From the National Newspaper Association

A new directive from the U.S. Postal Service headquarters to mail processing plants and local post offices is expected to improve newspaper delivery, the National Newspaper Association said today.

USPS released to NNA today an internal operating policy intended to stop local post offices from unnecessarily sending 5-digit containers of newspaper mail to mail processing plants. The directive tells local postmasters that newspapers already prepared for local delivery should be held at the local post offices or sent to other area post offices through operating “hubs,” many of them former SCFs, rather than slowing delivery by sending them along for processing at distant, merged plants.

“Transporting these containers of direct 5-digit local newspapers to upstream processing center(s) only to have the processing center dispatch them back to the AOs (associate offices) results in unnecessary transportation and handling costs and can lead to service delays,” the directive stated.

The new statement resulted from requests by NNA to USPS in July 2013, as NNA leadership began a series of meetings with the postmaster general and his senior staff to address chronic and serious newspaper delivery problems.

“We are heartened that the Postal Service has explicitly stated this policy so we can avoid confusion in local post offices,” NNA President Robert M. Williams Jr. said. “When we met with Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and his management team, fixing the delivery delays coming from unnecessary transportation of our mail was our top priority. We are pleased that the Postal Service addressed the problem. We hope now to get the word out so that our members can tackle some of our most vexing problems and we look forward to working with Donahoe on other service concerns.”

Max Heath, NNA Postal Committee chairman, said an outbreak of delivery delays from unnecessarily transported newspaper containers stemmed from a combination of sources.

“First, a lot of processing plants that used to handle our mail closed down, resulting in new directives for transportation in the field. That confused a lot of postmasters about where mail should go. Second, retirements of seasoned postmasters brought in a lot of new people who were not familiar with our mail and the new recruits felt they needed to adhere to USPS policy to direct more mail to plants—even when that is superfluous for our local mail. Finally, the ogre of Sarbanes-Oxley compliance that fell upon USPS thanks to the 2006 Congress has made a lot of otherwise very sensible postal officials fear they will be sanctioned unless they do everything exactly by the book. So we decided what we needed to do was make sure ‘the book’ was written correctly,” Heath said.

“Direct” containers include 5-digit, carrier-route, or M5D (merged 5-digit and carrier-route), the policy explains.

The directive has been distributed to all USPS area vice presidents, over the signature of USPS Vice President of Operations David E. Williams and Delivery and Post Office Operations Vice President Edward E. Phelan, Jr. It defines the containers covered for the local holdout as 5-digit, carrier route or Merged 5D-Carrier Route containers.

A copy of the policy directive is available to NNA members at www.nnaweb.org.

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