U. S.Post Office letter carrier Tim Bell delivers the mail during a snow storm in Havertown, Pa. Saturday Dec. 19, 2009. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

Not on Saturday? (Jacqueline Larma/AP)

By Mark Memmott

There's been talk for nearly a year that Saturday mail delivery might be on the way out as the U.S. Postal Service looks for ways to cut its billion-dollar-plus annual losses.

Today, as USA TODAY reports, Postmaster General John Potter is set to announce the first in a series of steps he hopes will lead to that happening: "He'll submit a formal request by the end of this month to the Postal Regulatory Commission, which must issue an advisory opinion on any change in mail service that would have national impact."

Potter is due to speak about the proposal, and other measures aimed at improving the Postal Service's fortunes, at a conference in Washington, D.C., later this morning.

Last August, in testimony before a Senate subcommittee, Potter laid out out the reasons for eliminating Saturday delivery -- which he called "an absolute requirement for the long-term viability of our nation's postal system." And, he added:

"We selected Saturday as a non-carrier-delivery day for a number of reasons. First, because it is the lowest-volume delivery day, but with same level of fixed costs as other delivery days, discontinuing Saturday delivery offers the maximum benefits to our business. It will also minimize the inconvenience to our customers. Most business and professional offices are open Monday through Friday, with many closed on Saturday.
"We recognize that if we were to eliminate delivery during the regular business week, some business customers would only receive mail on four days each week. These customers have been clear about their needs, which are consistent with our approach, and we will honor those needs."

There's no guarantee the Postal Service will get its way, though. USA TODAY writes that "even if the independent commission approves the dropped day, the Postal Service also needs congressional consent. Federal law requires six-day delivery."

Update at 1:17 p.m. ET. The AP now writes:

The post office is renewing its effort to drop Saturday delivery -- and plans a rate increase -- in an effort to fend off a projected $7 billion loss this year. Without drastic action the agency could face a cumulative loss of $238 billion over 10 years, Postmaster General John Potter said in releasing a series of consultant reports on agency operations and its outlook.
"The projections going forward are not bright," Potter told reporters in advance of Tuesday's announcement. But, he added, "all is not lost ... we can right this ship."
Later this month, he said, the Postal Service will ask the independent Postal Regulatory Commission to review its plans for the service reduction.

The Postal Service's statement about its plans is now posted here. Its fact sheets on the proposals are here.

On the issue of Saturday delivery, it says:

"The Postal Service would move to a 5-day per week schedule if given the legislative changes required to adjust delivery frequency, thus eliminating delivery on Saturday, the lowest volume day. This would boost 2010 daily delivery volumes per address to 2008 levels. This would also help close a substantial portion of the net income gap, yielding annual savings (after initial implementation) of approximately $3 billion in 2009 dollars."

We wonder:


categories: National News

8:40 - March 2, 2010