With the U.S. Postal Service struggling to make deliveries on schedule it has now given itself more time to complete longer-distance mailings.
The changes, which took effect Oct. 1, also include a temporary price increase on packages.
The new standards for first-class mail and periodicals extend the delivery time for mailings that require more than a six-hour drive, meaning customers should expect those letters and parcels to take longer to arrive.
While the previous standard called for first-class mail to reach its destination in a maximum of three days regardless of the distance, that had become unattainable, said USPS spokeswoman Amy Gibbs in a statement from the agency.
That standard, which applied whether the distance was 300 or 3,000 miles, forced the postal service to overly rely on air transportation, yielding unreliable service, officials said.
The new standard for those longer-distance first-class mailings is a maximum of five days, which will allow the postal service to rely more on its ground network, officials said.
“With this change we will improve service reliability and predictability for customers, while also driving efficiencies across the postal service network,” the USPS statement said.
The change is included in the service’s 10-year strategic plan.
Those longer-distance deliveries account for 39% of first-class mail and 7% of periodicals, officials said.
Mail traveling within a three-hour drive will still have a delivery time of two days, according to USPS.
For longer-distance mailings, customers may still opt to use priority mail express and priority mail services to ship packages within the contiguous U.S. with a one- to three-day service standard.
According to postal service data, 1 in 5 pieces of mail across the U.S. was delivered late to households and businesses in the first three months of 2021.
About 78% of first-class mail was delivered on time in the first quarter, down from more than 92% of first-class mail delivered on time a year earlier, officials said.
The strategic plan has also temporarily increased prices on domestic parcels by 25 cents to $5, depending on where the package is going and how much it weighs, USPS officials said.
While the longer delivery time standards are permanent, the price hike is temporary, officials said. It began Oct. 3 and remains in effect through the holiday season until Dec. 26.
A similar price increase was put in place during the 2020 holiday season.
The 10-year plan has been criticized by elected officials nationwide, including Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. In June he led a group of 21 attorneys general in calling on the Postal Regulatory Commission to oppose Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s proposed service cuts.
Those cuts could slow delivery times for first-class mail, shorten hours at some post offices and increase the price of a first-class stamp, Shapiro said. The plan would disrupt a critical service relied on by many senior and veteran Pennsylvanians, he said.
Andy Kubat, president of the Lehigh Valley Area American Postal Workers Union, was unavailable for comment.
The American Bankers Association also has concerns about what the new timelines could mean for consumers who rely on the mail to pay their bills, and advised bank customers to consider changing the way they submit payments, said spokesman Ian McKendry.
“We recommend scheduling automatic payments online or by phone,” he said. “Customers should mail payments at least one week before the due date to ensure they are received on time.”
The postal service offers these tips for consumers:
- Plan ahead. For mail or correspondence that requires a deadline, the postal service encourages customers to send their mail early.
- When sending mail long distance, mail early. If it would take you more than a day to drive mail to its destination, make sure to give your long-distance mail some extra time to travel.
- Keep mailing letters. The majority of first-class mail will be unaffected by the postal service’s new service standards.
Source: Berkshire mont