New USPS Load Leveling Changes - Will They Affect Your Marketing Mix?

Loads-of-different-direct-mail-pieces-measured-blog

The USPS issued its final ruling on Load Leveling for Standard Mail flats, letters and parcels on Saturday, March 8. The rules will go into effect on April 10. How will this affect mailers with critical in-home delivery windows?

In the last couple of years, the USPS has made significant advancements in its ability to meet service standards. The predictability of getting catalogs and direct mail pieces in-home by Monday is important for a lot of standard mail clients. For example, retailers often have limitations on the period that sale prices are in effect, so it’s important that shoppers have the opportunity to plan their shopping trip(s) around these sale events. This is particularly true for shoppers who budget their purchases. Timing is also important for marketers so they can manage staffing levels at call centers and retail locations.

In the face of this (and now for significantly more postage than before), the USPS has decided that in the interest of providing a more level workload throughout the week they need to add a day to the delivery window for standard mail entering their facilities on Fridays and Saturdays. This is supposed to help manage overtime, and get carriers back in the office by 5pm. The table below indicates the effect of the changes.

DSCF Standard Mail Dropped before 4 pm* on Delivery Days (Meeting Service Standard) Current Delivery Days (Meeting Service Standard) Proposed
Thursday Friday, Saturday, Monday Friday, Saturday, Monday
Friday Saturday, Monday Saturday, Monday, Tuesday
Saturday Monday, Tuesday Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
Sunday Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday

*The Critical Entry Time (CET) for mail to be officially entered into the system on that day.

Will this impact delivery times? Yes, that is the intention of the Service Standards change. How much is uncertain as the USPS has only tested the potential impact in three facilities. The USPS is confident that a one-in-three success rate is good enough to move forward. In two of the three tests the desired effect of load leveling never occurred. And there is some doubt that the volume of mail is actually the problem.

Briefs submitted by the PRC indicate that carrier overtime on Mondays has increased over the last 5 years while the volume of Standard Mail being drop-shipped on Fridays has remained proportionally flat. A closer correlation exists between carrier overtime and the implementation of Mail Processing Network Rationalization (MPNR), or the process of right-sizing the postal network based on decreasing mail volume. In this same time period there has been a consolidation of 2,300 delivery facilities and an increase in parcel volume. The USPS hasn’t determined exactly what’s causing the overtime, but the delivery standards change is how they’re attempting to correct it.

Will changes in Standard Mail services impact postal clients’ use of standard mail? Most mailers participating in the Mailing Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) workgroup have indicated they would reduce use of Standard Mail if delivery service can’t be as predictable as it is today. However, the Postal Service issued the ruling before the MTAC group completed their work and recommendations. Perhaps the USPS is hoping Standard Mail users will switch to more expensive First-Class, where the service standards are tighter.

The Postal Service is confident this decision will have no noticeable effect on the volume of Standard Mail or on its operations - except to improve them. We’d like to know what you think. Send us your comments or participate in our brief poll.

You can read the official rule filing in the Federal Register. If you are a member of PostCom, I’d encourage reading of Bulletin 11-14, which contains the briefs against this change filed with the PRC and the procedural argument used by the USPS to disregard them.


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