The U.S. Postal Service announced today that it will end preferential treatment for time-sensitive Periodicals mail this Friday, a move that could delay delivery of some daily and weekly publications by a day.
"All Periodicals will be processed efficiently on automated or mechanized equipment where postal facilities have this type of equipment," says a letter USPS officials sent today to "Periodicals mailers" and members of the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee. "Since all Periodicals (daily, weekly, quarterly, and monthly) have the same processing expectations and service standards, they will be processed based upon arrival times and service standards, not publication titles."
The new procedures are supposed to create a set of national deadlines that dropshipped Periodicals must meet to receive next-day delivery. They are also supposed to put an end to "Hot 2C" processing, as discussed in An End to the Postal Service's Wall Street Journal Subsidy?, and the practice of "squeaky wheel" mail handling that provides the best service to the most frequent complainers.
It's not clear, however, to what extent the Postal Service has prepared mail-handling operations for the new rules and whether it is adjusting reward systems to encourage efficiency rather than the avoidance of complaints.
The standardized deadlines (called Critical Entry Times) will "ensure Periodicals are processed on automated equipment to the maximum extent possible. Maximizing the automation of Periodicals will increase efficiency and reduce the cost to process this mail," says the letter from USPS vice presidents David E. Williams and Susan M. LaChance.
The new CETs will seemingly make on-time delivery of daily newspapers nearly impossible. Even the latest CET -- for carrier-route and 5-digit bundles going to processing centers that don't have Flats Sequencing System (FSS) machines -- will be 5 p.m. I have never heard of a morning newspaper starting up its presses that early for the next day's paper.
The CETs will be six to eight hours earlier for copies going to FSS facilities, which "have a longer processing window" and start sorting as early as noon. As FSS continues to ramp up, a significant number of ZIP codes will be shifted to FSS, and the earlier CETs, in the coming months, the letter said.