Rep. Nick Rahall and the other co-sponsors of the legislation have not suggested other ways for USPS to close its billion-dollar budget deficit. But here's one for you, Congressman: Shut down some of the Postal Service's superfluous mail-handling facilities in West Virginia, including the four in your district.
Having the small state fragmented among 11 Sectional Center Facilities (SCFs) is inefficient for the Postal Service, costly for mailers, and leads to slow delivery for West Virginians.
USPS has about 450 SCFs (an average of one per Congressional district), each of which handles mail for one or more 3-digit ZIP code areas. About one-fourth of those SCFs are also Area Distribution Centers, meaning they can handle mail for several nearby SCFs. Commercial mailers generally try to create SCF pallets of at least 500 pounds and dropship to the SCFs when postal discounts make that worthwhile. Periodicals mailers can also obtain somewhat smaller discounts for ADC pallets and for dropshipping to ADCs instead of SCFs.
A Dead Tree Edition analysis indicates that the Lewisburg, WV SCF in Rahall's district has less than one-tenth the mail volume of the average SCF. For nationwide mailings, that means only the largest -- those with at least 2 million pounds -- have enough volume to create a Lewisburg SCF pallet. The other three SCFs in Rahall's southern West Virginia district (home of the Hatfields, McCoys, and Martha Stewart's prison cell) are also much smaller than average.
Mailstreams of less than 200,000 pounds even have trouble creating ADC pallets for the state's two ADCs, which together serve about half the population of an average ADC. That means much of the mail going to West Virginia is packaged in sacks instead of on pallets, which is expensive for both mailers and the Postal Service, as well as delaying delivery. Having the mail fragmented among so many facilities prevents any one location from having the critical mass needed to use the most efficient automated mail-sorting equipment.
Adding to the costs and the delivery delays are the fact that even the largest mailers tend to avoid dropshipping to any West Virginia postal facility. The volumes for each facility are so small that the dropship discounts are not enough to cover the freight costs. Standard-class mail for
But Periodicals mailers, lacking a meaningful BMC discount, simply enter the mail at the printing plant, often a thousand or more miles away from West Virginia. They lose any dropship discounts, and the Postal Service has to ship the publications to
West Virginia's rugged terrain is no excuse for having so many processing centers. Consider that mountainous
Before postal reform gave USPS more independence from Congressional control, powerful Congressmen could get key postal facilities placed in their districts rather than where the Postal Service needed them. That's probably why Winchester, Virginia, home of another powerful Senator Byrd, has its own superfluous SCF.
There hasn't been a Virginia Byrd in the Senate for more than two decades, but only this year did postal officials start the process of closing the Winchester Byrd dropping. (Dead Tree Edition predicted last year the shutdown of the Winchester SCF because of the new Flats Sequencing System.)
Let's hope it doesn't take the Postal Service so long to slaughter some of its pork in West Virginia.