As I alluded to in my post this past June, it’s been a year of non-stop activity for postal nerds. The opportunities to learn about new approaches to postal optimization just keep coming. The fall meeting of the Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) was held last week, with additional association meetings happening through Thanksgiving (even postal nerds usually take a break for the holidays). Here’s a recap of some of the biggest postal news updates since June.
New Governors Mean Pricing and Promotions Can Move Forward, Informed Delivery Gets Its Due, and More Postal News Updates
For one thing, the Postal Service now has Governors! (The USPS Board of Governors functions like a board of directors for a private corporation.) In August, the Senate confirmed David C. Williams and Robert M. Duncan as members of the USPS Board of Governors. Since December 2016, the USPS hasn’t had any serving board members other than Postmaster General Megan Brennan and her Deputy, Ronald A. Stroman. Without independent Governors, USPS management lacks guidance and oversight, and there are actions (such as approving rate adjustments and promotions) that are legally limited to the independent Governors.
Postal Service management is working with the new Governors to gain approval of a postage rate adjustment proposal that would take effect in January, along with a slate of mailing promotions for 2019. Since the Governors have only been in office for a few months, the mailing industry expects a relatively simple rate case for 2019. This means no big classification changes and most rate tiers changing pretty close to the rate of inflation (currently 2.4%). We also expect the 2019 promotions to look a lot like the 2017 promotions—maybe a few new technologies or physical treatments of mailpieces to try, but generally the same structure and cadence as in the past.
Editor’s note: Hours after this blog published, the Postal Service announced the following price changes to take place on January 27, 2019:
- First-Class Mail 2.486
- Marketing Mail 2.479
- Periodicals 2.520
- Package Services 2.522
- Special Services 2.512
One highly anticipated addition is likely to be a stand-alone promotion for Informed Delivery (ID). In 2017, ID was built into the Mobile Shopping offering at the end of the year, but in 2019, it is anticipated that the Postal Service will incent use of ID for a broader range of mailings. Governors approved rates on October 4, and the USPS submitted to the Postal Regulatory Commission today. The PRC’s ruling is expected in mid-November, and, if approved, these rates will take effect January 27.
In addition to the Governors confirmed by the Senate, the President made two additional appointments to the board, who are awaiting a confirmation hearing before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC). Last week, the HSGAC did hold a confirmation hearing for Michael Kubayanda, who has been nominated to fill the vacant seat on the PRC. Kubayanda’s nomination is waiting final committee approval and confirmation by the full Senate.
USPS Stumbles on Marketing Mail Content Regulations
On August 23, the Postal Service issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making in the Federal Register regarding content regulations for the Marketing Mail class. It caused great concern in the mailing industry because its overly broad wording would limit marketing mail to “content that is only paper-based/printed matter.” The Postal Service has since said its intent was to limit the use of Marketing Mail for the delivery of products, and it was attempting to gather feedback to better understand how the mailing industry uses Marketing Mail.
This notice was a hot topic of conversation at the recent MTAC meeting. Postal Service management has apologized for not involving the industry sooner in this process, and we believe that any impact it may have on future regulations will be much more limited and defined in scope than the original proposal.
It is unfortunate that at a time when mail is facing strong competition from other marketing channels, we would see a proposal such as this, which could limit creativity in using mail as a tool to disseminate marketing messages. We look forward to working with the Postal Service to refine this initiative so it supports the continued use of mail as a robust marketing channel.
EMA Honors Chuck Tricamo for Distinguished Service
As part of the EMA postal affairs team and EMA representative on MTAC, I had the distinct honor of presenting EMA’s John H. Nelson Award for distinguished service in postal affairs to Chuck Tricamo, the manager of the USPS Pricing Classification Service Center (PCSC), at last week’s MTAC meeting. Chuck and I serve together as co-chairs of MTAC Workgroup #188 (Growing Mail Volume by Expanding Letter Mail Machinability Standards). Chuck brings knowledge, a sense of fairness, and professionalism to his job. He is dedicated to maintaining a cooperative relationship with the mailing industry and creating opportunities to grow the value of mail. Just so you know, the mailing industry appreciates all you do for us, Chuck!