USPS Is Making This Major Change That Could Slow Down Deliveries, Officials Warn
The agency is being asked to reconsider its plan amid concerns about delivery speed.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has been walking on a tightrope for some time now, and the pandemic only worsened its already shaky balancing act. But the agency is trying to get itself back on solid ground. In March 2021, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy unveiled his Delivering for America initiative, which is a 10-year plan meant to help the USPS achieve financial sustainability and improve mail service. To do this, the agency will be making a number of adjustments to its operations over the next decade—but some have already gotten substantial pushback. Read on to find out what major change has officials worried that the USPS could be slowing down deliveries once more.
The Postal Service has implemented several adjustments in the past year.
The USPS has already hit the ground running with its Delivering for America plan, and customers have faced many changes as a result. If you've noticed higher prices at your local post office, you have a series of price hikes to thank: As part of its 10-year initiative, the Postal Service increased costs for consumers in July and October, and introduced new shipping fees in April.
That's not the only adjustment we've dealt with either. One of the first changes from the USPS took place all the way back in Oct. 2021, when the agency implemented new service standards that slowed down certain mail deliveries for customers. Then the Postal Service extended the delivery timeframe of even more packages in May 2022.
Now, the USPS is making yet another major change that officials are worried could make deliveries even slower.
Another major USPS change is rolling out now.
As part of the Delivering for America plan, the Postal Service is gearing up for another major shakeup. In a notice sent to postal unions, USPS management flagged more than 200 postal facilities where it plans to consolidate delivery operations, the Federal News Network reported on Sept. 6. According to the news outlet, this move will make it so that deliveries for these post offices and other facilities will be processed in one of 21 larger regional Sort and Delivery Centers (S&DCs) instead.
The Postal Service is planning to start consolidating a few facilities this fall but most of the delivery operations will be moved in Feb. 2023. Overall, the agency is looking to consolidate around 21 percent of its delivery units into S&DCs, according to Supply Chain Drive.
"We have 19,000 [units]. I think when we get done with this, we'll have 15,000 delivery units," DeJoy told the news outlet.
Officials are worried this could slow down deliveries.
DeJoy's consolidation initiative isn't sitting well with some officials, however. Michigan Representative Fred Upton met with several local leaders in his state on Nov. 7 to urge the USPS to suspend the implementation of this plan, CBS-affiliate WWMT reported. The Postal Service is set to consolidate the delivery operations of numerous post offices throughout Michigan into the Kalamazoo Processing and Distribution Center in February of next year, according to the agency's letter to postal unions.
Upton said this will require hundreds of carriers in Kalamazoo, Allegan, Van Buren, and other surrounding counties to travel to one location just to be able to deliver the mail—a problem many experts believe could impact the timeliness in which customers are receiving their deliveries.
"We go to every house every day … it may not be that way if this happens," Tony Viers, Michigan state president for National Association of Postal Supervisors told MLive, noting that the average time of mail delivery could go from within two to three days to four to six as a result.
Other areas are concerned as well. Current postal worker David Staiger and retired USPS employee Peter Blunt both spoke out about the potential issues with this consolidation plan at an October event in Andover, Massachusetts, the Andover Townsman reported. According to Staiger, consolidation will likely make it more difficult for postal workers to do their jobs as well as enhance staffing struggles the agency is already facing.
Blunt added that the Postal Service's current fleet of vehicles are not safe to drive longer distances on highways to get to these S&DCs. And while the agency is planning to introduce a new vehicle fleet better suited for highway travel in the spring of 2023, Blunt is skeptical this will actually happen. "The lives of the carriers are not to be toyed with," he said.
But the USPS says this change will be better for its delivery network.
Despite concerns for customers and postal workers, the Postal Service is standing behind plans to consolidate operations. A spokesperson for the agency told the Andover Townsman that these changes will actually make the agency's delivery network move efficient and effective, which will help it better serve the public in return.
"This model will greatly improve our transportation utilization by reducing time and the cost of transportation to facilities, and in cases of co-location, eliminating the need for transportation entirely," USPS communications specialist Amy Gibbs told the Massachusetts newspaper.
Gibbs added, "This initiative will enable us to utilize more battery electric vehicles, since more routes would beat the optimal length to make such vehicles operationally feasible, and since the vehicles would be originating from facilities with enhanced electricity infrastructure to support the necessary charging stations."
DeJoy recently implored workers to consider the potential efficiency of his consolidation plans for the entire USPS. "I do ask you to put the changes that might impact you in perspective since I can assure you that the changes we are proposing are vitally necessary, and will significantly improve the long term prospects for the Postal Service as a great American institution," he said in an October video message to all employees. "For some of you, this might mean you have to travel a little further to get to work. But when you get there, you will have nicer facilities and better equipment, and you will be personally contributing to the transformation of the United States Postal Service."