Lighter Volume Leading to Changes in Postal Routes

INDIANAPOLIS – Think you know what time your mail arrives each day? Think again.

The U.S. Postal Service is reviewing all its city routes nationwide and changing some of them to cut costs because mail volume is dropping during the recession.

Nationwide, the changes are expected to affect as many as 50 million addresses on 85,000 urban routes. Rural routes already get reviewed each year,

"It should be pretty seamless to customers, except they could possibly see a difference in delivery times," said Al Eakle, a USPS spokesman for the Indiana District.

The route reviews began last month and should be completed by the end of February, Eakle said Thursday. Some customers already may be seeing changes as parts of some routes are consolidated into others.

Some letter carriers are saddened by the changes. In Bloomington, Darlene Meyer said she has watched children grow up, kept an eye on homebound customers and returned escaped pets during the nine years she's delivered her route.

"It's like losing part of my family," Meyer told The Herald Times of Bloomington.

Eakle said the economic downtown affects the Postal Service just as it would any enterprise because businesses have reduced mailings to cut expenses. Nationally, mail volume fell by 9.5 billion pieces, or 4.5 percent, during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

An agreement between postal officials and the National Association of Letter Carriers allows the Postal Service to expedite the changes, Eakle said. Rather than laying off carriers, the Postal Service has been offering early retirement to thin the ranks.

Postmaster General John Potter has said that after losing $2.8 billion in the last fiscal year, the Postal Service would continue to cut overtime and working hours. The cost of a first-class stamp rose to 42 cents last May and a new increase based on the rate of inflation will occur in May.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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