New USPS TV spot promises a delivery network with smarter, more efficient routes

Steve HutkinsBlog, Featured

The Postal Service has come out with another new commercial. It’s just 15 seconds long — but long enough to fit in what Mark Twain would call a “stretcher.”

The spot is the second in a series that began a few weeks ago with a 30-second commercial touting the changes to the delivery network headed your way, as discussed in this previous post. A featurette about the new series had indicated more spots would be forthcoming, and this second spot delivers as promised.

The new commercial features four of the seven postal employees who are being included in the series, and in this one, three of them get speaking parts. An article about the fourth, the postmaster who directs the delivery trucks, is here.

The ad, which is entitled “Value,” uses the same music as the first spot — the 1993 hit song “I Like to Move It” by Reel 2 Real — but without any of the lyrics. It begins with a delivery truck on the road suddenly transforming into a new EV (the same jump cut used in the first spot), then shows three postal employees at work. One is moving the mail in a plant, another is sitting at a desk (she’s an actual USPS logistics expert), and a third is handing off a parcel. The commercial ends like the first one, with delivery trucks departing a facility at morning twilight, directed by the postmaster-as-conductor.

The script goes like this: “We’re reinventing our network… with smarter more efficient routes… so you can deliver more value to your customers. Fast, reliable, perfectly orchestrated. The United States Postal Service.”

The thing is, the delivery routes in the new network will be anything but smarter and more efficient. That claim is just a stretcher.

In the new network, carriers are being relocated from post offices to large Sorting & Delivery Centers, which are typically housed in Processing & Delivery Centers that have extra space because some processing operations were consolidated to other plants.

The average distance from the post office to a route is currently about 2.8 miles, with a drive time of 4.2 minutes (according to this OIG report). In the new network, the distance from the S&DC to the route will increase by approximately the distance between the S&DC and the post office — on average, about 12 or 13 more miles and 18 to 20 more minutes of drive time (as discussed in this post and this post).

Since more time will be spent driving back and forth to the route, it will be necessary to reduce the number of delivery points per route, which means more routes. How many, one might ask?

Well, the plan calls for relocating 100,000 routes over the next several years. This would result in more than 18 million more work hours and 9,000 more routes. That’s not just hearsay or speculation. An internal USPS presentation from July 2022 provides the numbers for the first phase of S&DC hubs and their “spoke” post offices. It shows that the number of routes will need to increase by 5 to 10 percent wherever an S&DC is launched.

In addition to more routes, the new network will mean delivery trucks need to drive more miles. Over the course of a year, the new network would add about 750 million more miles. The cost for all these additional minutes and miles will add up to something on the order of $2 billion a year (as discussed in this post).

A relatively small portion of these costs will be saved by reducing dependence on Highway Contract Routes that currently deliver the mail from processing centers to post offices. Most of the savings needed to offset the new costs will come from reducing the staffing at post offices and closing many of them.

It’s really hard to see how the reinvented network will provide “smarter, more efficient routes.” If the Postal Service has the data to prove such a claim, it ought to present the numbers to the country. Slick, fast-paced commercials may be fun to watch, but as they say, “Data talks, bullshit walks.” Or in this case, it drives an EV that doesn’t exist yet.

— Steve Hutkins