The U.S. Postal Service is slowly being strangled by congressional inaction and burdensome regulations. Just recently it was reported that they will miss a large payment to fund retiree health benefits. While it is clear that the delivery of first class mail, and the bulk of the USPS revenue, is waning; we shouldn’t let this tremendous nationwide network of post offices and letter carriers become defunct.
A small legislative light
The USPS system should be allowed to enter into contracts with other government agencies and private enterprise. Section 210 of Senate Bill 1789: 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2012 may help the USPS generate other revenues. It states,
Authorizes USPS to provide other services that are not postal services after PRC determines that providing such services: (1) makes use of the processing, transportation, delivery, retail network, or technology of USPS; (2) would be consistent with the public interest and would not create unfair competition with the private sector; and (3) would have the potential to improve the financial position of USPS.
We see our carriers daily
Postal delivery vehicles traverse nearly every residential road in America 6 days a week. Why can’t the letter carriers be allowed to perform other tasks such as reading water meters? Currently, my water district sends a meter reader around every 60 days to electronically “touch read” my meter. Even though my electric and gas meters send the usage by radio signals, not all utilities have switched or can switch to this technology. Plus, there are still instances when a utility worker, which could easily be a letter carrier, needs to verify the actual meter record.
Economies of scale
It seems only natural that local postal districts could enter into agreements with local utilities to provide meter reading services. There may other government agencies that could leverage the USPS vehicle trips as well. Vehicles could be outfitted with cameras to inspect roadways and notify local agencies of exact locations of road hazards. As Geographical informational systems become more important to a variety of agencies, the USPS could provide a pivotal role in collecting data. I would think that a company like Google, who is compiling a whole data base of street view images, might entertain the idea of putting their cameras on USPS vehicles.
Since we are on the subject of vehicles, if the USPS can sponsor a sports team, why can’t we have advertising on the side of the vehicles? Although, I would prohibit political candidates from plastering their mugs on the side of the trucks. We have advertising on the side of municipal buses and sports stadiums, why not USPS vehicles?
Let the USPS innovate, not stagnate
It is apparent that there are some in congress that would like to see the whole USPS system privatized. I am all for allowing government programs, institutions and departments that have outlived their usefulness to fade away like the horse and buggy. But we have a huge infrastructure and pool of talented employees at the USPS that can add real value to other agencies and companies if they were only allowed to be innovative and carry out their mission like a real business.