The idea is to split the role of letter carrier into two different jobs -- casers who would take on any mail sorting now done by carriers and deliverers who would strictly deliver the mail. Here is what the USPS said about the tactic in a "Flats Strategy" paper it submitted to the Postal Regulatory Commission this week:
"Route Optimization 100 Percent Street routes – (2011 and beyond) –– LARGE Opportunity": As total cased volume declines, letter carrier casing will be concentrated on a few assignments, while most carriers will only perform street duties. A “caser” would prepare and pull down all cased mail, while a deliverer would load the mail and deliver it to a greater number of customers. This concentration will produce savings in fixed office time. It is projected that route reductions will result from this initiative. Also, vehicle savings will be generated through street route reductions."
The description raises several questions:
- How exactly would the approach save money other than requiring fewer vehicles? Using delivery-point sequencing can certainly save money in the delivery units by giving the carriers more street time. But just divvying up the work differently among casers and deliverers would not change the number of hours required to do the work.
- When would the casing be done? Delivery units typically have a small window between arrival of when mail for delivery and the start of the carriers' shift. Something would have to change -- perhaps earlier shipments to the delivery units (which would force changes at mail processing centers and delay delivery of some mail by a day) or later start times for deliverers (which would please neither customers nor employees). Or perhaps the role of caser would be taken on by an army of part-timers rather than people who are currently career letter carriers.
- Will deliverers on walkng routes be able to handle a full shift on the street? Many a letter carrier has switched to other jobs in the Postal Service after knees or feet gave out. Some have expressed concern that longer routes (made possible by delivery-point sequencing and route optimization) are putting more wear and tear on the carriers. How would full-time deliverers fare on routes delivered mostly or solely on foot?
In fact, the paper has some other interesting, not-completely-explained statements about tactics under consideration, including "the potential of every-other-day sequencing" on Flats Sequencing System machines and elimination of "preferential manual handling of Periodicals mail".