The U.S. Postal Service just revamped its priority mail program to raise revenue and drive new growth in its package delivery business. The move is expected to generate $500 million in new annual revenue, but that's just a drop in the bucket for the mail behemoth.
The Post Office handles 40% of the world's mail, employs more than 493,000 workers and delivers letters and packages to 152 million U.S. residences and businesses every day. The self-governing federal agency reported revenue of $65 billion last year from sales of stamps, products and other services; USPS receives zero tax dollars to fund its operation. But the postal service has lost billions of dollars in recent years ($16 billion in 2012 alone, a rate of nearly $49 million a day) and could default on pension obligations to retirees if its staid business model does not keep up with technological trends.
Patrick Donahoe, Postmaster General and CEO of USPS, has attempted to return the agency to profitability by cutting Saturday delivery service, closing more than 500 mail processing facilities, slashing headcount, eliminating delivery routes and expanding the post office's purview to include shipping alcohol.
The changes have helped the post office reduce its debt; last quarter it recorded a loss of $740 million versus the $1.9 billion loss in the same quarter a year ago. Its operating revenue increased 3.6% to $16.2 billion in the April to June quarter and expenses dropped to $16.9 billion from $20.8 billion from a year ago.
In an interview with The Daily Ticker, Donahoe says "it's doable" for the organization to close its $20 billion revenue gap, a feat he hopes to accomplish by 2017.
"We do not want a [taxpayer] bailout," he maintains. "What we're proposing is very workable."
Donahoe believes there are two key changes that must be implemented for his organization to survive: permanently ending Saturday mail delivery and reforming the organization's retirement structure. According to Donahoe, the organization's Congressional mandate to pre-fund future retirees' health benefit costs sets USPS back $8 billion and he has been aggressively trying to take control of the organization's healthcare system.
As for eliminating Saturday delivery, Donahoe says the proposal "is still on the table." There are bills in the Senate and House that would allow the postal service to move to a 5-day delivery system but the plan has already been dismissed by members of both parties.
Originally planned to start this August, Donahoe now hopes the 5-day delivery schedule will commence next summer, if he can get Congress to agree to his radical idea. (Donahoe points out that retail USPS locations would still be open on Saturday and packages would continue to be delivered).
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