In December 2014, President Barack Obama officially appointed Commissioner Robert G. Taub as Acting Chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). Taub succeeds Ruth Goldway who has served as Chairman since August 2009. Chairman Goldway is now entering her final, carry-over year as a Commission of the PRC and has shared with mailers, and the Administration, her desire to pursue other interests and to not seek re-appointment.
Other veteran Commissioners, Nanci Langley and Tony Hammond were confirmed by the Senate to be re-appointed as PRC Commissioners.
ADVANCE and ePub-Watch Discontinued
In November 2014, the Postal Service experienced a cyber intrusion that resulted in the Postal Service discontinuing two tracking programs, ADVANCE and ePub-Watch, that had been used by mailers of certain publications and saturation mailers.
For many weekly mailers of free papers and shared mail programs, where local retailers demand an ability to track the mailers’ success in hitting in-home dates, ADVANCE had been an important, helpful tracking program. When the program “went dark,” many mailers were scrambling to set-up call centers or other ways to give advertisers the information the need and demand about delivery.
For weeks the Postal Service websites on ADVANCE and ePub-Watch were not changed. Mailers attending the November MTAC meetings were told that the tracking systems would no longer be available.
Working through individual mailers, and through SMC’s participation in the Association for Postal Commerce, PostCom, efforts were made to reach out to Postal Service executives about the discontinuance of ADVANCE and e-Pub-Watch and to ask about plans to replace or offer comparable tracking programs in the future.
In December 2014, the Postal Service responded to inquiries and provided this response on initiatives that would provide tracking and visibility for non-automated saturation and/or Enhanced Carrier Route mail. The Postal Service described two alternatives:
For large national or regional mailers that mail large volumes frequently (weekly or bi-weekly) and are easily identified by the Letter Carriers (appearance, shape, frequency); the Postal Service plans on leveraging the existing operational process used to measure saturation mail. Mailers will be able to submit files representing their volumes by ZIP Code and Carrier Route. Delivery units will continue to scan barcodes representing this easily recognizable mail when taken to the street. The date/time of these scan events will be appended to the mailer file for retrieval through Interim Information Visibility. This initiative is currently in pilot with a large national mailer. We anticipate this being available to other large national and regional mailers in February 2015.
For all other mailers of this type, the Postal Service plans on leveraging similar methodology created to measure Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). This involves mailers submitting a simple file containing piece counts for ZIP Codes and Carrier Routes for a Mailer ID. Mailers will then need to generate a new Facing Slip barcode (GS1-128 construct) for each bundle. This barcode must contain the Mailer ID, Serial Number (for mail identification), and Carrier Route. Carriers will be instructed to scan 1 bundle facing (not each bundle) representing the mailing being taken to the street. If mailers desire to receive visibility on mail arrival at the Delivery Unit, they can apply 99M Placards. Mailers will be able to retrieve the Facing Slip and Container scans through Interim Information Visibility. This initiative is currently under development. We appreciate this being available in March 2015.
As Informed Visibility continues to progress, we will work to ensure these initiatives are included. Through these initiatives, mailers should have the necessary visibility that enables them to gain insight on their mail at Delivery Units.
The Postal Service has suggested that it may offer a webinar as these strategies are more fully developed and can be shared with mailers.
Still no News on Exigency
In spite of predictions that the District Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit would reach a decision on the exigency case before the end of the year, New Years came and went without a decision. The cumulative CPI for mail subject to the postal monopoly, First Class, Standard, and Periodicals, stood at approximately 1.7% as of the end of the year.
Looking ahead, the Postal Service will be heading into 2015 with a new Congress, a new PMG, and a new Chairman at the PRC. Although the Commission still has the same five Commissioners that reach the exigency decision limiting the Postal Service’s 4.3% exigency increase to a temporary period, it is noteworthy that current Chairman Robert Taub was the one dissenting Commissioner that would have approved the USPS request to make the rate increase permanent. If the Circuit Court does remand any issues to the PRC for reconsideration, mailers are wondering if the change in the Chair could have any impact on what mailers will pay for postage in the years ahead.
Would you like postal news and updates more often? SMC invites publishers and service providers with a interest in saturation mail to join and support SMC. Contact Executive Director, Donna Hanbery at 33 South Sixth Street, Suite 4160, Minneapolis, MN 55402, (612) 340-9350 Direct Line, firstname.lastname@example.org