NNA seeks measurement of rural mail service

Jun 1, 2015

WASHINGTON—The National Newspaper Association has again called for measurement of on-time delivery of rural mail.

Appearing in a May 19 roundtable hosted by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, NNA Chief Executive Officer and General Counsel Tonda F. Rush said Congress should follow the maxim that “what gets measured gets done.” If the U.S. Postal Service is required to report on the quality of rural mail delivery, trouble spots of late mail service will be identified and can be addressed.

NNA’s postal concerns also were being represented at the National Postal Forum by Postal Committee Chair Max Heath and Interlink President Brad Hill, who serve on the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee.

Heath said senior postal executives invited discussion on ways to improve rural mail delivery. USPS has publicly recognized NNA’s petition for Service Hubs as the kick-starter for establishment of these new cross-docking platforms for some newspaper mail and mail entered by other mailers in sites where mail processing plants used to be. There are currently 46 hubs in operation. A total of 212 are expected by July 2015. Details of the operation are laid out in Heath’s Postal Tips column on Page 16 of this issue.

NNA President John Edgecombe Jr., publisher of The Nebraska Signal in Geneva, NE, said an alarming deterioration in rural mail service was being reported across the country.

“The Postal Service took a radical step when it began closing down the processing operations in smaller cities and moved them to the heart of urban America. Travel distances increased, traffic problems hampered the movement of postal trucks and the windows for accepting and processing mail began to shrink. It should surprise no one that people in small towns are getting their mail later. Readers of community newspapers have been particularly harmed by the changes. So, NNA is taking every possible step to get USPS to address the problems created by these closings,” he said.

Rush explained to the Senate committee that although USPS regularly reports on how well it achieves its service standards, the information is heavily weighted toward urban mail. Even so, USPS reported serious deterioration during the first quarter of 2015 for First-Class Mail that should have been delivered within three days. In many cities, the standard was achieved less than 60 percent of the time. The Postal Service has blamed bad weather across the U.S.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, expressed his concern about a slowdown in service in his state.

“There was bad weather in the Northeast but in Montana, we were in shirt sleeves. There is always going to be bad weather somewhere,” he said.

Carper asked witnesses appearing at the roundtable for one new idea each on how to help the Postal Service achieve financial stability.

“I think people in business will tell you it is always less expensive to keep a customer than to get a new one,” Rush responded. “The best place for the Postal Service to begin is to stop driving away the mail volume it already has. It has cut all the costs it can afford to cut. At this point, Congress is our only hope.”

NNA has asked Congress to move quickly on a bill that will relieve financial pressure on USPS by changing the requirement for prepayment of retiree health benefits. NNA also supports a proposal by postal worker groups to permit USPS to invest its funds in conservative private equities instead of only in the U.S. Treasury. The Thrift Savings Plan that provides retirement benefits for federal workers currently has limited private equity investment authority and is expected to provide a model for USPS investments.