By Max Heath
National News­paper Association

The U.S. Postal Service reports too many broken bundles going across its sorting machines in processing plants.

Although newspapers consist of a small portion of problem bundles, poor string tying by some larger-volume mailers threatens to eliminate string in favor of plastic strapping.

Cost studies have shown that when bundles break, it costs 12.6 cents per piece to handle the loose pieces one at a time to either reconstruct the bundle or send the pieces loose in a container to a manual sortation process within the plant.

Frankly, the greatest concern for newspapers is that bundle breakage could be the cause of delayed mail.

I want to remind news­papers of the need to make proper bundles, especially on mail traveling in containers. They should be flats trays (white tubs), not sacks. Bun­dles in sacks have a much greater tendency to break, while tubs protect them, and they usually move faster through the network of plants.

(With another round of plant closings and consolida­tions set to start Jan. 15 unless Congress takes some action to stop it, the need for flats tray use becomes even more important to improve the odds of timely delivery outside your trade area.)

Most newspapers drop 80 percent or more of their mail directly at post offices in bundles only – no sacks or tubs required – where you make direct drops under Exceptional Dispatch.

But even locally dropped mail must be moved into and about the post office.

Post-office-dropped bundles can weigh up to 40 pounds each, thus the need to stay together until sorted to the carriers.

All bundles, whether those dropped at your local post office or Exceptional Dispatch offices, should be bound tightly, without damaging the newspaper, of course.

Whether using strap or string, bundles should be wrapped twice, around the width as well as the length.

The binding material must not cover the top label in the bundle, keeping the destina­tion visible. (The top line of the label, after a series of asterisks, shows the sort of each piece in the bundle, such as 5-DIGIT XXXXX, 3-DIGIT XXX, etc.)

String twice around

The key to tying string bundles that maintain their “bundle integrity,” as the Postal Service describes it, is to make sure you go twice around in each direction and to ensure the tension on the string binder is set to a high level.

Bundle tests conducted for the National Newspaper Association – and dropped from six feet to test their durability for a test mailing from Elizabethtown, Ky., to Baltimore, Md. – held up well when tightly double-stringed in both direction.

Bundle requirements

To make the requirements clear, I want to share some language from the Postal Service’s Domestic Mail Man­ual 203.3 regarding bundle requirements. Note that the Periodicals chapter was moved from 707 to 207.

“All pieces in a bundle should be faced (arranged with the addresses in the same read direction) with an address visible on the top piece” (DMM 203.3.2).

Securing bundles

According to DMM 203.3.5:

A. Bundles must be secured with banding, shrink wrap, or shrink wrap plus one or more bands. Banding includes plastic bands, rubber bands, twine/string and similar material. Use of wire or metal banding is not permitted.

B. When one band is used, it must be placed tightly around the girth (narrow dimension).

C. Bundles more than 1-inch high must be secured with at least two bands or with shrink wrap. When double banding is used to secure bundles, encircle the length and girth of the bundle at least once. Additional bands may be used if none lies within 1 inch of any bundle edge.

D. Banding tension must be sufficient to tighten and depress the edges of the bundle.

E. When twine/string is used to band bundles, the knot(s) must be secure so the banding does not come loose during transit and processing.

F. Bundles on pallets must be secure and stable, and they are subject to requirements to band the entire pallet and specific weight limits, depen­ding on entry point. (Gen­erally, minimum is 250 pounds and maximum 2,200 pounds. There is no minimum for pallets entered at the DDU.)

Other requirements

Bundles in sacks cannot exceed 20 pounds (DMM 203.3.8a), though we strongly recommend against using sacks in favor of flats trays.

Newspapers in full trays do not have to be bundled if all the mail in the tub is sorted to the same destination as the tray tag. For example, mail in a full ADC tray need not be bundled if it would have all been prepared in ADC bundles to the same destination (DMM 203 3.4).

Max Heath, National News­paper Association postal chairman, is a postal consult­ant for Athlon Media Group and Landmark Community Newspapers.