US Postmaster General defends five-day delivery, unveils same day mail service

David Ward, San Diego
Thursday, March 21, 2013

US Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe used the National Postal Forum in San Francisco this week to renew calls for the US Congress to let the US Postal Service (USPS) end Saturday deliveries and to stop getting involved in issues including how it funds its employees pensions.

"We needs Congress to make some decisions and then get out of the way," he said during a generally upbeat keynote speech formally kicking off the three-day forum. "I’m a very positive person.

"I believe we will solve our issues. I believe we will create a business model that enables the
Postal Service to be financially stable over the long haul."

More than 3,000 people - as well as major print industry players ranging from HP and Pitney Bowes to Ricoh and Quad/Graphics - gathered at the Moscone Center in San Francisco to not only hear from Donahoe, but also to discuss strategies for enhancing mail and print.

As part of that plan to keep traditional mail relevant, Donahoe used the NPF to introduce same-day delivery of products ordered of via online or mobile.

"Right here in San Francisco, the Postal Service has been conducting a pilot test of a delivery service called MetroPost," he explained. "Your toaster breaks at nine in the morning. You call a department store to order a new one sent to your home that same afternoon. Who delivers it? The Postal Service! If we make the activity of ordering something really simple, and we provide a robust, low-cost delivery infrastructure, the use of delivery will grow dramatically."

But Donahoe also stressed that even with these new services, the USPS has to remain affordable in order to remain relevant. Since 2006, the USPS has reduced the size of its workforce by 200,000, consolidated 308 mail-processing and reduced 21.000 delivery routes, moves that have cut its annual cost base by $15bn. But it still lost nearly $30bn in 2010-2012.

"We can make mail more personally relevant. We can make it more actionable, and functional, and creative - but it must stay affordable," Donahoe explained. "The faster we can reduce costs, the better we can avoid pressure to raise prices. That’s why we need more flexibility in our business model."

In a brief interview after his speech, Donahoe expressed confidence that the US Congress, which in recent years has included a provision mandating that six-day mail delivery be continued in the federal budget appropriations bills, would finally let the USPS this year end Saturday deliveries come August.

"Right now there's something passing through the House, but there's nothing in the Senate," he told PrintWeek. "The Postal Service is a strong organization, but we need to take some costs out. We lost 27% of our business and like any other business we need to be responsible."

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