The USPS Sends Flat Sortation Down the Rabbit Hole
In a letter submitted to the USPS this week, ABM postal counsel David Straus, takes the postal service to task for its recent requalification of "machinable" mail. Straus, in his comments submitted to the USPS on behalf of ABM, noted the proposed rules, "which in this respect could have been written by Lewis Carroll," make little sense from an incentive standpoint, and urged the USPS to reconsider their actions.
According to Straus, the postal rate increases going into effect on July 15 were, among other reasons, designed to send out "pricing signals"; meaning they’re intended to not only increase revenues, but encourage publishers to modify their practices to help drive down postal costs. In the meantime, however, the USPS has been transitioning its flat sortation systems to a faster machine which will be introduced next year. During this transition, the USPS is adjusting "machinability" qualifications.
"The new rates have a pretty big distinction between the price if you’re ‘machinable’ and ‘nonmachinable,’" says Straus. Complicating the matter, however, are the two flat sortation machines that are currently in use;and the new machine being introduced next year.
"The postal service now has two machines that it uses to sort flat mail;the FSM 100 and the UFSM 1000. Based on postal service peculiarities, the 1000 is the older one and the 100 is the newer one. The 1000 has capability of machine-sorting a wide variety of sizes and shapes, but it’s slow. The 100 is more restricted in the sizes it can handle and because it has less tolerance it operates much more quickly," says Straus.
As a result, the postal service wants to sort as much as they can on the 100 and use the 1000 for the leftovers. This is where the rate changes separate from reality, says Straus. "What the postal service has decided in terms of implementing the rates is that for pieces that are prepared in 3-digit, ADC and mixed ADC bundles and containers they’ll only declare you to be machinable if they can handle you on the 100."
Yet the pieces that receive nonmachinable status this year will likely regain machinability next year when the new FSS flat sorters are introduced. "There’s good reason for it in terms of costs but next summer they’re going to start deploying these brand new flat sorters. They are not only going to be super fast but they’re also going to have broader tolerances," says Straus.
In the meantime, some publishers will be penalized until the FSS machines are fully deployed. In his letter, Straus says, "The imposition of this added burden on pieces that the notice recognizes might well be ‘machinable’ in the ‘flats sequencing environment’ makes little sense from an ‘incentive’ standpoint, if next year the same pieces that are now deemed ‘nonmachinable’ become ﾑmachinable.
In other words, why try to force a publisher to change its trim size if the magazine’s original size will once again be machinable next year?
"And also these rate increases are pretty punishing for some of the smaller circulation publications. So if you’re small circulation and non-machinable you’re going to get a double whammy here," adds Straus.