NNA seeks measure of rural mail


National Newspaper Association report

The National Newspaper Association has again called for measurement of on-time delivery of rural mail.

Appearing at a May roundtable hosted by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, NNA Chief Executive Officer and General Counsel Tonda F. Rush said Congress should follow the maxim that “what gets measured gets done,” according to the newspaper association.

If the U.S. Postal Service is required to report on the quality of rural mail delivery, trouble spots of late mail service will be identified and can be addressed, NNA said.

NNA Postal Committee Chairman Max Heath and Interlink President Brad Hill, who serve on the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee, also represented NNA’s postal concerns at the National Postal Forum.

Heath said senior postal executives invited discussion on ways to improve rural mail delivery.

The Postal Service has publicly recognized NNA’s petition for Service Hubs as the kick-starter for establishment of new cross-docking platforms for some newspaper mail and mail entered by other mailers in sites where mail-processing plants used to be.

There are currently about 50 hubs in operation. A total of 212 are expected to be in operation this summer.

NNA President John Edgecombe Jr., publisher of The Nebraska Signal in Geneva, Nebraska, said an alarming deterioration in rural mail service is being reported across the country.

“The Postal Service took a radical step when it began closing down the processing operations in smaller cities and moved them to the heart of urban America,” he said. “Travel distances increased, traffic problems hampered the movement of postal trucks and the windows for accepting and processing mail began to shrink.”

It should surprise no one that people in small towns are getting their mail later, and readers of community newspapers have been particularly harmed by the changes, Edgecombe said.

“So NNA is taking every possible step to get the Postal Service to address the problems created by these closings,” he said.

Rush explained to the Senate committee that although the Postal Service regularly reports on how well it achieves its service standards, the information is heavily weighted toward urban mail, according to the newspaper association.

Even so, USPS reported serious deterioration during the first quarter of 2015 for First-Class Mail that should have been delivered within three days.

In many cities, the standard was achieved less than 60 percent of the time. The Postal Service has blamed bad weather across the country.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, expressed his concern about a slowdown in service in his state.

“There was bad weather in the Northeast, but in Montana we were in shirt sleeves. There is always going to be bad weather somewhere,” he said.

Carper asked witnesses appearing at the roundtable for one new idea each on how to help the Postal Service achieve financial stability.

“I think people in business will tell you it is always less expensive to keep a customer than to get a new one,” Rush said. “The best place for the Postal Service to begin is to stop driving away the mail volume it already has. It has cut all the costs it can afford to cut. At this point, Congress is our only hope.”

NNA asked Congress to move quickly on a bill that will relieve financial pressure on the Postal Service by changing the requirement for prepayment of retiree health benefits.

The newspaper association also supports a proposal by postal worker groups to permit USPS to invest its funds in conservative private equities instead of only in the U.S. Treasury.

The Thrift Savings Plan that provides retirement benefits for federal workers currently has limited private equity investment authority and is expected to provide a model for USPS investments.