Our annual blog listing the top ten postal stories of the just-completed year is always a reader favorite — even if a little later than usual this year. This year, as in many past years, we had plenty of topics to choose from. What made this year a little unusual was just how many prominent postal stories were in the news — and for a long time. We expect to hear more about several of the topics below in 2019.
- The White House Task Force Reports — The much-anticipated report from the President’s Task Force on the U.S. Postal Service served up a slew of ideas for reforming the Postal Service. The proposals ranged from eliminating collective bargaining for wages to removing the price cap on Marketing Mail to raising package prices.
- Empty No More — After nearly two full years with no independent governors, two governors were finally seated on the Postal Service’s Board of Governors in September.
- Amazon Selects HQ2 — Almost anything Amazon does make news, but nothing quite matched the buildup to the company’s selection of a new site for its second headquarters. In the end, Amazon selected two sites for a “joint” HQ2: Queens, NY, and Crystal City, VA, (National Landing!) This wasn’t the only Amazon news in 2018: the company also unveiled Delivery Services Partners, a new program designed to let entrepreneurs run their own delivery networks of up to 40 vans.
- Pipe Bombs in the Mail — An open and accessible postal system is at the heart of a free and open society. Unfortunately, this openness also makes the postal system vulnerable to terrorism. In late October, an individual used the postal system to send 14 packages containing rudimentary pipe bombs through the mail to politically active figures and news outlets.
- UPU Withdrawal — The Trump administration started the process of withdrawing the United States from the Universal Postal Union, a 144-year-old specialized agency of the United Nations that sets the rules for the international exchange of mail.
- STOP Act a Go — In a rare bipartisan effort, Congress passed (and the president signed into law) the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act as part of sweeping legislation to address the opioids crisis in America. The STOP Act is aimed at closing loopholes in the international postal system that have allowed drug dealers to ship illicit narcotics through the mail.
- Costing Counts — A federal appeals court rejected arguments by United Parcel Service that the Postal Service’s costing methodology (how it attributes costs to its products) is inconsistent with law and “arbitrary and capricious.” Relying on longstanding precedent, the court deferred to the regulator (the Postal Regulatory Commission) in finding its methodology to be reasonable. But this concept of agency deference will get a challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear a Veterans Affairs case next year involving agency actions on regulations.
- Driver Shortage Puts Brakes on Growth — The driver shortage in the trucking industry – at a slow boil for years – reached a critical stage in 2018 when the shortfall reached almost 300,000. Blame a strong economy, which is luring drivers to other jobs, and growing demand for fast delivery of products. The logistics industry is especially feeling the effects.
- The Year of Advocacy — New advocacy groups popped up in response to all the attention on postal issues this past year. The Package Coalition, which includes Amazon, Pitney Bowes, Zappos, and other big retailers, formed to advocate for an affordable and reliable postal package delivery network. The American Mail Alliance supports a “common sense approach” to ratesetting. And a group of unions launched a multi-million-dollar national advertising campaign opposing postal privatization.
- Rate Review Rolls On – The PRC kept plugging away at its 10-year review of the postal ratemaking process. Last year, the regulator released a proposal recommending adjustments to the price cap on market-dominant products, including allowing the Postal Service to add 2 percent to the cap for five years (CPI+2). Mailers spent a good part of 2018 fighting the proposal in Docket RM2017-3.
Check in regularly this year to see what we are blogging about. Or visit us on Facebook and Twitter. In the meantime, let us know which story above you think was the top one of the year.