Postal Affairs Update, March 18, 2021

March 18, 2021

The USPS has mostly cleared delivery backlogs, and its more reliable performance in recent weeks offsets transportation challenges. The Postmaster General again hints at what the new strategic plan will include. And the legal battle continues over the Postal Service’s authority to raise prices midyear.

Quad’s Postal Affairs team remains committed to keeping you up to date and informed. As a significant mailing industry partner, we are in a unique position to provide clear and accurate information regarding the state of the USPS and suggest best practices during this time. Please notify the Quad Postal Affairs team if you become aware of any changes, questions or something new related to how the USPS is reacting to the pandemic. We will investigate and update all. Please send inquiries to the Quad Postal Affairs Distribution list (Postal Affairs – Team) or ask your Quad representative.

Here are key developments since our last update:

Delivery performance

USPS performance has stabilized over the last few weeks, providing more reliable service to mailers. This has helped counteract some of the transportation challenges that mailers have faced. Recent truck capacity issues have slowly improved, too.

Postal Service customers should see in-home delivery that is closer to ‘normal’ as we move into spring — although still short of what performance was before the pandemic. First Class mail remains delayed with only an average of 60-75% of the mail in-home within three days — the USPS target is over 90%.

The service delays certainly concern us. We look forward to engaging with the Postal Service to show how such delays could have been mitigated with better communication and coordination, which could have made the last few months much smoother. We should all expect much better from the USPS. It’s incumbent on them to perform better for our industry and the economy we help support.

New USPS rate authority

As we reported, the courts rejected the mailing industry’s motion to ‘stay’ the PRC’s 10-year review decision, which grants the USPS greater pricing authority. While the courts did grant expedited review, their summer break takes place over the month of August — oral arguments likely wouldn’t even begin until September. Following that, the courts could take two or three months to announce their decision.

Meanwhile, many believe that the Postal Service will exercise its new rate authority and raise postage prices mid-year. When it does, there will be additional legal options available to the industry that we intend to explore with the courts. This is an uphill climb but certainly important — we will see it through and exhaust all options in the courts, and potentially with a Congressional solution.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was in front of Congress again on Thursday, March 11. He answered questions from the House Appropriations Committee, and signaled that the USPS will release its new 10-year business plan before the end of the month. We have not yet seen the full details of Postal Service’s plan. But we’re as eager as the mailers we work with to read the full scope of changes that USPS leadership has in mind.

Postal volume

  • For week ending March 6, compared to 2020
  • Total Mail: Down 6.4%
  • Packages: Up 31.3%
  • Single Piece: Down 1.2%
  • Presort First Class: Down 1.3%
  • Marketing Mail: Down 10.9%
  • Periodicals: Down 13.7%

Note that this same period last year was still pre-COVID in the U.S. — the pandemic began to affect volume two weeks later.