This latest Q&A with Randy Weiler, SPC’s Director of Postal Affairs and Logistics, resulted from the #AskRandyUSPS Live session on Zoom on September 3, 2020, during which Randy answered attendees’ questions about what’s really going on at the USPS. SPC summarized the questions and answers and is posting them here for your convenience.
To view a full list of past questions that Randy has answered, check the Ask Randy Index. As always, you can email him at email@example.com or post a question via Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #AskRandyUSPS.
1) Why hasn’t the printing industry been more vocal with our elected officials about protecting the USPS and fixing the funding issues since the USPS is critical to our industry?
For a number of years, the mailing industry and its member associations have been very vocal in lobbying congress to repeal or adjust the retirement pre-funding requirements of the 2006 Postal Accountability Enhancement Act. This act put into place the requirement for the USPS funding projected retirement fund payments of 75 years into a 10-year period. With the start of the 2008 recession and the move by some companies to electronic payments and email, the USPS financial situation has worsened. However, mailing industry advocates have been very vocal in expressing concern and the need for change. Unfortunately, nothing has been done to address these calls for help, mostly due to partisanship in Washington DC.
2) Where do you see the choke point on ballot mail? At what point does it impact marketing mail? Will we see even further delays during the election period?
Based on experience, the last two weeks leading up to an election do create a large influx with election-related mail flooding the USPS. From October 15th up to the election, I expect a lot of mail will move through the postal stream. Typically, the USPS prioritizes election mail treating it as first class mail. During this time-period, marketing class mail is often pushed to the back burner. This additional mail volume and its treatment will generally delay the delivery of marketing mail by 1-2 days during this period.
3) Some people have expressed concern about the curtailment of overtime at the USPS. What are your thoughts on this?
There has been some misleading information regarding USPS employee overtime, and there is a lot to digest because of this. It has been suggested that some USPS employees are not working overtime because they want to spite the new Postmaster General (PMG) and hinder mail delivery. It has also been suggested that Postmaster DeJoy is limiting overtime to slow mail delivery and hurt the upcoming mail in ballot process, because of PMG DeJoy’s past affiliation with President Trump and the Republican Party.
Postmaster DeJoy has inherited a Postal Service in disarray. The USPS is burdened with financial obligations; such as funding 75 years of employee retirement needs in a 10-year period while being short on available operating cash and running at a deficit of close to $9B annually.
In my opinion, Postmaster DeJoy tried to implement some logical cost cutting measures to address these concerns, albeit at the wrong time due to election mail concerns. One of the operational changes implemented by the PMG was to limit or eliminate employee overtime. With marketing mail volumes down 45% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the idea to limit OT was a reasonable one. Understandably, USPS employees, most paid by the hour, were not happy about this as it would directly reduce their take-home pay.
With DeJoy now backtracking and pledging to delay most cost-cutting measures until after the election, some USPS employees might be thinking that by not taking the overtime, mail delivery will be delayed and the PMG may lose his job due to unhappy politicians in Washington DC. However, I think only a small portion of USPS employees hold this sentiment and most would welcome the opportunity to work overtime when offered.
Either way, many things have affected mail delivery: COVID-19, unavailable transportation and the limitation of overtime. SPC’s mailing strategy for marketing class mail is to limit USPS touches by trucking direct to SCF or NDC facilities. Large jobs mostly go direct to NDC/SCF, while medium and small jobs may have portions commingled to allow for this mail to qualify for NDC/SCF entry.
4) What have you heard about freight companies limiting the amount of trucks due to the implementation of check-points in light of COVID-19?
I am aware of US Department of Transportation checkpoints deployed at various spots nationally. However, these are to monitor truck driver compliance with DOT safety regulations pertaining to logged driving hours and tractor- trailer maintenance. At various times throughout the year the DOT may decide to create these checkpoints. Many tractor-trailer drivers try to avoid driving during this time-frame to prevent receiving violations. I have not heard of checkpoints implemented due to COVID-19.
5) Is it true that the USPS made a freight deal with Amazon and Amazon shipped all of their heaviest packages with them?
The USPS did enter into an agreement with Amazon to deliver their packages. In many instances, this is a last mile delivery scenario; where Amazon would deliver the packages to a USPS hub and the USPS would go from there to the recipient’s home. This agreement does not limit the package size and Amazon, to the best of my knowledge, has not only been sending the USPS their heaviest packages, but any package they want the USPS to deliver.
President Trump has stated many times that he feels that the USPS/Amazon agreement is in Amazon’s favor and that the USPS should adjust this pricing. So there is sentiment in Washington that Amazon has an advantageous deal with the USPS, which I believe is the basis for the above question.
Director Postal Affairs and Logistics