The Future of the Rural Carrier – USPS Management’s View Part 1A

Guest post by Older and Wiser.

Older and Wiser is a rural carrier.

Click below to see all of Older and Wiser’s Guest Posts.

This is how I see it!

This is a continuation of my first article where I outlined the problem that the USPS will have in attracting future rural carriers and RCAs. Whenever I look at a problem, I try to find a solution or solutions to correct the situation and that is the subject of this commentary.

Whenever a new RCA comes into the post office, you might as well start an over/under pool to bet on how long the new person will stay. I have never seen a position, except low-paying service jobs, where the attrition rate is so high. I believe I might have an answer. I haven’t taken the 473 test for new RCAs in many years, but as I remember it, the test was part intelligence/part aptitude test. I think the test needs to be changed. The current test may be a good measurement of what a person has here (pointing to my head), but not a good measure of what a person has here (pointing to my heart). Does the person have the inner strength, intestinal fortitude, or just plain guts to persevere through that tough first couple of months or first year and keep plugging away until they feel comfortable in the job? The Postal Service needs to consult with one of those companies that design this type of test that can measure these attributes as well as intelligence. This should raise the probability of a person staying on the job permanently.

It seems that since the local PMs and were taken out of the hiring process, there seems to be a long time between a prospect’s first contact with the USPS and the actual hiring. One reason may be that the people who are doing the hiring are not sharing the pain of not having people in place. If they got the calls at 6am in the morning and had to scurry around to find replacements for that day, the hiring process may happen in a more expedient manner. PMs should have the power they had taken away and given the ability to scout out replacements on their own. How many RCAs/regulars started after seeing a sign in front of a post office and went in to get more information. PMs have the incentive that the districts lack. Any possible sub that the PM likes (that means breathing and not a serial killer) will still need to go through all the Postal Service steps of due diligence, but the PM can keep an eye on the process to make sure the prospect can stay on the fast track.

As I stated in my previous article, who would want to work for an organization like the USPS where all the recent news has been negative? When the military draft ended in the 1970s, the Armed Forces started advertising campaigns to attract new volunteers. The USPS needs to do the same, but on a smaller scale. We do not need to fill the large number of positions the military did, so a television campaign wouldn’t be needed, but the USPS needs to get the positive word out about how the Postal Service could be a viable occupation. How about killing two birds with one stone? We could reach out to military veterans as they end their tour of duty. Don’t wait for them to contact the Postal Service, hand them a letter as part of their out processing that invites them to visit their local post office and talk with the PM about positions there or in the vicinity. Not only would you be talking to people who have been working in a structured and disciplined environment, you would generate positive advertising about how the USPS is really trying to help our veterans. Positive publicity like that would be worth more than any advertising campaign.   

People learn at different rates and I think the 90 day probationary time period is too restrictive and should be lengthened to 120 or even 150 days. This would allow people who need a little more time to learn the process the ability to relax and learn at a slower pace. Some people may never be as quick as others in completing a route. If you only look at speed, then you may be missing other attributes that are just as important for a sub to have. What good is speed if the carrier won’t answer a phone to cover for an ill regular carrier on a snowy day? What good is speed if the sub curtails mail until the next day for the regular carrier? What good is speed if the sub doesn’t handle the office side of the job as well as the on-the-road side? The slower sub may be more reliable, more organized and more flexible than the speedy sub. It just may take more than 90 days to see it.

Of course, I need to bring up the lowering of the new RCA pay scale. The recent incentives given to new RCAs and regular carriers in the Dakotas may be an extreme case, but with that happening right after the article on locality pay, you can see a trend where the pay of new RCAs and regulars makes it all the more difficult in finding and retaining people. The USPS has to reconsider restoring the old RCA pay grades. How about making RCAs into PTFs? Are we that much different from city carriers? The local city carrier union newsletter talks about the difficulty and retaining City Carrier Assistants (like RCAs). Wake Up USPS! The economy is changing. Give a reason for people to consider the Postal Service as a career, not just a job?

My next blog will be the second most important item USPS management must resolve that will affect rural carriers in the future.

Guest post by Older and Wiser.

Older and Wiser is a rural carrier.

Click below to see all of Older and Wiser’s Guest Posts.
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I have been employed as an RCA for the past two years. I was hired at $16.26 per hour. There has been a “pay increase” and now I am currently making $17.02 an hour. Isn’t that what they are hiring RCAs on at? 2 years experience and still the minimum rate? Doesn’t seem right. I can’t tell you what even sounds appealing about this job. If I knew what I had signed up for I would’ve declined the job offer. What the job description should say is: You will be subject to inhumane working conditions all day every day. You… Read more »

I can’t agree more. For example: All carriers that were hired as RCA’s after 11-20-2010 and before 8-10-2012 that were paid under table 3 ($19.94/hr.) will be placed under table 2 when converted to regular carrier and will lose $2.10/hr. = $17.84/hr. The USPS had a freeze on hiring and until it was lifted and a PO posted a opening within a 50 mile radius, a TRC could not advance to a RCA position, and the carriers didn’t get a contract until the mid or late 2012. Negotiations shouldn’t have affected those RCA’s who were paid under table 3. In… Read more »

I couldn’t have said it better Mike. Now once a sub gets in the door management throws them on a route they’ve never even been on (didn”t even get to ride the route with the regular) without any knowledge of the route. I found out recently, management gives them an outdated route description that is not accurate in most cases and the poor subs , if they even get out there “somewhere”,some regular carriers don’t even make sure the street number is on all the mailboxes. Come on management…. have some common sense and some compassion .Also make sure the… Read more »

Good article, I’ve been thinking the same thing for awhile now. I live and work in North Dakota, but not in the Bakken oil field area. Resources and people are being sucked to the Bakken at the expense of the rest of the state, and not just USPS either. To work for the USPS you have to pass the driving test, the background check and the pee test. If you can pass all of those you can qualify for a much better paying job in the oil patch, IF that’s where you want to live and work. And that big… Read more »

All the points are very valid & the article is very well written. It’s very disheartening to have the USPS say they are going to reduce the work force by 10,000 in the fiscal year 2015. I haven’t had a sub since 2009; the last candidate who did a shadow day with me was woefully unprepared & dismayed at all that my job entails! She declined the position.


When I was hired as an RCA, it was with understanding that I always be available for regular’s relief day. There was an additional mutual understanding that I offer some time flexibility to accept work when it presented itself. This was done with PO’s acknowledgement that I also had other obligations and a life that may conflict. Now the post office position is that an RCA must be available regardless of circumstances. Not everyone can make that kind of commitment. The recent reduction of entry level pay severely undermines the entire craft. My sense is this was by design to… Read more »

Having finished my career, I can look back at the differences between when I started and when a newbie starts now. The main glaring difference is back then a newbie was allowed to learn the job and to become proficient. Nowadays, it like, “congratulations, you hired, now go carry the route.” Districts are so hell-bent on cutting hours that they don’t want to pay for training anymore. Even the last “official” word I heard was 24 hours for the first route and 8 for subsequent routes. Twenty-four hours is nowhere near enough training time for subsequent routes much less the… Read more »

GREAT article !

Good article! I’m working on 34 years of service…if i had been scrutinized as the new hires of today, i would not have made it.