Cluster Boxes: A Commonsense Idea For Postal Service Reform
What Is A Cluster Box?
A cluster box is a group of mailboxes at a central location.
What Is The History Of Postal Service Delivery Modes?
It’s worth noting that postal delivery has not always been just one set mode. During the 19th century, “delivery” simply meant from post office to post office; individuals had to go to their local post office to pick up their mail. In 1863, free delivery to home addresses in cities began where a city post office had sufficient income to provide the service. In 1902, rural free delivery began, but carriers kept having to return to the address if nobody was home to receive mail. This problem was resolved in 1923, by requiring that every household and commercial establishment have a mailbox or mail slot to receive home or business delivery.
Thus far, the Postal Service’s sole focus on cluster boxes has mainly been in new developments, an extremely small fraction of current addresses with minimal impact on savings. Local district managers are responsible for existing delivery points and seeking conversions to them. Delivery managers may go into any territory where delivery has been established for more than one year and propose changes to the mode of delivery. However, customers’ signatures must be obtained. Thus, the impetus for conversion from door-to-door to curbside delivery has been, in effect, yielded to customers.
Perhaps the Postal Service doesn’t actually want to change the mode of delivery, but it stands in stark contrast to an earlier era when the high cost of re-delivering the mail led the Postal Service to mandate that customers provide mail boxes or mail slots, not seek their permission to do so.
Why Are Cluster Boxes A Key Part Of The GCA’s Commonsense Solution For The Postal Service’s Budget Deficit?
Earlier this year, the GCA released a report that outlined more than 100 alternative solutions for closing the United States Postal Service’s budget deficit without cutting critical services or raising rates. These alternatives are from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports and include 54 options that the Postal Service could implement immediately without any Congressional legislation or collective bargaining.
One of the 54 alternative savings options that the Postal Service could pursue without Congressional legislation or collective bargaining is the nationwide implementation of cluster boxes. This recommendation, made directly by the Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), would affect less than 25 percent of delivery addresses and could save as much as $9 billion annually.
What Would The Key Benefits Of National Conversion Be?
Implementing cluster boxes on a widespread, national basis where feasible would decrease the cost of postal delivery and increase the operational efficiency of the Postal Service because it would provide for fewer delivery points. The cost savings from this modernization alone would obviate the need to cut Saturday delivery, a critical service millions of Americans and businesses rely on.
The chart below illustrates the cost savings that centralized delivery in the form of cluster boxes would provide as compared to door-to-door and curbside delivery.