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U.S. Postal Service Proposes New Mailing Standards, Requests Mailer Input


New York, Nov 03, 2006

As the United States Postal Service (USPS) gears up for the onslaught of holiday cards, parcels, and packages carrying everything from argyle socks and fruit cakes to the latest iPods and digital must-haves, the agency is asking mailers to comment on proposed standards aimed at improving the efficiency of its services.

The proposal updates the existing Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual (DMM), which outlines all official rates and standards governing domestic mailing services. The new standards would complement proposed new postage rates planned to take effect next spring.

Mailers are required by law to comply with all standards regulating domestic mail. According to the USPS, the agency has worked closely with customers to organize the DMM in way that enhances customer value of USPS products and services.

To encourage more efficient preparation of the 212 billion letters, periodicals, advertisements, and packages that the USPS delivers to homes and businesses each year, the new standards offer sorting and packaging options that are better aligned with USPS processing capabilities.

The standards would also provide customers with opportunities to alleviate the impact of proposed price increases, which average 8.5 percent. Under the proposal, mailers could qualify for lower prices by combining different classes of mailpieces or by reconfiguring the shape of their mail. For instance, the contents of a parcel, reconfigured to fit into a flat mailing piece, would offer savings of up to thirty-eight cents.

“The prices are designed to reflect that certain types of mail are cheaper to deliver than other types of mail,” explained Stephen M. Kearney, USPS vice president of pricing and classification, at the Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) quarterly meeting on November 1. A group composed of representatives from mailer associations and related organizations, MTAC makes recommendations and advises the USPS on matters concerning the agency’s policies and procedures.

The proposed standards detail a number of mail classification changes, new pricing structures, and price modifications taken in response to changes in operations and the marketplace. Highlights of the changes include:

    Letters
  • The proposal of a “forever stamp,” equal to the first-class mail once-ounce letter rate at any time in the future.
  • Fewer presort requirements for non-barcoded, machinable first-class and standard mail letters.

    Flats
  • All flats must be rectangular, flexible, and uniformly thick. Nonconforming pieces pay parcel or not flat-machinable prices.
  • Physical standards for automation flats adjusted to meet the current criteria for AFSM (advance flats sorter machine) 100 pieces, with new standards for flexibility and deflection.

    Not Flat-Machinable Pieces
  • Adds new category for standard mail pieces with parcel-like characteristics, including rigid pieces. Today these pieces are treated as automation flats; under the new standards, these pieces would be presorted and processed as parcels.

    Parcels
  • Greater discounts for drop shipping parcels to destination delivery units.
  • Additional options to combine different classes of parcels in sacks and on pallets to achieve finer levels of presort.

The complete Federal Register notice detailing the proposal is available here.

Comments regarding all aspects of the proposal may be submitted through November 13, 2006. The input gathered will be used to create a revised set of standards, to be published in early January for another brief period of public comment. Interim final standards are expected to be released in February in anticipation of a final Postal Rate Commission decision in March.

Written comments should be mailed to:
Manager of Mailing Standards
U.S. Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza, SW, Room 3436
Washington DC 20260-3436

 Homeland Defense and Security Standardization Collaborative