National News

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March 29, 2017

FreeportPressWith the exigent price hikes finally removed from USPS rates, business mailers have been enjoying the first postal decrease in a century. The breather, it appears, could soon be over…and mailing professionals are not taking it sitting down. While the temporary rate increase was designed to get the Postal Service through the recession and accompanying drop in mail volume, some have been arguing for months that the hike should be permanent. The USPS argues that removing 4.3% hike is a leading reason for their bleak economic outlook. That, plus the onus of having to prefund their retiree health plan, is unsustainable, according to Postmaster General Megan Brennan. They want hikes that are higher than the inflation-based cap currently in place. The mailing industry isn’t buying it, saying the organization has plenty of opportunities to fix their own situation instead of relying on their captive audience of mailing customers to foot the bill.

 

 


March 28, 2017

KSUTOn April 14, the Postal Service is set to launch a nationwide service that allows users, in a sense, to peek at their mail before it arrives in their mailbox.  Users will have the option of getting an email with photos of the front of card- and letter-size mail pieces that are due to arrive that day, or a day or two later. The email is sent on days when mail is being processed and delivered. It shows up to 10 grayscale images in each email with a link at the bottom to see the rest. Users can also view the images for seven days on their dashboard, which they can find on informeddelivery.usps.com.

TheHill: As Congress and the new administration pile up priorities and program reforms, the fiscally challenged United States Postal Service (USPS) is ripe for monumental changes. Unfortunately, legislation that has started moving through the House of Representatives falls far short of what is needed. The bill also includes a provision to alter the USPS benefit system so that more than 400,000 employees are transferred into Medicare. This massive shift would add beneficiaries to a program that its actuaries said will slip into the red in 2028, two years earlier than predicted in 2015. In other words, the bill fails to fix what is broken, still allows the agency to foray into activities that are already well-served by competitive private companies, burdens taxpayers with new liabilities, and glosses over the lack of transparency and accountability by calling for a superficial report. Properly fixing the USPS so that it will be functional for generations to come without needing taxpayer support requires looking beyond the Postal Service Reform Act of 2017.

PatientDaily: Legislation designed to tie U.S. Postal Service retiree health care plans more closely with Medicare could needlessly saddle seniors with two insurance premiums, according to one health policy expert who has studied a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. If passed, the bill would also transfer tens of billions of dollars from Medicare to the Postal Service to cover unfunded future liabilities. The passage of such a bill would lead to a series of negative financial effects, including the transfer of some $50 billion a year from Medicare to cover Postal Service liabilities and force seniors to buy insurance they do not need or want.

 


March 27, 2017

FolioMag: As the Postal Regulatory Commission's 10-year review of USPS postage rates moves forward, the MPA has teamed up with a pair of mailer organizations to argue the case for affordable shipping. The MPA, along with the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers (ANM) and the Association for Postal Commerce (PostCom), submitting comments to the PRC this week calling on it to "retain the inflation-capped pricing structure that has protected captive users of the Postal Service's monopoly services for the past decade." The three associations' common stance is that declines in postal volume have actually stabilized in recent years, following steep drop-offs from 2007 to 2010, and that operating revenue is increasing, contrary to the Postal Service's portrayal of the situation. 

TheVerge: Amazon has been testing its Prime Air delivery drones for years now, but this week IT made its first public demo of the system in the US. A Prime Air drone dropped off some bottles of sunscreen for attendees at the company’s invite-only MARS conference in California on Monday. Amazon says it’s the first time its drones have flown for the public in America, with all other US flights taking place on private property.  Autonomous drone delivery is still prohibited in the US, and Amazon has complained that the regulatory system is too slow to adapt. It’s moving faster in the UK, explaining why Amazon does a lot of testing there, but the biggest problem for tech companies and regulators alike is arranging for reliable low-altitude air traffic control.


March 26, 2017

USPSWhile the U.S. Postal Service welcomes constructive dialog surrounding the Postal Regulatory Commission’s (PRC) 10-year review of the pricing system for market-dominant products, we cannot let false and irresponsible claims made by several mailing industry leaders in a recent The Hill op-ed go unchallenged. Although we remain optimistic about our future with continued aggressive management and legislative and regulatory reform, the Postal Service is not currently “in good financial shape,” despite what the authors say.  To the contrary, we continue to face very serious, but solvable, financial challenges. Despite our achievements in improving operational efficiency and growing revenue, we cannot overcome systemic financial imbalances caused by legal and other constraints. Because the current pricing system is not achieving the objectives of the 2006 postal law, including the objective to ensure that the Postal Service is financially stable, the Postal Service has proposed an alternative pricing system that does not include a price cap.

AmericanPrinterBCC Software is pleased to announce a special edition of its monthly webcast, Lien In, on April 4, 2017, focused on the Informed Visibility® initiative featuring Stephen Dearing, Director of Corporate Reporting, for the United States Postal Service®. Dearing will join host, president of BCC Software, Chris Lien for a live, hour-long educational session, helping attendees understand Informed Visibility’s impact on the print and mail industry. Click to register for the webcast.


March 25, 2017

LinnsIf you think that Postmaster General Megan Brennan has a difficult job trying to convince Congress to help the financially struggling United States Postal Service, you’re right. But that’s only one of the fights that the nation’s 74th postal chief is facing. Brennan’s other, less-known struggle could be just as difficult. She is trying to convince the four-member Postal Regulatory Commission to remove a 10-year-old price cap that limits the size of stamp price increases to no more than the rate of inflation. Not surprisingly, major mailers are buying none of Brennan’s arguments. In a joint filling, three major mail groups have told the PRC that allowing rate increases larger than inflation “would be a devastating mistake.” Far from being in financial trouble, the Association for Postal Commerce, Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, and the Association of Magazine Media say “reports of the Postal Service’s impending demise are greatly exaggerated.” Allowing high rate increases, they say, will only allow the Postal Service to raise funds that will be “squandered” on overly generous contracts with postal unions and “laxer control of costs.”


March 24, 2017

PostalNewsNALC submits comments in PRC’s rate-setting review. Chief among NALC’s recommendations is that the PRC should eliminate the price cap on so-called “market dominant” products such as First Class Mail.  The cap has failed to provide the means to achieve the most important objective of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Financial Act (PAEA): financial stability for USPS. NALC’s submitted comments were reinforced by the inclusion of a study performed at the union’s request by well-known experts, including two former PRC research directors. The study concluded that capping USPS’ rates at the rate of growth in the CPI prevents the agency from achieving financial sustainability.

PostalNews:  On March 10, the APWU signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Postal Service that remedies the situation where Motor Vehicle Service Postal Support Employees (PSE) who had been granted a salary exception were converted to career status within the same craft but to a lower level and received a starting salary rate in accordance with the June 6, 2014 MOU “Re: Resolution of Postal Support Employee (PSE) Salary Exception Issues,”  and its April 3, 2015 addendum. 

PostalNewsIn a comment letter to the U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission today, ABA advocated for maintaining stable postal rates based upon the Consumer Price Index. Given that the banking industry is one of the largest users of the Postal Service, ABA emphasized that its members are committed to stable pricing and common-sense postal reform that would allow the USPS to continue operating in an efficient, self-sustaining and affordable manner. However, the association did recommend that the USPS improve workshare pricing — that is, discounts offered to mailers that perform activities that reduce the Postal Service’s cost. Providing greater discounts could help lower the effective cost of mail, and in turn allow mail to remain an attractive, affordable option for customer communication.


March 23, 2017

Post&ParcelTransport companies and carriers again feature heavily in Husch Blackwell’s recently-published Top 150 U.S. Postal Service Suppliers list. All told, the US Postal Service (USPS) spent over $14bn in 2016 on outside purchases, about half of that for transportation. Transport contractors fill half of the first ten spots on the Top 150 for fiscal year 2016 (which ended on 30 September). FCA US, formerly known as Chrysler Group, was at number 4 with $270m in revenue. In April 2016, USPS agreed to purchase 9,113 Ram ProMaster commercial vans from FCA. Six of the companies ranked from 11 through to 20 also provide transport services to USPS.

March 22, 2017

PostalNewsUSPS is offering comments on the 10-year pricing system review being conducted by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). Under a 2006 postal law, the PRC must review the system used for regulating rates and classes for market-dominant products, including First-Class Mail, USPS Marketing Mail and other mail categories.The goal is to determine if the current system is meeting its objectives, which include enabling the Postal Service to be financially stable. If the current system is not meeting the objectives of the law, the PRC can modify it or adopt a new system.In comments filed March 20, USPS recommended changes to the current system.

PostalNewsIn an effort to deal with formidable rival Amazon, eBay has launched a new program giving shoppers guaranteed three-day shipping on 20 million products. Called “Guaranteed Delivery,” it also includes free shipping on “millions” of those items, according to eBay, and will roll out in the US starting this summer. eBay points has 1.1 billion items listed at any given time, of which 67 percent already ship for free and 63 percent arrive within three or fewer days. With “Guaranteed Delivery” items, however, eBay will either refund the shipping or give you a coupon if they don’t arrive on time.

WashingtonPost:Federal agents have asked to seize more than 100 mail parcels in the Washington, D.C.-area since October, suspecting each was being used by drug traffickers to ship narcotics. The cases are a fraction of a nationwide surge in drug deals conducted through the U.S. Postal Service and are only some of the 2,000 cases opened by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.Federal auditors report almost 35,000 pounds of marijuana was seized from U.S. Postal Service parcels in 2015. The packages include “heavy taping,” feature addresses from states in which marijuana is legalized and often use the U.S. Postal Service’s “click and save” stickers, which investigators said are added to make illegal parcels appear to be legitimate business packages.


March 21, 2017

PostalNewsFrom the American Postal Workers Union:On March 16, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee “marked-up” and approved the Postal Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 756). Recognizing the need to set the Postal Service on sound financial footing, the APWU supported H.R. 756 advancing through committee. The favorable vote to move the bill out of the Oversight Committee is one of several key steps in a lengthy legislative process. After H.R. 756 was introduced in January, President Dimondstein and APWU’s Legislative Department requested clarifying language to ensure that prescription drug benefit coverage under FEHB would not decrease through Medicare integration. A manager’s amendment (a change to the bill by its sponsor) was offered by Chairman Jason Chaffetz to address this concern. The manager’s amendment was adopted by the Committee.

FolioMagAs the Postal Regulatory Commission's 10-year review of USPS postage rates moves forward, the MPA has teamed up with a pair of mailer organizations to argue the case for affordable shipping. The MPA, along with the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers (ANM) and the Association for Postal Commerce (PostCom), submitted comments to the PRC this week calling on it to "retain the inflation-capped pricing structure that has protected captive users of the Postal Service's monopoly services for the past decade." The three associations' common stance is that declines in postal volume have actually stabilized in recent years, following steep drop-offs from 2007 to 2010, and that operating revenue is increasing, contrary to the Postal Service's portrayal of the situation. Included in the comments submitted to the PRC by the three associations are some suggested means by which the USPS might improve its financial situation, ranging from specific to over-arching. Among them: reducing compensation for employees, which the associations argue are overpaid compared to their counterparts in the private sector; placing renewed emphasis on driving productivity; conceiving new sources of revenue, like advertising on mail trucks; and, simply, making better decisions when it comes to management and pricing.


March 20, 2017

DeadTree: The increasing use of non-career letter carriers has caused a steady rise in motor vehicle accidents and liability, postal officials said this week. The U.S. Postal Service’s liability for motor vehicle tort claims (paid to victims of accidents) rose from $48 million in Fiscal Year 2015 to $88 million in FY2016, the Postal Regulatory Commission recently pointed out. The lower pay, paltry benefits, and more flexible schedules of the 70,000 or so City Carrier Assistant (CCA) and Rural Carrier Associate (RCA) positions are probably saving the Postal Service at least $500 million in annual compensation. But the inexperienced employees have also meant more mis-delivered mail, employee injuries, lower productivity, higher turnover, and ballooning recruiting and training costs, according to the USPS.

PostalNewsThe National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) is deeply disappointed the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform approved the Postal Service Reform Act of 2017, H.R. 756, without addressing the serious concerns of 76,000 postal retirees who would be forced to enroll in Medicare under the bill. “NARFE, as an organization representing postal retirees and as a customer of the Postal Service, is committed to supporting legislation that provides much needed reforms to USPS that allow for its long-term stability. However, we remain disappointed that the Committee failed to once again consider our simple, fair and reasonable alternative: maintain automatic enrollment of current postal retirees into Medicare Part B, but provide them with a short opt-out window of 60 or 90 days. Without this option, the bill breaks an unwritten promise regarding retiree health benefits and replaces the individual postal retiree’s choice of health insurance with a paternalistic requirement, at significant cost to the Medicare program.”

ContractorsPerspective: Transportation contractors once again dominate the top spots in our annual list of the Top 150 U.S. Postal Service Suppliers. In fiscal year 2016, USPS spent over $14 billion on outside purchases, about half of that for transportation. As it has since 2002, Federal Express Corporation lands atop the list, this year with $1.678 billion in revenues – about a $300 million increase from last year. FCA US, LLC, formerly known as Chrysler Group LLC, raced to No. 4 on the list with $270 million in revenue. In April 2016, USPS agreed to purchase 9,113 Ram ProMaster commercial vans from FCA. Rounding out the transportation-related companies in the Top 10 are trucking companies Salmon Companies (No. 5, $242 million), Eagle Express Lines, Inc. (No. 8, $179 million) and auto-supplier Wheeler Bros., Inc. (No. 9, $177 million). Package and logistics giant United Parcel Service is ranked No. 11, earning $161 million in postal revenues. Six of the companies ranked No. 11 through 20 also provide transportation services to USPS.


March 18, 2017

FederalNewsRadio: Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have lobbied hard for postal reform this year, and have already briefed President Donald Trump about their intention to have a pair of bills arrive on his desk soon. For the first time in recent years, this attempt to remedy the U.S. Postal Service’s troubled business model has received the support of four major postal unions, private industry and the committee’s leadership from both parties. “This is a big day. We’ve been working on a postal reform bill for a long time,” committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said. “This is the next step in a process that has been very bipartisan from start to finish.” Both postal reform bills cleared the committee, and now head for a full House vote.

BroadwayWorldA new United States Postal Service (USPS) discount program, which grants 2-5% off postage costs to US-based direct mail companies and their clients, is under way. Official DirectMail2.0 partners will qualify for these discounts on all mail that is sent between March 1, 2017 Aug. 31, 2017 with DirectMail2.0 technology. This could total tens of thousands in savings. The Postal Service is billing this promotion as their "Digital to Direct Mail" experience, which features two separate discount promotions. The first, the Emerging and Advanced Technology program, offers 2% off postage for first-class mail from March 1 - Aug. 31, 2017. The second is the Direct Mail Starter program, which offers 5% off postage (up to 10,000 pieces) to businesses and nonprofits who are not currently using direct mail, and runs from May 1 - July 31, 2017.


March 17, 2017

TheHillThe House Oversight Committee on Thursday approved two bipartisan bills aimed at putting the U.S. Postal Service on better financial footing.The committee passed the bills by voice vote. One of the bills makes a number of changes to the Postal Service, which has faced financial challenges in recent years. The bill would automatically enroll eligible USPS retirees in Medicare, make reforms to the Postal Service's governance, bolster the use of centralized delivery, allow the USPS to increase postal rates by 1 cent for a first-class stamp and to provide non-postal services to state and local governments. The Oversight Committee also approved a bill that would authorize the Treasury Department to diversify the investment strategy for the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund.

News4Jax: The budget proposal President Trump unveiled Thursday would slash discretionary spending at many agencies, with the exception of defense and border enforcement. While the document doesn't specify how many jobs would be cut, experts say tens of thousands of government jobs could be eliminated if Congress approves this budget. The U.S. government has just over 2 million civilian employees, not including the Postal Service, which is an independent agency that is not funded by taxpayers. 

WashingtonPostUnder President Trump’s budget proposal, federal employees at many agencies may need to acquaint themselves with a lately dormant but still much-feared term: Reduction in Force.
If Trump’s budget is enacted into law, it would hike defense spending by $54 billion — and pay for it with an equal cut in domestic spending at other federal agencies. Trump has said that reducing the size of the federal workforce — better known by its acronym, RIF — is a top priority. RIFs have not been used widely for decades. It is a complex process that catalogues and ranks employees based on the work they do and where, their employment status, veteran status, length of service and performance ratings.


March 16, 2017

TheHill 

FedWeek: The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is set to move a postal reform bill (HR-576), one of the topics of rare bipartisan agreement in that panel and potentially a breakthrough in the long-stalled reform effort. The committee had passed similar legislation last year but too late to shepherd it all the way through to enactment.The measure addresses business-type issues unique to that agency because of its self-funding nature, including stretching out an obligation to pre-fund retiree health care and allowing it more freedom to raise rates and to branch out into new services.

TheHill: According to Megan Brennan, United States Postmaster General, enactment of bipartisan postal reform, H.R.756, along with a favorable resolution of the Postal Regulatory Commission’s (PRC) pricing system review and continued aggressive management actions to control costs and grow revenue will enable to the Postal Service to meet its financial obligations and continue to provide affordable, reliable, and secure delivery service to every business and home in America. Despite achievements in growing revenue and improving operational efficiency, we cannot overcome systemic financial imbalances caused by statutory and other mandated constraints. Without action, our net losses will continue and our financial position will worsen — threatening our ability to meet America’s evolving mailing and shipping needs. Enactment of the bill, a favorable outcome to the PRC’s pricing system review and continued aggressive management actions will allow the Postal Service to focus 100 percent of our efforts on growing and improving our vital delivery service to meet the needs of our customers and the expectations of the American public today and beyond.


March 15, 2017

CPICPI for all items rises 0.1% in February; food and shelter indexes increase but gas falls. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 0.1 percent in February after rising 0.6 percent in January. The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.2 percent in February after increasing 0.3 percent in January.

March 10, 2017

OpenPRThe global postal packaging industry is transforming itself in an era of globalization, technological transformation, and innovation. The structural drop in physical letter mail volumes across the globe makes significant challenges for the postal packaging industry. Although postal operators around the world remain to rebalance their business portfolios by shrinking their dependency on domestic markets and traditional mail businesses. Letter mail still shows a significant share of revenue for postal packaging. It is expected that the sales in key markets such as the US, China, Japan and France are expected to rise steadily over 2016-2024. Most of the postal packaging operators are participating in environmental sustainability by making environment-friendly mailer packaging products.

March 8, 2017

PRWebUSLegal, Inc. today announced a partnership with Earth Class Mail, a leading provider of virtual mail and address services. The alliance enables USLegal.com to offer additional services to its customers including online postal mail management, document scanning, check deposit, and workflow automation. 

 

March 7, 2017

PostStarU.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, on Feb. 28 co-sponsored a resolution Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., introduced Jan. 6 urging the U.S. Postal Service to restore service standards to levels in effect on July 1, 2012, according to the Library of Congress government information web site.The Postal Service would return to previous 2- and 3-day delivery standards, restore overnight delivery service within cities and towns, and would be less likely to consolidate postal operations, according to the American Postal Workers Union.The resolution – H Res 31 – had 125 co-sponsors, as of Tuesday – 26 Republicans and 99 Democrats.

USAToday: For more than three years the Postal Service has been operating at a profit, to the tune of $3.7 billion overall. Revenues have steadily risen as the economy improves and as online shopping boosts package revenues. On Feb. 9, USPS announced a $522 million operating profit for fiscal year 2017’s first quarter. This is earned revenue; the Postal Service receives no taxpayer money. Consensus legislation supported by a broad coalition of key lawmakers, industry groups, and postal management and labor addresses the onerous pre-funding burden while strengthening the invaluable — and profitable — postal networks.

March 6, 2017

Trucks.com: The chronically beleaguered United States Postal Service may be headed for a refresh, courtesy of major reforms proposed in Congress. A Morgan Stanley report this month suggests that a streamlined, flexible USPS could pose a threat to the two private logistics behemoths [UPS and FedEx], particularly in e-commerce delivery services. “This is clearly a time of fast-moving, secular developments in the logistics/last mile parcel delivery space, but all signs point to increased — not reduced — competition,” according to the report.  USPS is operationally profitable. Its first-class mail revenue is declining more slowly year-over-year than forecasts projected. It has made $14 billion in cost reductions since 2008. The agency’s net income demonstrates that the core operations aren’t necessarily in disarray. The primary financial culprit is retiree healthcare benefit spending — if Congress can clean that up, USPS wouldn’t need to institute price hikes. And even if the agency decides to charge more for its services, it likely won’t target e-commerce parcel delivery. If anything, a reformed USPS would lower prices for package services while boosting stamp prices. Currently, USPS’ competitive products are priced at $4 a unit, compared with $8 at UPS and FedEx Ground, Morgan Stanley found. So a 50 percent increase at USPS would still put the price 25 percent below the private competitors’.

March 3, 2017

Linn's Stamp NewsThe way United States postal inspectors are telling it, Khalid M. Hussain, the longtime manager of the Stamp Fulfillment Services center in Kansas City, Mo., ran a rogue operation for years that sold U.S. mint stamps overseas at deep discounts. At the same time at his offices in the underground stamp center known as “the caves,” Hussain was giving away, or selling at discounted prices, philatelic products sent to his facility for disposal or destruction. The problem, the inspectors say, is that neither operation had approval from U.S. Postal Service headquarters in Washington, D.C. That’s the ugly picture that emerges from a newly released investigative report.

March 1, 2017

USATodayThe postal service operates under a 2006 law that governs what it can charge for stamps, how much it must pay into retiree health funds and how it operates its business. Some provisions of the law expired last year, including the provision that forced the postal service to pay a staggering $5.4 billion to $5.8 billion annually to the health fund. Now the House is considering a bipartisan bill that would revamp that costly health plan and could lead to an increase in stamp prices – moves lawmakers say could help USPS thrive.

Post&ParcelFord demonstrated its concept for autonomous parcel delivery vehicles – dubbed “Autolivery” – as part of its “City of Tomorrow” display at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Self-driving vans could quickly and efficiently transport everything from groceries to urgently needed medical supplies on the ground, with drones potentially able to take to the air for the final leg of the journey to reach destinations inaccessible by car, such as high up in a tower block – or where parking would be difficult, impractical, or unsafe. 

InternetRetailer: The Postal Service, facing sharp declines in demand for its market-dominant products like letter mail, came to the realization that its future relies on hitching a ride with e-commerce’s growth and exploiting the key advantage it has over UPS and FedEx—it visits 156 million U.S. residence and business addresses six days a week and, in some cases, seven.  The Postal Service in recent years has made that investment and is now reaping the benefits as more high-volume shippers, including Amazon.com Inc., steer parcels its way. In the Internet Retailer 2012 Top 500 Guide, 90 retailers listed the Postal Service as their primary shipping carrier, representing $64.46 billion in online sales. Four years later, 120 retailers representing $132.26 billion in sales listed USPS as their primary carrier. Capital investments to improve its technology, sorting systems and delivery fleet are allowing the Postal Service to present itself as a viable shipping option for high-volume e-retailers. Ongoing investments include more automated parcel sorting systems and new vehicles with 28% more cargo space to accommodate the boxes and padded envelopes that carry online orders. The Postal Service is also actively marketing its services to merchants through its national sales team, old-fashioned direct mail (it pays its standard rate) and television commercials.

 

  
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