Your Christmas gifts are changing the Postal Service

Andy Medici, March 9, 2015

When you click "buy" online you are doing more than just shopping, you are pushing to fundamentally change the Postal Service.

Even as people continue to send fewer greeting cards, checks and letters through the mail the explosion in e-commerce is pushing the Postal Service toward a future where it delivers everything from your new shoes to your TV – and that is propelling a shift within the agency toward package delivery.

Megan Brennan, the new postmaster general, said the growth in packages means the agency needs delivery trucks that can handle the extra weight. She said the "hyper growth" in E-commerce is generating not just more packages but bigger packages.

"Because its not just the growth in packages but the size in packages; If you consider during the Christmas period some of the packages you either sent or received at home, the dimensions of the packages," Brennan said. And those larger packages are driving dramatic changes.

"Part of our approach when we look at investing in the infrastructure and the vehicle fleet in particular is getting expanded cargo capacity for those vehicles," Brennan said.

On Jan. 20, the Postal Service issued a request for information asking automakers to start preparing for the next generation of delivery trucks. About 163,000 at a cost of at least $4.5 billion.

One of the top requirements for the new truck is to be able to carry at least 1,500 pounds of mail and packages – up from the 1,000 pound payloads the current generation can carry.

The Postal Service also wants lower maintenance requirements and better fuel economy than its current fleet, as well as design flexibility to allow for the incorporation of future technology, according to the RFI.

But it's not just Postal Service vehicles that are changing, the agency is continually investing in new package sorting equipment and intelligent barcodes that allow the agency to provide more data on where a package is at any given time.

"If you order something online you want to know where it is in the process," Brennan said.

Package delivery is also driving growth within the Postal Service. In the first quarter of fiscal 2014, package volume increased by 12.8 percent over the same time the previous year. That drove a 4.3 percent revenue increase.

"Our employees delivered double-digit growth in packages this holiday season, which shows our growing ability to compete for and win new package delivery customers," Brennan said in a statement regarding the financial results. "To keep the momentum going—and to ensure we are the shipper of choice for our residential and business customers—we will continue to expand customized delivery solutions and package capacity while delivering high levels of service."

The Postal Service is testing out a number of other services, including packaged food delivery and Sunday delivery. In major cities and high-volume areas the Postal Service is shipping and delivering packages seven days a week.

In her swearing in ceremony March 6, Brennan said the future of the Postal Service will be to quickly adapt to new technology and to find ways to take advantage of new opportunities in the marketplace.

"This is especially true as we create more compelling ways of integrating mail and package delivery into the lives of our customers," Brennan said.