This website page provides easy access to the PRC’s docket on the Advisory Opinion on the proposed changes in service standards, as well as charts, tables, and blog posts about the proposal. A description of service standards and service performance can be found on this Dashboard.

The PRC Docket

(Uploaded to Google Drive from the PRC website: prc.gov/dockets/showdocket/N2021-1)

Charts and Tables

First Class Mail Volume by Service Standard, Current and Proposed

This chart shows the percent of First Class Mail (Continuous US, letters and flats), under the current service standards and the proposed standards.

Source: USPS Request for an Advisory Opinion

 

Impacts of proposed service standards on mail volumes

As this table indicates, the proposed changes in service standards would slow approximately 20.7 billion pieces of First Class Mail, or about 39 percent of FCM volume.

Source: This table combines the previous chart showing percentages with the actual volume numbers from USPS financial reports.

Impacts on Volume and Revenue due to Changes in Service Standards

The following table is extracted from a table in witness Thress’s testimony. It shows that the proposed changes in service standards would cause a loss in First Class volume of 0.89 percent, with a loss of $242 million in revenue and $105 million in contribution.

Source: Library Reference USPS LR N2021-1-5, Thress, “Financial Impact” tab

First Class Mail Volumes by Service Standards

The Postal Service does not provide the PRC with annual data showing the proportion of First Class mail delivered according to each service standard (overnight, 2-day, and a 3-5 day), but here are a couple of charts that show estimates.  Note that over 99 percent of the 3-5 day mail is actually 3-day, with days 4 and 5 applying to mail sent or received outside the contiguous U.S.

The following table shows the proportion of First Class mail that was subject to each service standard. The chart shows the effects of changes in service standards that took place in 2012 (“interim standards”) and 2015 (“final standards”). These changes eliminated overnight delivery for all but a portion of presort mail and shifted some 2-day mail to 3-day. The numbers for 2015 are for the first quarter of the fiscal year and do not reflect the changes in service standards that took place that year, but they can be seen in the numbers for 2020.

Sources: 2005: N89-1 Advisory Opinion (p. 1); 2011-2015: USPS MTAC presentation (which cites FY2005 & FY2014: 2014 Fact Sheet; FY2011: 9/21/11 Federal Register notice; 2015: MTAC FCM Focus Group meeting); 2020 and proposed, USPS Delivering For America 10-year plan.

The following table was created using the Service Performance Aggregation data and Cost Revenue Analysis data that the USPS shares annually with the PRC. Note that this methodology uses actual measurements of volume, so it produces somewhat different results compared to the previous table. For example, it shows the volume of First Class with an overnight standard falling to 30 percent in 2011, before the “interim” service standards went into effect. In any case, the workbook for this chart is here.

Source: PRC Service Performance Aggregation data and Cost Revenue Analysis data.

 

Delivery Time and Mail Volumes

The following chart shows “delivery time,” i.e., the average number of days it took to deliver First Class mail during the year, and FC mail volumes for that year. As the chart indicates, even as mail volumes have fallen, the delivery time has increased.

Source: First Class Mail volumes; average delivery times are derived from the chart and tables above.

 

Service Standards, Current and Proposed

Service Standards are the stated goal or operational benchmark for how many days it should take to deliver the mail.  The standards are determined by the class of mail, where it originates, where it is going, and other factors, like the way it’s been presorted (or not).  Service Standards were first published in January 2007 in accordance with requirements of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006. The standards have since been changed a few times, notably in 2012 and 2015 for First Class mail.  Since January 2015, the Service Standards — as set forth by federal regulations (39 CFR Part 121) — have been as follows:

  • First Class Mail: 1-day, 2-day, and 3-5 days. More specifically:
    • Overnight delivery for presorted mail dropped at a mail processing center (called a Sectional Center Facility, or SCF) by the Critical Entry Time (usually 8 a.m.) for delivery to zip codes within the same SCF area (intra-SCF);
    • 2 days for mail to be delivered to zip codes within the SCF area (intra-SCF) and also for presorted mail deposited by the CET and transported between two processing centers (inter-SCF) within a six-hour drive;
    • 3 days for all other mail within the contiguous U.S.;
    • 4 or 5 days for mail originating or destinating outside the contiguous U.S.
  • Marketing Mail: 3-10 days, depending on distance, type of preparation, the time the mail is dropped off at a processing center, etc.
  • Periodicals: 3-9 days, depending on distance and other factors.

To assist business mailers, the Postal Service publishes maps for each 3-digit zip codes showing the area that qualifies for overnight, 2-day service, 3-day, and so on. These maps can be found here. The Postal Service also shares Excel files showing the service standards for each zip code pair, available on PostalPro.

The Postal Service has proposed changes in these service standards that would slow approximately 40 percent of First Class mail. The changes reduces the use of air transport for 3-day mail and shorten the drive times for inter-SCF 2-day mail from six to three hours. The details are explained in the Postal Service’s Request for an Advisory Opinion, as follows:

“The Postal Service is adjusting the service standards for First-Class Mail within the contiguous United States, by narrowing the scope of the two-day and three-day standards and applying four-day and five-day standards to certain mail traveling longer distances between origin and destination. 

  • Overnight delivery will continue as under current standards for presorted mail dropped at a mail processing center (called a Sectional Center Facility, or SCF) by the Critical Entry Time (usually 8 a.m.) for delivery to zip codes within the same SCF area (intra-SCF);
  • 2 days for intra-SCF single piece domestic First-Class Mail where the SCF is also the origin P&DCF or the combined drive time between the origin P&DCF, destination Area Distribution Center (ADC), and destination SCF is three hours or less. A two-day service standard would also apply to inter-SCF domestic First-Class Mail if the combined drive time between the origin P&DCF, destination ADC, and destination SCF is three hours or less. (This change basically reduces the six-hour drive-time distance under current standards to a three-hour drive-time.)
  • 3 days for intra-SCF and inter-SCF First-Class Mail within the 48 contiguous states where the combined drive time between origin P&DCF, destination ADC, and destination SCF is more than three hours, but does not exceed 20 hours;
  • 4 days for inter-SCF First-Class Mail within the 48 contiguous states where the combined drive time between origin P&DCF, destination ADC, and destination SCF is more than 20 hours but does not exceed 41 hours
  • 5 days for mail within the contiguous 48 states if the drive time between origin P&DCF, destination ADC, and destination SCF exceeds 41 hours.
  • Certain end-to-end Periodicals would also be affected by the changes to First-Class Mail service standards. Under the new standard, a three-to-six-day service standard would be applied to Periodicals merged with First-Class Mail pieces for surface transportation, with the standard specifically equaling the sum of one day plus the applicable First-Class Mail service standard.

 

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