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The Sixth Day:
Eliminating Saturday Delivery Makes Too Much Sense -
That's Why it Won't Happen

By T.L. Righter, April 2001

Discontinuing Saturday mail service is the best idea the U.S. Postal Service has had in a long time. In fact, it is such a good idea that the question begs "who authorized Saturday mail delivery in the first place?"

To begin with, a little about why ending Saturday mail delivery does make sense. As we all know, the USPS is in a financial crunch. Mail volumes are declining, labor costs are rising, and delivery points are increasing daily. In a nutshell, the USPS needs to find a middle ground where these three factors can be handled in a profitable and reasonable manner. Ending Saturday mail delivery is the first step in finding this middle ground. Here's why:

First, the USPS would realize substantial savings in labor costs by ending Saturday delivery. As it stands now, letter carriers have a rotating day off during the week. On their day off, a rotating (T-6) letter carrier fills in for them. For every five routes in the USPS there is supposed to be one T-6. Cutting Saturday deliver would eliminate the need for these (higher level and higher pay) positions. Ending Saturday mail delivery would also drastically reduce overtime. I don't think the USPS actually understands how much the sixth day contributes to overtime. Because of the sixth day, overtime comes in big eight hour chunks as regular carriers sometimes, if not most of the time in many areas, have to work their day off. The sixth day also contributes mightily to PTF overtime. Many PTFs work six (even seven) days a week. Many PTFs spend a good portion of Thursday and all of Friday on overtime. (The USPS is understaffed on letter carriers in many areas of the United States. This contributes to regular carriers working their day off and PTFs working six days a week.) Delivering mail only five days a week will reduce regular workhours and drastically reduce overtime costs.

Workhours would also be saved in other areas outside of the carrier craft. Ending Saturday delivery would reduce some supervisor hours, distribution clerk hours, and driver (dispatch) hours. Furthermore, the proposal would also reduce transportation costs, since regular dispatches to post offices would not be needed on the sixth day. In addition, fuel costs for carrier vehicles would be reduced by one-sixth.

Secondly, delivering mail five days a week, instead of six, is more efficient. The number of delivery points serviced each week is reduced while the volume of mail delivered each day to each delivery point is increased. In addition, mail volumes are declining and will continue to decline. At some point in the future, if we haven't already reached it, letter carriers will be delivering the same amount of mail in five days as they once did in six. Eliminating Saturday delivery would bring workhours and workload into an efficient harmony.

Third, mail delivery would be more consistent and reliable. No need to have a T-6 or PTF fill in once a week. Delivery would be accomplished all five days by the same person. Misdelivered mail would be reduced, if not for the most part eliminated, and mail would be forwarded when it is supposed to be forwarded.

Employee welfare is another reason that this is a good idea. Many letter carriers are currently being forced to work six days a week due to carrier shortages. Many don't want to - they have families and a life outside the post office. Stress mounts as a result. Sick leave increases because carriers want or need at least one day off besides Sunday. Family time is diminished. Friction between carriers and the supervisor who mandated them to work is stoked. Five-day delivery will give many carriers their life back. This isn't the nineteenth-century when workers were forced to work 60-80 hours or more a week. This is the twenty-first century. Forty hours and/or five days should be enough. Mission accomplishment is important, but the business community is also learning that employee welfare comes in as a close second.

Furthermore, USPS competitors already have Saturdays off. They can't afford six-day delivery and neither can the Postal Service. Neither FedEx nor UPS make their regular rounds on Saturdays. They realize, as should the USPS, that many businesses are closed and that Saturday is not a traditional workday. (About 60 percent of businesses are closed on Saturday, and many of the ones that are open are "service" oriented businesses - restaurants, stores, etc. - where the mail is often acted upon during the weekday by salaried management with Monday through Friday schedules.) In fact, post offices that serve business districts normally have a large number of businesses closed that are marked for Saturday nondelivery. Residential customers don't have to have or need Saturday mail either. A water bill due in two weeks can be delivered on Friday or Monday instead. And for those that must have Saturday delivery for whatever reason, caller service and PO boxes are available. Why is the USPS providing full service delivery to a population that largely has the day off? I don't think many private-sector businesses could afford to work their employees on Saturdays in this highly competitive market where profits are sometimes razor thin. Yet, some Americans think that six-day delivery is a right?

Comment: The argument has been brought up that there would be too much mail on Mondays if Saturday delivery was eliminated. However, many post offices in business districts (with heavy volumes of business mail) where businesses are closed on Saturdays are already handling the situation just fine. One example is a post office in Dallas, Texas that handles the city's main business district. This district includes high-rise office buildings, the World Trade Center, the Apparel Mart, the jail, the city's main industrial district, and much more. Carriers at this station ask for an average of only 30 to 45 minutes of overtime on Mondays because of Saturday's mail.

Finally, let's take a look at how Saturday mail delivery is accomplished. Post offices across the country are already understaffed on Saturdays and managers and supervisors have to jump through hoops just to get the mail carried. Saturday is the most popular day for requested annual leave, and according to the labor contract, management must approve 14 percent. (For example, in a post office with one hundred carriers, 14 carriers can be approved to be off.) Then add a few sick calls, coincidentally the most popular day to call in, and soon enough you have supervisors cutting back everything but first class mail and splitting routes. Carriers on the overtime list are then tasked with carrying bits and pieces of other routes. Standard (bulk) mail sits on the floor until Monday when the full complement returns. And rural routes fare even worse on Saturdays. Most regular rural carriers are off either every Saturday or every other Saturday. This leaves the job of Saturday delivery to a host of Rural Carrier Associates (RCAs) whose only job is to work one day a week. How good can that be for postal customers and the USPS?

Ending Saturday delivery is an idea whose time has come. Labor costs (especially overtime) would be reduced, workhours would match workload, workload would be more profitable, and excess T-6s and PTFs could be used to deliver new delivery points. This one bold move could single-handedly put the USPS back into the black.

Now, the many reasons why it won't happen:

Opposition by Labor Unions: William Burrus, executive vice president of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), has already stated that the union would vigorously oppose such changes on grounds that "duty assignments would be reduced and employees would be required to relocate to more distant locations". The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) is also poised to oppose such changes in an effort to protect craft jobs (and union rolls), despite the fact that the majority of carriers it now represents desperately want weekends off. Go to any post office, in the big pro-union cities or in the complacent countryside, carriers will by and large tell you they want Saturday delivery ended. However, NALC opposed a similar effort in the 1980s and they are poised to do the same again.

Opposition by postal reform advocates: Advocates for postal reform and privatization view this proposal as a gimmick that does not address actual problems in a bloated postal bureaucracy. They want true ground floor up reform - the elimination of management jobs, rate case flexibility, etc. This proposal does not serve their needs or goals.

Opposition by the public: Walk the streets with a carrier. Listen to customer reaction about this proposal. Office receptionists, stay at home moms, little old ladies, business owners, and others, few if any have a problem with the proposal. They know that this is the right thing to do. But wait till you hear about it in the news. Already we are hearing about the elderly who will be deprived of their only means of communication on Saturday. We are already hearing about the church papers that are scheduled for delivery on Saturday, the day before Sunday services. Yes, there will be a few real complaints about no Saturday delivery, from the elderly and others. And those few complaints will reach their congressional representatives and the news. After that, the USPS is in for a shiner of a black eye. The mean post office doesn't care about the elderly or churches.

Not to be mean myself, but keeping Saturday mail delivery alive so that a little old lady can retain hope of receiving a letter from her family on a Saturday, that she didn't get on Friday and Thursday, is not feasible. A church paper scheduled for Saturday delivery can be delivered on Friday, or 24 hours a day on the Internet. Such arguments do not justify retaining Saturday mail delivery.

Congressional Approval: Ending Saturday mail delivery requires congressional approval. By the time the unions and the postal reform advocates get through with their testimony the proposal will look like a cheap trick by postal managers who are stuffing their pockets with bonuses.


Many post offices have a mission statement prominently displayed for carriers. It reads: "Deliver the right mail, to the right place, at the right time." The proposal to end Saturday mail delivery is the right thing at the right place and at the right time. It's right for the USPS, its employees, and the public. Let's do something right for a change.


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