This is a guest post by Robin Ritchie. Robin Ritchie is a regular rural carrier. As most of the USPS employees know there is a engineering study being done by Postal Officials and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA) to determine the fairness of the evaluated system of pay for Rural Carriers. The evaluated system was developed many years ago before Delivery Point System Mail (DPS) and FSS were started. The evaluation is based on the National Mail Count. The whole system is outdated and needs to be recalculated to give both the employees and the Postal Service better time standards for the job. As in most companies there becomes a time when job descriptions and requirements need to be reviewed. The rural carrier craft is the only craft in the Postal System that is paid this way. The evaluation is determined during a certain numbers of day usually in February when each and every piece of mail is counted and recorded. After the costly and tedious task of counting and measuring every piece of mail a value is given to each type of mail depending on the size and other measurements. After weeks of stress filled days of counting thousands and thousands pieces of mail a evaluation is determined. The carrier is then paid that amount for the rest of the year no matter how much mail they may receive. Over time the system has been changed but it seems never to the carriers advantage. One change was routes that had more than 12 boxes in a mile are paid less than those who don’t. Those who are provided with a right hand vehicle are paid less than those who provide their own even when they are paid EMA everyday for using their own vehicle. The postal provided vehicles are not the most reliable vehicles since they are usually ones that are not longer used by city carriers. Most of them are old and worn out before they are placed on a rural route.
At the time the system was put in use I would suspect most people were able to stay in the evaluated time for the route. But some of the problem with this system is many duties of a rural carrier are not included in the evaluation. As many rural carriers can testify when a question arises about something they are required to do where it is found on the mail count the typical answer you will get “It’s built in”. The problem is that most of the time it isn’t built in. The mail count has a place for everything to be counted for but many duties just are addressed. One of the main issues for many carriers is keeping the mail case up to date with current labels. When the labels are not current it is almost impossible for a substitute carrier to come in and work most times only one day a week. The current system with most of the mail coming to the office in delivery point systems is the information is usually not able to keep up with forwarding addresses and such. When carriers take this mail directly to the street as the Post Office management wants to require you to do it causes many problems. The biggest problem is when customers get the wrong mail usually for the person who has lived in the house before they moved in their first response is “If I got someone else’s mail where is mine?” With all the security breaches in our current history customers worry someone will get their information and use it to steal their identity. It is a valid thing to be concerned about. There is very many mail pieces that contain not only information that should be secure but also gift cards and checks. As a postal carrier and customer I feel the same way. I do not want my mail to go to someone else. The DPS and FSS systems make it a very easy to have mail misdelivered. A regular carrier may know someone has moved but the substitute has no way to know that on the street as they deliver the mail. There is no way for them to know if there are more than one name at a particular address which one/all/or none go to that address. When they make a guess and it is wrong the customer doesn’t understand and why should they?
The Postal Service is just that a Service. A service that many customers are not receiving because the carriers are rushing through the job just to try to make evaluation. To make up time they take chances of having a vehicle accident by sorting mail between stops. It is hard enough to drive in many areas without having to worry about getting in and out of traffic, sort mail, find parcels, and get back to the post office before dispatch time. Customer service is not what it should be. Many of these carriers are also having to drive a left hand drive vehicle by sitting in the middle of the seat and driving with one hand on the steering wheel and operating the pedals with the left foot in all kinds of weather. Safety is compromised to start with and the pressures of the evaluated system makes it even worse. For those carriers who are so “lucky” to have a postal provided right hand vehicle also have to take a pay cut because the pay standard for the DPS mail is reduced even more. A rural carrier is paid more to put an unaddressed piece of mail in a mailbox than to sit on the side of a highway and sort addressed pieces of mail. For the unfortunate carrier to have FSS also they must sort letters and then flats at each address on the side of the road in all kinds of weather and traffic
What is the solution? Only the engineering study can lead to a beginning. It is my opinion that some of the management that is demanding the evaluation is met every day or even every week should be given the task to deliver a route with the DPS and FSS in every kind of weather. I would be glad to case my route and load my vehicle for them and let them see exactly what it takes. Our lives are put in danger each and everyday as the roads become more crowded. In some states with severe weather it is a gamble everyday for some carriers to safely deliver the mail. In my opinion the evaluated system needs major changes or taken away completely. It is impossible to give good customer service as it is now and is a major safety issue for carriers.This is a guest post by Robin Ritchie. Robin Ritchie is a regular rural carrier.