Sunday, February 18, 2018

Boondoggle: The FSS Goes from Bad to Worse

The USPS's recently released annual FSS Scorecard

The U.S. Postal Service’s money-losing Flats Sequencing System is becoming even less productive and more problematic, according to the USPS’s own statistics.

In the past two years, the average number of mail pieces processed per machine hour has decreased by 8%, and the proportion of “mail pieces at risk” (such as copies that are jammed in the machinery) has risen by 8%, according to information the USPS file recently. (See pages 2-4 of this PDF containing responses to Postal Regulatory Commission questions.)

Meanwhile, the proportion of FSS-zone flats that get fully sorted by the football-field-sized machines has declined nearly 10%. That means that nearly half of FSS flats end up being processed on an automated flat sorting machine (AFSM) and/or sorted manually.

The USPS spends 40% more to deliver flat mail that is addressed to FSS zones than to non-FSS zones (which use less automated methods), an expert’s study concluded last year. That indicates that the system wastes several hundred million dollars annually – not counting the initial $1.3 billion purchase price of the 100 machines.

But postal officials have resisted calls to scrap or rethink the FSS. A year ago, the USPS said it is still learning how to optimize the machines, stating that the technology “is in its relative infancy.” But, clearly, this baby is failing to thrive.

Instead of developing a Plan B for flat mail, postal officials and the PRC are pushing for Postal Service bailouts that in essence would force mailers of catalogs, magazines, and other flat mail to cover the FSS’s added costs. Dead Tree Edition has dubbed that the Stupidity Tax -- making mailers pay, in the form of higher postal rates, for the USPS's stupidity and stubbornness in moving forward with its FSS investment despite numerous red flags.

The PRC’s tentative plan, for example, would punish Periodicals and non-carrier-route Standard flats – because the USPS allegedly loses money on them – with five years of required rate hikes that could easily total more than 40%.

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