flores said his office has received many calls from Brazos Valley residents upset that post offices closed. Flores says he doesn't blame these constituents. The postal service, he says, should have better prepared for Hurricane Harvey and kept its promise to use Bryan as a backup processing center when it moved the service to Houston a few years ago. USPS began sending all mail to a processing plant in north Houston in 2011 and shut down the Bryan processing center in 2012, citing potential savings of $4 million each year by outsourcing processing.

WashingtonExaminer: The Postal Service has a legal monopoly to deliver first-class mail and non-urgent letters. It is the only entity that can put something into a mailbox or through a mail slot. It is legally obliged to provide the service at the same level and price nationwide. That means, even with mail volume down 40 percent since 2006, the Postal Service still must visit 155 million mailboxes every day. Since 2007, the Postal Service has been required to allocate 5.5 percent of its fixed costs to package delivery and to incorporate that into its pricing. That figure made sense then, but today, 25 percent of the Postal Service's business is package delivery. And thanks to features of the Amazon deal – such as Sunday delivery, grocery delivery, even delivery from fish markets to local restaurants – the expenses have climbed.

FederalNewsRadio: The U.S. Postal Service heard back from more than 1.7 million customers last year, but is that feedback — both positive and negative — giving the agency enough constructive criticism to improve its services? A new USPS Office of Inspector General report has recommended some tweaks to the way the agency solicits feedback from both the public and its private-sector business partners. Those evaluations, which USPS collects through four customer satisfaction surveys, gets added into the Postal Service’s Customer Insights (CI) Index, a “multi-channel barometer of the customer’s satisfaction with the agency,” and factors into the pay-for-performance bonuses for postal executives and administrative workers. According to the USPS OIG’s review of the CI Index data, the Postal Service received its most negative feedback on the delivery of mail and packages to the public. USPS received its most positive customer service feedback from its private-sector business service network, which includes major retailers and mailing industry companies.

PostalNews: In an abundance of caution, and to ensure the safety of both our employees and customers, the Postal Service is making temporary adjustments to its operations at all Post Offices/Stations/Branches and Finance Units within the 3-Digit ZIP Codes of 770, 772, 773, 774, 775, 776, 777 and 778.  This includes retail operations, mail delivery service, and mail collection.  Business customers are advised that Business Mail Entry Units (BMEU) are included, as well as acceptance of drop shipments within these specified 3-Digit ZIP Codes. The Postal Service will not provide shipment of live animals destined for the following 3-Digit ZIP Codes until further notice: 770, 772, 773, 774, 775, 776, 777 and 778. All Priority Mail Express service to the following 3-Digit ZIP Codes: 770, 772, 773, 774, 775, 776, 777 and 778 is on hold until Friday, September 1, 2017 at 5:00 p.m.

PostalNews: Today the U.S. Postal Service Rio Grande District will resume providing postal services on a limited basis, including some mail delivery and collections, and retail services at Post Offices recently affected by Hurricane Harvey where possible in Texas ZIP code areas beginning with 779, 782,783, 784, 785 and 789, which includes the Rio Grande District’s Gulf Coast, Central and South Texas areas affected by the storm.


August 31

WSJ:  Regarding your editorial “How the Post Office Delivered for Hillary” (Aug. 26) highlighting Hatch Act violations by the U.S. Postal Service: This issue has been addressed by Congress and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), and the Postal Service has fully committed to addressing the issue and to correcting the problem.  Furthermore, although the OSC concluded that a longstanding practice of the Postal Service violated the Act, the OSC also determined that the violation was not intentional and that it was not motivated by any desire by the Postal Service to support or oppose a particular party or candidate. Instead, the OSC concluded that the practice was a part of the efforts of the Postal Service to foster and maintain a working relationship with the National Association of Letter Carriers. Postal Service leadership did not in any way guide union leadership in selecting the candidates for whom postal union employees could campaign. (Thomas J. Marshall General Counsel U.S. Postal Service)


August 30

Post&Parcel: Courier and express delivery companies have pledged their support – in both cash and transportation resources – to help with the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in the US. In official statements issued yesterday (29 August), FedEx said it has committed $1m in cash and transportation support to deliver critical medical aid and supplies in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and UPS also made a more than a $1m pledge to support recovery efforts in Texas and Louisiana. Inevitably, deliveries for post and parcels in the affected areas of Texas and Louisiana have been disrupted by the storm.

Post&ParcelThe US Postal Service (USPS) will be combining its My USPS and Informed Delivery platforms, so users can interact with their incoming mail and packages in one dashboard. “The integration with My USPS will make Informed Delivery the single digital point of entry for consumers to view images of their mail and manage their packages. This will help the Postal Service maintain the relevancy of mail in today’s highly digital environment,” said Chief Customer and Marketing Officer Jim Cochrane. The integration is scheduled to take place in September  – after which all features previously available through My USPS will become part of Informed Delivery.


August 29

ReutersFord Motor Co and Domino’s Pizza Inc in September will begin testing Michigan consumers’ reactions to having their pies delivered by self-driving vehicles, the companies said on Tuesday.  In a blog post last week, Sherif Marakby, head of Ford’s autonomous and electric vehicles, signaled the automaker’s broader ambitions, saying Ford planned to cooperate “with multiple partners” in deploying self-driving vehicles “designed to improve the movement of people and goods.” Previously, Ford executives had said the company expected to launch a self-driving shuttle for commercial ride-sharing fleets in 2021. A number of start-up delivery services, many of them funded by venture capital, have been experimenting with on-demand delivery of different packages, including groceries, prepared food and beverages. So have larger companies, from Uber Technologies [UBER.UL] to Amazon.

USAToday:  Shipping giants UPS, FedEx and the United States Postal Service have indefinitely ceased delivery to major swaths of Texas and Louisiana amid Hurricane Harvey devastation, potentially disrupting supplies of critical medicines, food and other packages. The storm may also have damaged some delivery infrastructure, though it's too early to assess the full extent of the impact. Although it's unclear how many residents are awaiting packages, the outages raise serious concerns about vulnerable residents who rely on just-in-time delivery of mail-order prescriptions and other goods. Many neighborhoods in Texas are not reachable because of flood waters. And others aren't being serviced because local shipping centers were temporarily shuttered due to storm planning or lack of employees.

TheHill: The great eclipse of 2017 was a unique nationwide astrological phenomenon enjoyed by tens of millions of Americans. It was so significant that the United States Postal Service (USPS) engineered a ground-breaking stamp to commemorate the event. A USPS spokesperson said that the stamp’s release was meant to enable “a new generation to bridge the gap and tighten the connection between physical mail and the digital world.” If only long overdue reform of the USPS itself, which is swimming in red ink and being dragged down by a slew of decidedly earthly problems, could be as simple, innovative, and transformative as the 2017 eclipse stamp.  The burden of the USPS’s inefficiencies, operational ineptitude and runaway costs ultimately cast a long shadow on postal ratepayers, or even taxpayers, who would be forced to provide a bailout if USPS’s financial position sufficiently deteriorates. The great eclipse of 2017 may be over, but the opportunity to enact formative postal reform that will right-size the agency, move it toward more innovative, free-market, private-sector solutions and forestall an exorbitant taxpayer bailout is still on the horizon. Congress must get this done well before the next total eclipse in 2024.


August 28 

PostalEmployeeNetworkThe APWU and the USPS recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), RE: Peak Season Exception Periods – 2017 Date Changes, modifying the Peak Season (Holiday Season) Exception period for 2017 to “ensure adequate coverage” and “accommodate customer service.” The start of the Peak Season Exception Period will be from Nov. 11, 2017 (Pay Period 24), and will go through Jan. 5, 2018 (Pay Period 1). All Holiday Clerk Assistants (HCAs) will be paid at the PSE rate of $16.98, reflecting the 2.3% PSE pay raise that will go into effect Nov. 25. Function 4 HCAs will be hired for three consecutive pay periods within the exception period: either Nov. 11 – Dec. 22 or Nov. 25 – Jan. 5, 2018. The MOU does not change the length of the exception period.


August 27

Ecommercebytes: You can count on shipping costs to go up each year, and January is the favorite month for USPS, UPS, and FedEx to raise rates. Blogger D. Eadward Tree (a pseudonym for a magazine-industry insider) says the USPS aims to raise shipping rates on January 21, 2018. The USPS has leeway for how much it can raise competitive mail rates - popular with small online sellers - and Tree said the USPS is most likely to file the new rates with the Postal Regulatory Commission in October. 


August 24

PostalNews:  As provided for in Article 15, Section .3E of the National Agreement between the National Postal Mail Handlers Union and the United States Postal Service, both parties have agreed to jointly produce a Contract Interpretation Manual (CIM), which represents a good faith effort to identify contractual issues on which the National parties are in agreement regarding interpretation and application of the parties’ National Agreement. The latest issue of the CIM is Version 4, which was released on August 24, 2017. Click to download and open CIM Version 4

Post&Parcel: FedEx Office has announced the expansion of its FedEx SameDay City local courier delivery service to Jacksonville in Florida, as well as Austin and San Antonio in Texas.FedEx SameDay City offers door-to-door delivery of time-sensitive parcels within hours with real-time notifications. Priority service is available seven days a week, in as fast as two hours. Standard service offers pickup as late as 1 p.m. for business delivery, and as late as 4 p.m. for residential delivery, by the end of day.The service is now available in more than 25 markets.

FederalNewsRadio: More than 200,000 U.S. Postal Service employees have just received their first two catch-up cost-of-living adjustments, and will soon receive their third COLA, thanks to a provision in a postal union labor contract that members approved this month. Members of the National Association of Letter Carriers on Aug. 19 received a 1.2 percent retroactive pay raise, effective Nov. 26, 2016, and received two backdated COLA payments worth $21 and $333, which will be paid annually. Postal workers covered under the union contract will receive a third annual COLA worth $270 on Sept. 2. The final contract also contains a no-layoff clause that protects letter carriers after six years of service as career employees.

GovExec: For years the U.S. Postal Service has put its stamp of approval on defective shoes that can quickly fall apart, putting letter carriers at risk of injury and often forcing them to pay for costly replacements out of their own pockets, union officials say. The issue came to light after a study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health revealed that the soles of shoes worn by letter carriers in the Boston area frequently disintegrated. While defective footwear may account for a relatively small proportion of accidents, wearing low-quality shoes can take a toll on letter carriers’ bodies over time, said Bobby Damatin, the safety representative for the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 34. USPS provides letter carriers with an annual stipend of $400 for uniform expenses, but Damatin said that’s not enough to keep safe, agency-approved shoes on their feet. He estimates that newly purchased shoes last roughly three months on average before they start noticeably deteriorating.


August 23

SalemNews: First-class postage stamps at 49 cents each may be about to go the way of the carrier pigeon. By next month, the Postal Service may be given permission to increase stamp prices dramatically. Increasing use of online communications has hurt the Postal Service, cutting deeply into its revenue. But, say critics, many in the private sector have had to adapt to change, too. Why can’t the Postal Service? Before Congress stands aside and allows stamp prices to continue skyrocketing, lawmakers ought to be held accountable for tying the agency’s hands in some respects.

Bloomberg: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has applied for a U.S. patent for a floating warehouse that could make deliveries via drones, which would bring products from the aircraft down to shoppers’ homes. An unmanned airborne warehouse -- laden with drones -- could help retailers lower the costs of fulfilling online orders, particularly the so-called “last mile” to a customer’s house, which is usually handled by a local or national logistics company. To avoid that expense, Wal-Mart and other retailers often encourage shoppers to pick up those orders at the store, where they might grab a few additional items. The airship could fly to one town and release a flock of drones to deliver packages, after which the drones would return to the vessel and restock while it flew to the next town. Such a system would be more efficient than having the drones fly back to a central distribution hub, according to research firm CB Insights. 


August 22

FoxNews: Republican lawmakers are casting a wider net in their search for wrongdoing at federal agencies in past election cycles, after learning the Postal Service violated the law by allowing employees to do union-funded work for Hillary Clinton’s campaign while on leave. The lawmakers blasted out letters on Monday to 10 other federal government agencies questioning their unpaid leave policy for union-related political work. Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., led the charge on the review of agencies’ practices after spurring an investigation by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) beginning in October 2016. House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., joined Johnson’s efforts this week by penning joint letters to the departments of Commerce, Homeland Security, Defense, Justice, Labor, Transportation, Treasury, Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, and the Social Security Administration Monday. The letters concerned what's known as “union official Leave Without Pay (LWOP)” for political campaign activity.


August 21

CIOReview: As a United States Postal Inspector for over 20 years, I’ve seen the impact distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks can have on the private sector. Hackers attempt to flood compromised systems with repeated requests, overpowering networks and disabling the systems they support—crippling organizations’ abilities to carry out mission-critical operations. The risks caused by DDoS attacks have grown as the parties behind the attacks continue to evolve. This trend is especially concerning for the United States Postal Service and its business partners in the ecommerce industry. At the Postal Service, we work with a range of companies to package, transport, and track important shipments across the globe. By disrupting networks and forcing servers’ offline, DDoS attacks have the potential to prevent our ecommerce partners from processing the information needed to deliver their shipments on time. This can lead to considerable losses in revenue—as much as $5,600 for every minute of time offline, based on industry research.

Ecommercebytes: Imagine paying for a service, then later receiving a bill because the company says you didn’t pay enough. That’s the discomfiture online sellers may start experiencing due to a change at the US Postal Service. On August 14th, the USPS began a program in which it verifies shippers have paid the correct amount for postage purchased online for packages through Click-N-Ship or PC Postage label providers such as EasyPost, eBay, Endicia, PayPal, Pitney Bowes, and Stamps.com. If it finds shippers didn’t pay the correct amount, the USPS will make a “payment adjustment” facilitated through the PC Postage platform the seller used. It’s hard to argue with the motivation behind the new Automated Package Verification System (known as APV), which will also credit shippers if they overpaid for online postage.


August 20

TheHill: The United States Postal Service is an aging, but still powerful, beast. Under federal law, America’s mailboxes are the sole domain of the USPS, and many types of mail can only legally be delivered by the Postal Service. Indeed, by most any definition, the USPS is a monopoly, and if nothing else, it certainly acts like one. Intentionally or not, monopolists tend to operate outside the bounds of competitive businesses. They often attempt to charge higher prices than competitive businesses do, and monopolists tend to have trouble controlling costs or operating, well, like a normal business.The PRC regulates postal rates to prevent abuses of monopoly power. If the USPS gets its way, that could change next month when the Postal Regulatory Commission decides whether to give the Postal Service virtually unlimited power to raise rates on its own. Groups such as ours, along with the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers and the Association for Postal Commerce, have been fighting to keep the CPI cap in place. If the PRC removes it, there will be no check on the Postal Service’s monopoly power.

TheLancasterNews: Most people get mail every day except Sunday. But what happens when the mail comes later than we expect?  We found out a few years ago, when the U.S. postmaster general had to take away overnight first-class and periodicals mail from most of the nation. That caused a problem for a lot of consumers and businesses. Now, we may be facing a new slowdown, if something isn’t done by Congress very soon. We are at another crunch point. The U.S. Postal Service has a $57 billion deficiency on its balance sheet, most of it caused by Congress. Fixing it may require the postmaster general to close more post offices and mail-sorting plants, eliminate mail-hauling truck routes and ground the airmail.  The mail would be slowed down even further. The choices are tough, and Congress is never good at tough choices. Businesses that buy postage cannot afford big increases and will simply find alternatives if the rates are jacked up too much. Consumers cannot afford to pay more for slower mail. USPS wants to protect jobs for its workers.


August 18

FresnoBee:  Regarding the Aug. 11 piece entitled “Postal Service might default for fifth time on retiree payments,” consider the following: Imagine a group of prospective homeowners applying for a 30-year mortgage. All but one is allowed to pay off the mortgage over 30 years. The mortgage company forces the one applicant to pay it off in five years during a recession. That, in a nutshell, is what Congress forced the USPS to do with 2006 postal reform legislation by mandating that it pre-pay its 80-year future retiree health-benefit obligation in only 10 years, which no other corporation in the world is forced to do. During the prior three years, the USPS made an operational profit of $3.2 billion. At 49 cents, a first-class stamp is cheaper than anywhere else in the world. Our postal service, which Benjamin Franklin created, still works pretty well.


August 17

Post&Parcel: UPS has announced that it will start training student delivery drivers to spot and identify road hazards using virtual reality (VR) headsets that simulate the experience of driving on city streets.The company will launch VR training at nine UPS Integrad training facilities in September. Students using the modules must verbally identify potential road hazards such as pedestrians, parked cars and oncoming traffic. UPS claims that the 360° view inside the headset is realistic down to the finest details. The VR training modules replace the touchscreen devices UPS Integrad facilities currently use to teach lessons on road hazards.

TechCrunch: According to a report from ABC News the Postal Service last week reported a loss of $2.1 billion for the quarter, compared to a $1.6 billion loss in the year ago period. The response to this continuing and precipitous decline has been to appeal to government to raise rates, which may only serve to drive customers further out of reach for the ailing mail delivery service. What it could do, instead, is look to innovation as a way to boost its flagging bottom line… and one place it could find inspiration is in the national postal service operating thousands of miles to the south, in Australia. For the past few years, the Australian postal service has made a concerted effort to digitize and modernize its operations and the services it provides. In 2015, the Australia Post announced an initial AUS$20 million initiative to invest in eCommerce businesses and begin working with a university accelerator program in Melbourne to help those businesses thrive. Beyond the investment fund, the Australia Post is also working to establish itself as the gateway to Australia’s experiments with digital identification. Finally, the Postal service in Australia also encourages entrepreneurship with a startup competition of its own.


August 16

NonProfitMailers: Nonprofit mailers are not happy – and here are three reason why. 1. USPS is not responding to adversity like a business. On August 7, the National Association of Letter Carriers announced that they had ratified a labor agreement with the U.S. Postal Service. Read the announcement by the NALC here. And the vote wasn’t close: 78,935 to accept the agreement versus 4,732 to reject it, a margin of 16 to 1. It seems letter carriers know a great thing when they see it​!​ 2.  USPS is inaccurately raising the fear of bankruptcy. On August 10, USPS released its latest quarterly financial results. ​I​t used the opportunity to continue to push for Congressional and PRC help to raise prices more than inflation. It used the fear of bankruptcy as its main argument, even though federal government agencies cannot declare bankruptcy. And the Postal Service has stable revenue, over $10 billion operating cash in the bank, and over $340 billion set aside for retiree benefits. The Alliance recently documented that USPS pre-funding of pensions and retiree healthcare is in better shape than all other sectors: federal, military, Fortune 500, and states. 3.  USPS is proposing technical adjustments that arbitrarily raise rates. We reported in an Alliance Alert on August 1 that USPS is proposing additional rate increases to nonprofit Marketing Mail (formerly Standard Mail), to be offset by lower commercial rates. Read the Alliance Alert here. The nonprofit increases would be over and above all other increases. USPS is seeking to change a methodology that has been in place for the ten years since the 2006 PAEA law eliminated sub-classes of mail. It wants to conjure up pseudo-sub-classes, or synthetic sub-classes, or fake sub-classes – choose your cliché – to engineer a transfer of money from nonprofits to commercial mailers.

Forbes:  Last week the U.S. Postal Service released is latest quarterly financial report, which detailed an immense loss of $2.1 billion. While the Postal Service’s downward financial spiral has clearly continued in unsurprising fashion, the report also reveals some emerging trends that are also worthy of further discussion and scrutiny. Most notably, the Postal Service’s favored fiscal terminology – controllable income – has proven to be an increasingly dubious indicator of its fiscal health. That figure, which the Postal Service used to explain away its ongoing defaults on retiree benefits payments and isolate these defaults as a congressionally-imposed obstacle, has plunged.  The $587 million controllable loss, which only captures losses resulting from its direct product offerings, is now a clear-cut indicator that the Postal Service’s operations are failing to achieve profitability in every sense possible. While the postal agency has many low-profit and unprofitable services, notably for some deregulated services, its regulated core First-Class mail services bring in twice the revenue compared to its delivery costs. Despite First-Class mail being a profit engine, the Postal Service points to its volume declines, partly driven by the widespread adoption of digital technologies, as a reason to raise prices on its regulated services.


August 15

WorkdayMinnesota: A two-cent cut in the price of a first-class stamp, which cut Postal Service revenue by $500 million in the last three months and $1.5 billion in the first nine months of its current fiscal year, put USPS back in the red so far this fiscal year, a top postal union leader says. Had the cut not slid through, due to inaction by postal management last year, the service would have earned almost $1.4 billion through the first three quarters of the year, rather than losing $55 million in that time, adds National Association of Letter Carriers(link is external) President Fredric Rolando. Still, he notes, the agency’s report “shows the underlying business strength of the U.S. Postal Service” because the loss was so small despite the revenue drain from the price cut. Rolando again also called for enactment of legislation permanently solving USPS’ financial problems by killing the $5.5 billion USPS yearly prepayment of future retirees’ health care costs – an unique prepayment the GOP-run Congress imposed a decade ago. Other postal unions had no immediate official comment on the USPS’ financial report, but the situation out in the field was another matter. That’s because the USPS continues to consolidate and close mail distribution centers, costing jobs and drawing protests, this time led by the Postal Workers and the Mail Handlers/Laborers.


August 14

Linns: The latest quarterly financial report from the United States Postal Service describes “essentially flat” revenues, but there are some numbers in the new report that seriously worry top postal officials. Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan and chief financial officer Joseph Corbett acknowledged that first-class mail volumes and revenues have taken a deeper than expected drop in the nine months ended June 30. Advertising mail also has taken a hit, they said. Double-digit increases in package mail volume have continued, but the executives noted that it’s more costly to move than letter mail and doesn’t contribute as much to the Postal Service’s overall expenses as first-class and marketing mail. When all USPS costs mandated by Congress are included, the USPS said its net loss for the nine months was $1.3 billion this year, compared to a loss of $3.3 billion for the same period of 2016.

FederalNewsRadio: With two months (August and September) to go in the cost-of-living countdown, federal, military and Social Security retirees are eagerly awaiting their 2018 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Last month, the COLA — based on the nationwide rise in living costs measured by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics — stood at 1.6 percent, but the Consumer Price Index for the month of July dipped slightly, dropping the estimate to 1.52 percent. The actual amount of the 2018 COLA will be based on the average of the indices of July, August, and September, in comparison with the previous year’s third quarter average. The final number won’t be known until mid-October. Under law, retirees under the FERS program do not get any cost-of-living adjustment until they reach age 62. CSRS retirees qualify for full COLAs regardless of age. Once FERS retirees reach age 62, they get full COLAs up to 2 percent and so-call diet COLAs (less than the full inflation rate) for increases over 2 percent.


August 12

NextGov: Apple’s update of the technological capability of the iPhone with the coming iOS release will allow the U.S. Postal Service to expand the opportunities and capabilities that can be provided to mailers. There are three main additional capabilities that may help elevate the impact of Postal Service products: the iPhone camera can read QR codes; the ARKit allows for augmented reality creation, and the iPhone’s near field communications capability has expanded beyond Apple Pay. All three features can make it easier for customers to both create and interact with mail piece features. The iOS 11 update, expected to be released in fall 2017, presents new opportunities for mailers to collaborate with the Postal Service and more easily connect to mail recipients. The Postal Service currently offers promotions for different types of technology applications with mail pieces, including those that engage the senses or promote online shopping. The Postal Service encourages mailers to add these features to their mail pieces to digitally engage customers with a brand, and this relationship will continue as new technology emerges.


August 11

BLS: The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) rose 0.1 percent in July on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index rose 1.7 percent.

PBS: The U.S. Postal Service is warning that it will likely default on up to $6.9 billion in payments for future retiree health benefits for the fifth straight year. It is citing a coming cash crunch that could disrupt day-to-day mail delivery.The post office says it expects cash balances to run low by October. Postmaster General Megan Brennan stressed an urgent need for federal regulators to grant the Postal Service wide freedom to increase stamp prices to cover costs. She points to continuing red ink due to declining first-class mail volume and the expensive mandates for retiree benefits.

Post&Parcel: California-based startup company Chanje has announced that it will introduce a commercial all-electric truck available at “mass scale” in the US market this year. In a statement issued today (10 August), Chanje said that its new vehicle will be “the only one of its kind designed from the ground up as an EV and purpose-built to be a long-life truck”. Chanje said that it is focusing on the “medium-duty vehicle segment work” (which includes parcel delivery trucks) and it is looking to work with “large fleet customers to provide renewable energy and charging capabilities as a turnkey service”.

AssociatedPress: The U.S. Postal Service warned Thursday that it will likely default on up to $6.9 billion in payments for future retiree health and pension benefits for the fifth straight year, citing a coming cash crunch that could disrupt day-to-day mail delivery. The service said it expected cash balances to run low by October and to avoid bankruptcy would likely not make all of its payments as required under federal law. Postmaster General Megan Brennan stressed an urgent need for federal regulators to grant the Postal Service wide freedom to increase stamp prices to help cover costs, citing continuing red ink due to declining first-class mail volume and the expensive mandates for retiree benefits.

Reuters: The US Postal Service has seen record losses as traditional mail is replaced by electronic means. Without enough money to pay for years of employee benefits, the agency is calling for legislation to enable them to raise their prices. On Thursday, the USPS reported losses of $2.1 billion in the third fiscal quarter of 2017, compared to a $1.6 billion loss in the same quarter last year.  Over the past 10 years, the USPS has incurred a net loss of $63.3 billion and they project future losses without legislative and regulatory changes. The agency also warned that it will likely have to default on $6.9 billion in payments for future retiree health benefits and pensions, according to the Associated Press. If their debt is not addressed soon, the American taxpayer will likely have to cover the costs when future employees retire and cash in on their benefits, to which they are legally entitled. In order to keep the agency running, US Postmaster General Megan Brennan suggested a new pricing system that would allow them to cover its costs.


August 10

Post&Parcel:  Curbside has teamed up with Yelp so US shoppers can buy goods through the Yelp app for pick up from participating local stores or restaurants within an hour. Curbside works with a range of retailers across the US – including the CVS Pharmacy chain, which will be participating in the Yelp/Curbside service. Shoppers order products online and then the goods are packaged ready for collection.

FinancialTimes: Come 10.30am workers at HSBC’s suburban Hong Kong offices are to be found processing a freshly-delivered document deluge: prying out staples, tallying copies and endlessly slotting them into files. A single contract could run to 100 pages. Everything has to be in triplicate and a shipment of, say, 500 shirts in various colours and sizes — each taking its own page — quickly stacks up. HSBC now aims to revolutionise the $2tn world of documented trade finance, placing blockchain and artificial intelligence at the heart of global trade flows. It is adopting an IBM technology that can extract information from non-standardised papers and feed it straight into bank processing systems.


August 9

NYTimes: It may be time to stock up on Forever stamps.Regulators appear likely to accept the financially beleaguered Postal Service's request for more freedom to raise the price of mailing letters. It would be the biggest change in the Postal Service's pricing system in nearly a half-century, allowing stamp prices to rise beyond the rate of inflation. After a 10-year review, the Postal Regulatory Commission could make its decision next month. It might limit how high prices could go, but the cost of a first-class stamp, now 49 cents, could jump. It's not known how much. Financial analysts praise the plan, but it has raised the ire of the mail-order industry, which could pay millions more for sending items like prescription drugs and magazines and pass the costs onto consumers. Congress' failure to address the Postal Service's underlying financial woes, such as onerous requirements to pre-fund retiree health benefits, has left the commission more likely to embrace the request for more pricing freedom. The Postal Service has ruled out closing post offices and ending Saturday delivery to reduce costs.

TheHill: Medicare's breaking point is nigh, with the program's trustees projecting that solvency will only last until 2029. At a time when program expenses need to be minimized in a delicate balancing act, more costs may be offloaded onto Medicare by the United States Postal Service (USPS) through reckless congressional actions. In introducing the Postal Reform Act of 2017, lawmakers hope to use Medicare funds to bail out the retirement funds awash in red ink at the USPS. But adding billions of dollars to an already-beleaguered program is simply the wrong solution to a longstanding problem. Certain changes, such as ending Saturday delivery, are actively being considered and would help reverse fiscal damage. But reform cannot end there. Nixing weekend delivery is projected to bring in $3 billion a year. The USPS could save another $1.9 billion by purchasing a mixed fleet of off-the-shelf vehicles, instead of purchasing “Next Generation Delivery Vehicles” (NGDV) with little resale value or technological potential.

ThinkProgress: Since Election Day, unions have lived on borrowed time. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which has exclusive authority over many key questions of labor law, is still controlled by Democrats. But this period of interregnum is about to end. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) began the process of confirming the first of Trump’s two nominees to the NLRB on Monday. When both nominees sit on the Board, a swift rollback of union rights is likely. As soon as this week, the Senate is likely to vote on Marvin Kaplan, the first of these two nominees. A former GOP Hill staffer, Kaplan drafted legislation—strongly supported by business lobby groups—which would have made it easier for employers to fight unionization campaigns. Trump’s other nominee, William Emanuel, is a veteran management-side lawyer who touts his “particular expertise with laws concerning union access to the private property of employers.” He’s also filed briefs in three cases claiming that employers can force workers to waive their right to bring class actions and similar lawsuits.

DFWCBS: Buffeted by threats from Amazon drones to deliveries by golf cart, the U.S. Postal Service is counting on a different strategy to stay competitive. It is seeking more freedom to raise prices for mailing letters. After a 10-year review, the Postal Regulatory Commission appears likely to grant the Postal Service power to increase the cost of stamps beyond the rate of inflation. It would be the biggest change in its pricing system in nearly a half-century. A decision is expected next month.

GovExec: More than 200,000 U.S. Postal Service employees will soon receive a pay raise but face a slight decrease in health benefits under a new labor contract formally agreed to this week. The National Association of Letter Carriers, which represents 213,000 city mailmen and women across the country, ratified an agreement it had struck with USPS management to avoid binding arbitration. The agreement will take effect retroactively to May 21, 2016, and continue through Sept. 20, 2019. All city letter carriers will receive a 1.2 percent pay raise retroactive to Nov. 26, 2016, and a 1.3 percent increase effective Nov. 25 of this year. Employees on the second level of the two-grade pay scale will receive a 2.1 percent raise in 2018. On top of those general wage increases, employees will also receive a series of seven cost-of-living adjustments throughout the life of the contract.


August 8

CNBC: Starting Aug. 31, those third-party merchants have to adapt to a significant and costly change. According to an email that Amazon sent to sellers of books, CDs and DVDs, distributors to the lower 48 states will have to deliver items within a window of four to eight days, down from four to 14 days. The company is putting in place a number of policies that force sellers to provide the same speed and quality of service that customers have come to expect from Amazon. But marketplace merchants, who sell out of their garage or warehouse rather than using Amazon's fulfillment centers, have to build shipping costs into their business model, and they typically operate on very thin margins. The USPS has a special rate for media items and says on its website that delivery times range from two to eight days. But sellers told CNBC that coast-to-coast shipments often take a few days longer than that. The risk to missing Amazon's guaranteed delivery window is that a seller gets bad reviews, which means losing visibility on listings and can eventually lead to suspension.


August 7

FedWeek: The Postal Service carried out its pay for performance program for about 49,000 non-bargaining employees in supervisory, technical, administrative and managerial positions in accordance with its policies and procedures, an IG audit has found. However, it added that “guidance documents could be more accurate and updated more timely,” raising “the risk of inconsistent application of process, noncompliance, or lack of employee accountability.” Based on a closer examination of about a third of the sub-organizations, auditors said that if employees had been evaluated based on individual contributions for their assigned location, ratings of 30 percent would have been higher and ratings of 8 percent would have been lower. Successfully operating pay for performance programs so that they are fair yet draw meaningful distinctions among employees has been a long-running challenge for federal agencies.


August 5

WashingtonPost: The boom in Internet retailing has provided a rare bit of good news to the beleaguered U.S. Postal Service, which is delivering packages at a historic pace — and reaping revenue that helps offset billions of dollars of losses elsewhere in the agency’s budget. But the Postal Service isn’t the only one making money when a mail carrier brings a new pair of shoes or a school backpack to your door.  Private companies compete fiercely to sell postage, prepare labels and help retailers find the best deals for shipping their products. But the Postal Service’s dire finances underscore the importance of maximizing the agency’s revenue. And it is this point that has generated sharp controversy within the industry, with officials at several companies complaining that the Postal Service has tipped the scales against them while wasting money in the process.


August 4

Post&Parcel: UPS is expanding its alcohol shipping delivery offering, meaning wine connoisseurs can have their favorite cases of wine shipped directly from the vineyards to their home using one of the UPS Express shipping services. UPS will now ship wine, beer and liquor to consumers and businesses in 11 countries throughout Asia Pacific including: China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. In Malaysia, only businesses can import wine and beer. According to the International Organization of Vine and Wine, 43% of all wine is consumed in a different country to that in which it is produced, and the global wine market is expected to reach $380 billion by 2022.

WashingtonPost: The Food and Drug Administration is strengthening efforts to detect opioids illegally entering the country through the mail, reflecting heightened concerns about the flood of synthetic fentanyl and similar drugs being shipped from China and elsewhere. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, in internal remarks to a group of senior managers Thursday, said he was deploying about three dozen employees to international mail facilities run by the U.S. Postal Service to help detect and analyze suspicious packages, as well as to the FDA’s cybercrime and forensic-chemistry units. Public health leaders and policymakers worried about the nation’s opioid epidemic are increasingly focusing on the international mail problem. Just last week, the White House opioid commission, headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), called on the Trump administration to boost funding, staffing and technology to try to “staunch the flow of deadly synthetic opioids” arriving through the mail.

Post&Parcel: FedEx has announced that it will not be applying a 2017 holiday season surcharge for residential shipments – except for packages that are “oversized, unauthorized, or require additional handling”. In a statement issued today (3 August), FedEx said: “The volume of oversized packages moving through the FedEx Ground network during the Holiday season has increased by approximately 240 percent over the past 10 years and is now about 10 percent of all volume handled by FedEx Ground. FedEx has engineered its networks to add sortation and delivery capabilities to accommodate the continued rise in demand for larger, heavier packages, including entire facilities temporarily dedicated to oversized packages. The Holiday season surcharge will be effective Nov. 20, 2017, through Dec. 24, 2017.  FedEx Express and FedEx Ground in the U.S. and Canada will increase the surcharge during this period for additional handling by $3 per package, for oversize goods by $25 per package, and for unauthorized shipments by $300 per package.”

GovExec: The U.S. Postal Service is failing to reward its top performers under a pay system designed to recognize excellence, according to a new report, instead relying on group metrics that collectively punish employees for the work of their colleagues. Using the Capital Metro Area as a sample, the USPS inspector general found 30 percent of employees who would have been eligible on their own were denied a pay raise under the agency’s pay-for-performance system due to their teams’ scores. Only the Postal Service’s 48,000 non-bargaining unit Executive and Administrative Schedule employees, who serve in supervisory, technical, administrative and managerial positions, receive performance-based pay. The auditors recommended USPS management improve its communication of the criteria for pay raises to “reduce the risk of negative perception” and disengagement. They also said the Postal Service should reward individual stations, branches and plant departments.


August 2

PostalNews: While Josh Sandbulte gets some things right about the Postal Service in his self-serving opinion piece “Why the Post Office Gives Amazon Special Delivery” (July 14): he provides an inaccurate and unfair account of the package delivery side of our business. By law our competitive package products, including those that we deliver for Amazon, must cover their costs. Our regulator, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), looks carefully at this question every year and has determined that they do. The PRC has also noted that competitive products help fund the infrastructure of the Postal Service. It is that infrastructure that enables us to fulfill our universal service obligation to deliver to each and every address in the United States at an affordable rate. Despite our achievements in improving operational efficiency and growing revenue, we cannot overcome systemic financial imbalances caused by legal and other constraints.


August 1

linns: The cheapest place to purchase United States postage is not always your local post office. It could be a personal-computer (PC) postage firm that has signed up for a little-known U.S. Postal Service program that offers sharply discounted postage rates under a promise to help the USPS generate greater mail volume.Some are offering these postage discounts to small mailers and postal customers who can’t generate enough volume to secure the deep discounts on their own. One researcher claims the discounts can be as much as 31 percent below the Postal Service’s published postal rates. The discounted prices were to be “somewhere between the Postal Service’s published retail prices and Commercial Plus Pricing.” CPP represents sharply discounted rates the USPS had offered to large mailers.

Frieghtwaves: Back in 2013, the New York Times reported that the United States Postal Service (USPS) would start making Sunday deliveries for online retail giant Amazon. It initially served as an effort by USPS to stop the financial bleeding of the agency that was happening as Americans sent fewer and fewer letters. With a reported annual loss totaling about $16 billion, deals with profitable companies like the one Jeff Bezos leads looked like a step in the right direction as far as USPS’ efforts to eliminate losses. But according to a report published by Josh Sandbulte in the Wall Street Journal, USPS has been picking up the tab for Amazon. The WSJ contributor, whose expertise is in the shipping industry, detailed how Congress prevents USPS, through the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, from changing the parcel price. This law is designed to avoid “unfair competition” with FedEx and UPS. The report implies that Amazon gets the better end of the deal through the $1.46 subsidy. It is as if the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act served as a loophole for Amazon to exploit.