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April 16, 2007
Your friendly letter carrier may soon be a thing of the past. The Postal Service’s push to privatize and outsource letter carriers was targeted by a rally of hundreds of carriers Monday afternoon at Postal Service headquarters at L’Enfant Plaza, organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC). “Do we really want low-bidder unscreened people coming to our doors every day?” NALC Branch 210 President Ken Lerch asked, pointing out that letter carriers – who are now trained, professional and unionized – know who’s home and who’s not in neighborhoods across the country. Contracted-out letter carriers would have no benefits, no leave, retirement or medical coverage under the Postal Services plan, according to the NALC, which will be working closely with community organizations to oppose the privatization plan.

Selling Off Postal Delivery
Contracting New Deliveries

Make no mistake about it - USPS is quickly selling off mail delivery to private contractors and it seems that neither the city letter carriers union or the rural carriers union can stop this.

Contract routes have existed for a long time with USPS via what are officially called Highway Contract Routes or HCR's - previously called Star Routes. For years HCR routes would pickup and deliver mail between small associate offices and USPS processing centers - they WOULD NOT normally make house to house deliveries like city carriers or rural carriers.

Of course there were, and are, instances where official USPS letter carriers traditionally cannot access an area to deliver mail - an example of such an area would be delivery to the bottom of the Grand Canyon or delivery to remote locations in Alaska.

But, in 2003 USPS changed the official designation of HCR routes. Read below.

The Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) defines carrier routes like this:

Carrier Route - The addresses to which a carrier delivers mail. In common usage, carrier route includes city routes, rural routes, highway contract routes, post office box sections, and general delivery units.

The DMM regarding Highway Contract Routes:

2.3 Highway Contract Delivery Service
2.3.1 Establishment
Highway contract routes are established, and delivery service on such routes is provided, according to USPS policies and procedures, the characteristics of the area to be served, and the methods needed to provide adequate service. Requests or petitions for new routes, or for extensions of service or changes in the line of travel or schedule of highway contract service, must be directed to the USPS distribution networks office with supervision over the transportation of mail in the area involved.

USPS Publication 32 defines Highway Contract Route:

Highway Contract Route (HCR) - A route of travel served by a postal contractor to carry mail over highways between designated points. Some HCRs include mail delivery to addresses along the line of travel. Formerly called star route.

Pub. 32 also addresses HRC pay:

Highway Contract Route Transportation Pay Cycle (HCR-TPC) - A 28-day (4-week) period that forms one-thirteenth of the fiscal year. It begins on a Saturday and ends at the close of business on the Friday 28 days (4 weeks) later.

As stated, the primary duty of HCR routes, previously, was to pickup and deliver mail between associate offices and larger cities or P&DC's. Previous to what you may ask - previous to USPS changing the meaning and scope of HCR's via the Postal Operations Manual - which is updated through the Postal Bulletin. The September 2003 Issue of the Postal Bulletin addressed the following changes made to the USPS POM regarding HCR routes:

Highway Contract Service
Effective September 4, 2003, the Postal Operations Manual (POM) is revised slightly to clarify language regarding highway contract service.

5 Mail Transportation
53 Highway Contract Service
531 Authorization

[Revise the last sentence of the paragraph by replacing the first word ("Policies") and the verb "are" with "Procedural guidance" and the verb "is," to read as follows:]

*** Procedural guidance regarding highway contracts is contained in Handbook PO-513, Mail Transportation Procurement Handbook.

532 Types of Service

532.1 General

[Revise the last sentence of the paragraph by deleting the last four words ("in sparsely populated areas"), to read as follows:]

*** Box delivery routes are similar to rural delivery service and provide home or business delivery of mail.

So, thus began the move by USPS to contract out delivery - without having to deal with carrier unions.

Does your office have contract routes? HCR routes? tell us about it and we will post your comments on this page:
Contact PEN

13 million reasons to love Contract Delivery Service
USPS News Link - March 14, 2007

The Postal Service adds 1.8 million delivery points a year. Servicing those new points in the most fiscally responsible manner is important to our customers and our bottom line. Contract Delivery Service (CDS) is a contract agreement between the Postal Service and a private individual or firm for the delivery and collection of mail from homes and businesses. CDS and rural routes are similar, but historically, USPS has been able to provide CDS at a lesser cost per delivery, per day.

To help get the most out of CDS, a team from Rural Delivery and Surface Transportation established guidelines to handle new growth. The guidelines call for considering all services — city, rural and CDS — when establishing delivery for new delivery points. The guidance includes cost evaluation tools to help team members arrive at a decision. Establishing new delivery points was moved from the Postmaster level to the District level and a growth management coordinator was identified for each district. Six training sessions were conducted for contracting and delivery specialists.

So how's it working? The percentage of annual growth of new delivery points for CDS increased from 1% to 4%. The total annual cost avoidance by using CDS instead of rural delivery for 58,131 new delivery points in FY 2005 was $3,234,702. The total contract savings for the four-year period is nearly $13 million.

See USPS For More on Contract Delivery Services

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What is a Star Route?
Legislation establishing new mail service in 1845
called for contractors to carry the mail with
“celerity, certainty, and security.”
Star Route Service - Nat. Postal Museum

Highway Contract Routes or HCR Routes - Brief History
More than 150 years ago, postal officials tried a new approach to expand the nation’s mail service. The Post Office Department hired contractors to serve the new routes and allowed them to use any form of transportation to carry the mail. Snowshoes, mules, canoes, trucks, dogsleds and stagecoaches are just a few of the ways mail has been carried across America’s valleys, mountains, rivers and highways along this network - known as “Star Routes” - ever since.

“Star Routes” got their name because legislation establishing the new mail service called for contractors to carry the mail with “celerity, certainty, and security.” Weary of repeatedly writing these words in ledgers, postal clerks substituted three asterisks “* * *” and the phrase “Star Route” was born. “Star Routes” were renamed “Highway Contract Routes” in 1970, but they are still known by their original name today.

Star Routes were renamed Highway Contract Routes in 1970 but are still known by their original name today. Continued next column >

To get the mail through, “Snowshoe” Thompson weathered huge snowdrifts on 25-pound skis.

U.S. Mail Coach
Source: National Postal Museum

For Star Route contractors, the "best" technology was the one that fit the route. Over the years, Star Route mail carriers have discovered many diverse and effective methods of moving the mail. In 1948, the Post Office Department began experimenting with long-haul trucking for Star Routes. Today, these routes cover more mileage than any other category of mail transportation and move 90 percent of the U.S. mail.

So - where are Highway Contract Routes Being Offered?

It seems the list WAS growing - until we posted the Craigslist.org ads that USPS managers/postmasters had posted there. It seems that once the news was out - these folks deleted their ads.

Does your office have contract routes? HCR routes? tell us about it and we will post your comments on this page:
Contact PEN

USPS offers Contract Delivery Services information to private companies, and individuals who qualify, via their Doing Business With Us section of their website - among other avenues. See Contract Delivery Service at USPS.com

USPS Statement on Contract Delivery Service

Contract Delivery Service is one of the three delivery types. Mail delivery service is provided by either city carriers, rural carriers, or contract carriers. Contract Delivery Service carriers are not USPS employees but are independent contractors who provide service on specific routes.

The service provided by Contract Delivery Service is equal to that provided by either one of the other delivery types. Contract suppliers not only deliver all classes and types of mail to their customers’ mailboxes six days per week, but they can also sell stamps and accept Special Services Mail such as Certified Mail, Registered Mail, and Insured Mail, and sell Postal Money Orders. Customers can also take advantage of Carrier Pickup on Contract Delivery Service routes.

USPS tells prospective HCR contractors:

If you or your company are interested in becoming a highway contractor, please complete PS Form 5436, Mailing List Application - Mail Transportation Services, provided in this publication and mail it to the contracting officer at the area office that serves you or your company. To determine the appropriate office, see the list of area offices and the ZIP Codes™ they serve. Enter on the form the type of routes you are interested in, the type of equipment you operate, and the places where you are interested in providing service. The Postal Service will enter the information from your completed form into its database of interested offerors. The Postal Service will notify you by letter when contract opportunities matching the information on the form are available.

Does your office have contract routes? HCR routes? tell us about it and we will post your comments on this page:
Contact PEN

Reader Comments

I retired Nov 1st of last year as a city letter carrier with over 32 years in the pig pen....I have to give postal management credit though, because, I was already offered one of those "contract positions" if, and when they become available....since I live in a larger metro area, the ex boss said that first targeted to be contracted were auxie routes, apartment complexes, and new construction, or growth areas!

First question is this....If the UNION aka NALC was so concerned about this, why does it seem now after all of "curlys" balyhooing that nothing will be done to prevent it????

Second, does the PO REALLY think that I want to come back as a part time contractor, make less money, possibly endanger my pension or benefits, and, have to work at the PO EVERY SATURDAY?

I can laugh, because I am retired, but the rest of you remaining better take this caca seriously, even if you think you are "protected" or it doesn't affect you at this time!

Everyone dragging their feet on settling a new contract is a good thing, at least we all know that until a new one is ratified, or arbitrated, the conditions of the old agreement still apply across the board, but, be real leery of a contract that the PO agrees to, and your union trying to convince you that it is good, or in your best interest...arbitration seems to me to be the best way to go.
from: Mark the Mailman

There are two HCR routes in my office and I think they should be converted to Rural routes. The carriers won't get out of their vehicles to deliver parcels and most of the time they leave them in the office and don't take them to the route. They get customer complaints often. The customers don't understand HCR delivery. They just expect service and they don't get it.

If they were Rural routes, they would get the service. But we know this won't happen because of the BIG NUMBERS MONEY!!!!!

I thought CUSTOMER SERVICE was our business?!?!?

Thank you,

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