Yesterday’s Dead Tree Edition article, 8 Reasons USPS Productivity Is Declining: The Employees Speak Out, erred when it stated that nothing more has been heard “about a 2010 USPS proposal to have some carriers making deliveries all day."
In fact, in a report with the nap-inducing title of City Delivery Route Optimization Pilot Initiative, the USPS Office of Inspector General revealed two weeks ago that the Postal Service canceled a months-long 100 Percent Street Time experiment on June 30.
The OIG agreed with the cancellation because "there is an unfavorable business case for proceeding with the pilot. For the eight sites we reviewed during the pilot, office and street workhours increased with no efficiency improvements."
Workhour savings did not occur
“Area and district officials stated that workhour savings did not occur due to the learning curve for carriers casing multiple routes,” the OIG report said. “In both phases [the first in areas served by Flats Sequencing System machines, the second in non-FSS areas], casers received assistance from deliverers to complete casing duties timely.”
“Our review found an increase in carrier street workhours and overtime, amounting to no savings in both phases of the pilot. Management expected to expand street time by creating full-time street assignments and anticipated more consistent delivery times through reductions in overtime and delivery inconsistencies associated with splitting routes among several carriers in the unit.”
“Management stated that increased workhours and overtime were due to carrier sick leave, increases in office time, errors in Carrier Optimal Route adjustments, vacant routes, and some carriers protesting the concept by deliberately performing less efficiently, and lack of management oversight at the unit level.”
“Carriers filed grievances for out-of-schedule premium pay due to time worked outside of their regularly scheduled workday, which may result in additional pay to these carriers.”
More labor flexibility needed
“There is potential for the pilot concept to achieve significant savings if the Postal Service had more workforce flexibility built into the labor agreement,” citing one district where the experiment saved $611,000 on an annualized basis because of an unusually flexible workforce.
“The Postal Service could maximize workhour savings by using part-time letter carriers for office assignments and full-time carriers for street assignments.”
With that concept, part-time casers would start work at 6 a.m. and spend an average of 3 hours and 15 minutes casing mail for several carrier routes. After that, they might help carriers make deliveries. “Deliverers” would start work between 8:40 and 9 a.m., load up their trucks, and spend an average of 7½ hours making deliveries.
The concept raises some questions, some of which Dead Tree Edition asked back in 2010, such as:
- Who can case a route more efficiently, a person who delivers the route regularly or a specialized caser who has never seen the route?
- Other than requiring fewer delivery vehicles, how would the concept save money? In other words, how would divvying up the work differently actually change the number of hours required to do the work? (There might be savings from using more part-time carriers, but that doesn't require splitting the roles of caser and deliverer.)
- Do postal officials think deliverers on walking routes would be able to handle a full shift on the street without their productivity suffereing? How about on peak-volume days when that “average” of 7 ½ hours might become 10 or more?
- How would other USPS operations (such as processing and distribution centers) be affected if mail has to be at the delivery units by 6 a.m.? How would service be affected?