Updated: Postal Service’s History of Seeking Five-Day Delivery to Cure Financial Woes

Documents submitted by PostalReporter reader shows the Postal Service’s History of requesting 5-day delivery to relieve its financial woes.

The 94th and 95th Congresses
Representative Tom Corcoran stated at a congressional hearing that the Postal Service took its first formal step toward eliminating one delivery day per week in 1976 when it conducted a study to examine the possible effects of such delivery reduction.That study, according to Corcoran, was completed, but a formal proposal stemming from the study was not drafted. Instead, in 1977, the congressionally created Commission on Postal Service (created in 1975) submitted to Congress and the President a report that discussed the possibility of transitioning to five-day delivery. The members of the congressional commission were divided on whether to recommend eliminating a day of Postal Service delivery. The commission’s final report said that five of the seven commissioners reluctantly recommended the reduction in delivery, but did not say which day of the week would be the optimal day off.
A series of congressional hearings were held on six-day delivery from November 1977 through March 1978. According to Representative Patricia Schroeder, who opened the hearings, the Postal Service prompted the hearings by proposing a cut back in delivery service.36 Although the Postal Service had made no formal indication that it supported the elimination of one service day, one Member of Congress said that “statements made by postal officials indicate[d] they [were] leaning toward making such a recommendation.”In all, Congress held 12 hearings in as many cities with more than 500 testimonies offered between November and March. Those who testified included Members of Congress, union representatives, editors and publishers, the general public, and representatives of the aging. Most of those who testified did not support a reduction in Postal Service deliveries, finding such cuts a “disservice”38 that could result in “possible delay in the receipt of welfare, social security, pension checks, and so forth—the kind of mail that people receive … on weekends and through Saturday mail.”

In addition to concerns about mail delivery in general, much of the testimony framed the debate over six-day delivery as a tension innately embedded in the mission of the Postal Service: is it a profit-driven organization, or a public service? Representative Timothy E. Wirth stated at one hearing that the six-day service was a “social value,” and that cutting a day of service at a time when people were “losing some of their faith in what government can do for them” would exacerbate their disillusionment.

1977 House Report on Saturday Mail Delivery
Early this year, the Commission on Postal Service, a special study commission created by Public Law 94-421 to study the public service aspects of the Postal Service and other subjects, issued a report recommending that Saturday mal delivery be discontinuance of Saturday delivery service would reduce postal costs by $412 million annually. Through attrition, approximately 18,000 full-time positions would be eliminated. The Commission attempted to support its recommendation in part on the basis of a small survey of public opinion which showed that 79 percent of the individuals surveyed would be willing to give up Saturday mail delivery if such a reduction in service helped hold down postal costs.
Immediately following the Commission’s report on April, the Postmaster General summoned the leaders of major postal union to discuss the discontinuance of Saturday mail delivery.
The 96th and 97th Congresses
In 1980, the House Committee on the Budget was expected to propose an $836 million reduction in Postal Service appropriations for FY1981.42 According to Representative James M. Hanley, the chairman of the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, the reduction in appropriations would have eliminated “all of the public service appropriations” and other subsidies for the Postal Service.43 At a March 26, 1980, hearing before the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, then-Postmaster General William F. Bolger stated that eliminating Saturday delivery was one option the Postal Service was considering to ensure its economic stability in the face of the budget cuts. Bolger estimated the service reduction could result in the elimination of 15,000 to 20,000 Postal Service jobs, but would save the Service about $588 million.

The 1980 Task Force
On March 25, 1980, Postmaster General William F. Bolger established a task force to analyze the possible effects of moving from a six- to a five-day delivery schedule. The task force conducted a study, which consisted of telephone interviews of 320 major mailers and 13 selected industries and government agencies. It found that moving to five-day delivery could save $588 million in the first full year of implementation.85 The savings were estimated to “exceed $1 billion annually in future years.”With the cost savings, however, were predicted increases in other stresses for the Postal Service, like loss of patrons to private mailing services or adverse effects on “the levels of service provided to mail on the remaining delivery days.”87 In spite of the projected cost and fuel savings, the task force stopped short of endorsing a reduction in delivery service, saying “[t]he potential cost reduction is extremely attractive; but it is clear that the risks to service and future postal revenues are high.”

The task force recommended a 12- to 18-month planning period if any action to move to five-day delivery was to be made. No such planning period occurred. In addition, the task force suggested that if five-day delivery were to occur, Saturday should be the eliminated day because it “will not greatly affect the majority of … business mailers.”89
April-May 1980 Senate Hearing
There are, of course, a number of factors which have contributed to the operating deficit; however, inflation has undoubtedly been the great factor. The sharp rise could not have been foreseen when the 1970 law was enacted, and it has has a major impact not only on labor costs, which comprise 86 percent of the USPS budget, but on construction, materials and equipment, and operations in general. Also unforeseen was the relentless rise in the cost of energy. The USPS estimates that for every 1-cent increase in the cost of a gallon of gasoline, the transportation costs increase by $3 million.

Mr. Chairman, these hearings are taking place in concert with the Senate’s consideration of the fiscal year 1981 budget. There has been a great deal of discussion about reducing mail delivery delivery from 6 to 5 days in order to meet the anticipated cut in the postal budget. I am concerned that such a decision could exacerbate the current trend of mailers seeking alternate delivery systems and thus decrease further the revenues of the Postal Service.
The President’s Commission on the Postal Service
In 2003, the President’s Commission on the United States Postal Service, created by President George W. Bush, anticipated an “unstable financial outlook” for USPS.90 The commission, however, adamantly rejected any action that would reduce delivery days to five. The Commission firmly recommends continuing the Postal Service’s current Monday
through Saturday delivery regimen. While the Postal Service could save as much as $1.9 billion (less than 3% of its annual budget) by reducing its delivery schedule by one day a
week, its value to the nation’s economy would suffer. Beyond the universal reach of the nation’s postal network, the regularity of pick-up and delivery is an essential element of its
worth in the current climate. Elimination of Saturday delivery, for example, could make the mail less attractive to business mailers and advertisers who depend upon reaching their target audience on that day. In addition, given the volume of mail the nation sends each day, scaling back to a five-day delivery regimen could create difficult logistics, mail flow, and
storage problems.

While the report advised continuing six-day service, the commission noted that increasing use of electronic mail was leading to “a reduction in the demand for mail services” that could lead to a “relaxation of the six-day delivery requirement” in the future.










Apr-May1980SenateHearings (PDF)


My Five-Day Experience, by Postal Pete

On the day I was born June 12, 1957:

“Postmaster General Summerfield today outlined for Congress a series of cuts in postal service which he plans to put into effect July 1 if his department is not given more money … The list, submitted at a closed meeting, was reported to include: Elimination of Saturday mail deliveries … (and) closing of 2,000 small fourth-class post offices.”

When I was almost five years old :

Feb 19 1962

The Kennedy administration has studied the discontinuance of Saturday mail delivery but fears any publicity might adversely affect its proposals for raising mail raise, Postmaster General J. Edward Day has told Congress …
(Day) said the (post office) department estimated it could save $100 million a year by ending Saturday mail delivery.

When I was eighteen:

Nov 24 1975
With the United States Postal Service losing more that $250,000 an hour, Postmaster General Benjamin F. Bailar is considering further economic moves such as discontinuing Saturday mail deliveries …. The Postal Service … ran up a $1.5 billion debt as of last July.

The year I took the postal exam:

March 29 1977

“The Commission on Postal Service … voted 5 to 2 to recommend elimination of Saturday delivery, a step that would save $400 million a year … Elimination of Saturday delivery is likely to be unpopular on Capitol Hill. Numerous legislators denounced the idea when the service said it was being considered a year ago.”

and so it continued throughout my postal career:

Feb 7 1981
Saturday mail deliveries, Amtrak train service and urban programs, survivors of last year’s spending cuts, face a new threat from President Reagan’s budget ax, according to internal administration documents obtained Friday … (The documents say), “The possible reduction of service to five-day delivery is a symbol of the seriousness of the fiscal austerity being imposed by reductions throughout the federal government.

December 15, 1987:

The Postal Service lost $223 million in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 … Possible major effects … include … Seeking congressional permission to eliminate delivery on Saturdays … closing 10,000 to 12,000 small post offices, primarily in rural areas.

October 16, 1992:

Postmaster General Marvin Runyon said Thursday that he backs continuing Saturday deliveries but wonders whether home delivery could be cut from six to four days a week…

His suggestion was to eliminate Tuesday and Thursday mail for home deliveries, keeping deliveries on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Business deliveries would remain six days a week.

April 9, 2001:

The U.S. Postal Service is thinking about ending Saturday deliveries — and shutting down post offices in rural and remote areas, and raising the price of stamps even more … because it finds itself in almost exactly the position the railroads were in after commercial jet travel became commonplace…

Something quicker came along: regularly scheduled jets. We said we loved the railroads — but we headed to the airports. We gave the railroads our hearts, but not our money… This country will feel different — diminished — without Saturday mail.

But the country already feels different. Fax machines, privately owned overnight delivery services, and — most significantly — the huge growth in e-mail have transformed the way that we write to each other.

December 31 , 2008:

After thirty years of service I take the early out and talk of five day delivery resurfaces.

Postal Pete

Pete Countryman
Sectional Center Facility
Elizabethtown, Kentucky 42701
30 yrs USPS / APWU

7 thoughts on “Updated: Postal Service’s History of Seeking Five-Day Delivery to Cure Financial Woes

  1. Why are we the only nation in the world with 6 day delivery? We are a disgrace to the rest of the world. Being of an environmental mind. It is sad to me that the left union is more concerned about union dues than saving fuel,energy and money and reducing pollution. The union bottomline is dues. Less days means less dues period. No jobs would be lost. I am a regular and not on OT yet forced to work 6 days often. It is not right, and for what… To add union dues to the union???Let us get into the year 2010, get rid of Saturday, the environment you save, may be your own.

  2. I don’t know what kind of Post Office everyone else comes from, but a 12 hour route on a hot day and cold snowy day will be no fun, needless to say I have a family and they like to see me at night. 12 hours is too much! I start my day at 6:30 – 7 am and we go nonstop thru 8, 10, 12 hours. Our management is always on our tails about can we justify our time and if we can’t go home.
    As for the 5 day a week delivery, we don’t have the mail volume to support a 6 day delivery and people don’t want their mail on Sat anyway. I want a job in the future so we need a 5 day delivery. As far as cutting back, if they go to a 5 day delivery that will also eliminate some supervisor jobs. Everyone will pay the price. Overtime takes a lot of extra money. The USPS needs to be run more like a bussiness and not a goverment agency!
    Many Blessings

  3. I am a carrier that has worked all through out the Chicago and near suburbs area for the past 19 years. There is no longer the mail volume or customer base to justify working six days a week. On a typical Saturday we will start our day at 730 am and be dine with our deliveries by noon and will sit around for four hours. It is only the incompetent and unfit for duty carriers that take a bit longer. I am thinking about my retirement and the ten years to go on my mortgage and cannot support a union that is only worried about the loss of union dues, flashy conventions and do nothing stewards that would have to go back to doing what we have to do six days a week. Five day delivery will help make sure you still have a job tommorow. Lay offs are in our contract every carrier knows that he doesn’t really work for the usps until their six year anniversary. If you have less than this STOP buying houses and cars as wether we go the five day or not the post office no longer needs or can afford you and there is a 99% chance you will be latex off. Why is our dear union not telling you this?

  4. Get rid of the door to door delivery and the park and loop routes. Make the delivery more efficient, and we won’t have to cut back on days, just carriers. Rural routes service three times more customers than city routes, in half the time. Get everyone on the same pay scale, and city routes will drop in time. People are out ther milking the system…and that’s why we are failing.

  5. It’s been tried and failed before. The current effort will fail also. We need 6 day delivery or it’s the end of the post office. Period.

  6. how can you be so cruel? each route should be at least 12 hours. also,supervisors should be given another 10 minute break.

  7. I propose a one day of delivery to start immediately. Each carrier will be required to work one 24 hour shift per week and each route will be 23 hours long but I will give you a one hour lunch break to show you all that I do have a heart

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