Delivery delays: Critics of new Postal Service policy say it could slow mail delivery, especially in rural Oregon

Steve HutkinsBlog, News

Baker City Herald:

A U.S. Postal Service policy that took effect in late February in Oregon means outgoing mail at more than two dozen mostly rural post offices in Northeast Oregon will be picked up later than it has been.

Critics say the change could result in some pieces of mail, including packages as well as first class letters, being delivered a day later than in the past.

They have also raised concerns about time-sensitive mail, including election ballots and tax returns.

Elections officials typically recommend that voters who haven’t returned their ballots by mail at least a week before election day instead take the ballots to a drop box to ensure they are counted.

Oregon’s U.S. senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, have criticized the new policy, as have representatives from the American Postal Workers Union.

Some of the larger post offices in the region, including Baker City, Pendleton and La Grande, apparently are not affected, although the Postal Service has not released an official list.

A Postal Service official says the new policy, by reducing the number of truck trips, will “reduce costs and carbon emissions.”

The new strategy is known as Local Transportation Optimization (LTO).

It’s part of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s “Delivering for America” 10-year plan intended to make the agency, which lost $6.5 billion in fiscal year 2023, financially sustainable.

“LTO is part of the Postal Service’s larger effort to optimize our truck capacity and reduce the overall number of carbon-wasting, duplicate trips,” Kim Frum, a Postal Service strategic communications specialist, said. “Our local transportation network often includes a large number of separate and underutilized trips to pick up and drop off mail and packages from Post Office locations and other postal facilities. LTO aims to improve the efficiency of our transportation network, in certain circumstances, by using one trip to drop off mail to be delivered and to pick up outgoing mail for processing.”

LTO launched in Oregon on Feb. 24, according to Postal Service documents. The new schedule started in October 2023 in Virginia, and in January of this year in Wisconsin.

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