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Postal Service should do more than deliver mail, review suggests

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The U.S. Postal Service has an idea to consider about how to make money: Stop being only a mail delivery service.

The agency's internal watchdog, the Inspector General, looked into ways to improve the USPS financial situation, and decided that "adding carrier services not directly related to mail delivery could increase revenue and enhance the Postal Service brand."

Those services could include helping to monitor the well-being of the elderly, taking air quality samples, monitoring traffic, updating maps, verifying addresses for identification checks and delivering prescriptions or groceries.

"Some of these ideas may not be immediately feasible due to legal restrictions, but management should consider them," the IG said.

The goal is to get the USPS back into the black. Mail volume in the country has been on the decline, and so has the agency's revenue. There were 171 billion pieces of mail delivered in 2010, but only 160 billion in 2012, the IG said. The decrease in business, coupled with a controversial revamping of payments for employees' retirement plans, means the Postal Service lost $5 billion in 2011, and a staggering $15.9 billion in 2012.

But there is one way to immediately generate revenue, the IG said: Start selling advertising space on mail trucks. That could create $15 million in profit in fiscal year 2014 and $30 million the year after that, according to Postal Service estimates.

The mail delivery service has already undertaken some similar endeavors, such as a partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment's "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," which saw several USPS ads featuring the web-slinging superhero, as well as large pictures of him on mail trucks.

Agency officials said they would take the suggestions into consideration.

"The USPS already has in place a strategy for identifying and evaluating suggestions, similar to efforts by the Office of Inspector General," a response from the agency said, adding that they are working with external stakeholders to "come up with concepts to test and implement."

The Postal Service could put sensors on delivery trucks that would collect data on weather, pollution, gas leaks and radio signals, suggested Michael Ravnitzky, chief counsel to the chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, an independent agency charged with overseeing the Postal Service.

"Postal routes are tailor-made for a sensor network because postal delivery routes reflect locations of human activity and the trucks traverse those routes daily," he said in a paper proposing the idea.

Some other ideas that the IG researched or took from public suggestions included providing "meals on wheels" to seniors, delivering lost luggage for airlines, meter reading, collecting door-to-door for charities, collecting census data, taking away people's recycling and mounting cameras on trucks to try to deter crime.

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