Email Effects on the Postal Service

by Todd Bowerman

The United States Postal Service has existed in some form or another since 1775. Over the last 200 years, innovations in technology have dramatically changed the way in which USPS operates, for the most part making mail delivery faster and less expensive. However, the prevalence of email as a preferred method for personal and business communication, as well as the surging growth of digital messaging, have dealt a rough blow to USPS and resulted in a number of negative effects.

Business Troubles

With many messages that once would have been sent through USPS now moving through email, the Postal Service has experienced a massive drop in operating revenue. Despite efforts to cut costs, USPS lost nearly $12 billion between 2007 and 2009, and losses have continued to increase since that time -- the service posted a $16 billion loss in 2012 alone. The service has increased postage rates, cut back on staff and unfunded employee pensions, but has been unable to regain its footing.

Volume Reduction

One of the most noticeable impacts of email’s popularity is the massive reduction in raw mail volume. According to the United States Government Accountability Office, mail sent between 2007 and 2009 dropped in volume by 36 %, or a whopping 36 billion pieces of mail. Millions of consumers are switching to paper-free billing options and focusing their personal correspondence on digital mediums, marking a major shift in what exactly the Postal Service has to deliver every day.

Service Cutbacks

Falling mail volume, increasing debt and extended revenue problems have led the United States Postal Service to make some big changes in how it does business. USPS announced in February 2013 that it would end Saturday mail delivery, cutting down to deliver mail only on business days. Nearly half of USPS locations around the United States now operate at reduced hours, and the service has cut nearly 35% of its employees in an effort to stay solvent.

The Future

With debt continuing to pile up and revenues going down, experts are divided on the best path for USPS moving forward. The Postmaster General is hoping to save $2 billion a year by eliminating Saturday delivery, and postage rates will also likely rise again, but the Postal Service cannot make any major changes without the approval of the United States Congress. As email continues to grow in popularity, the postal service will likely need to make major changes to its infrastructure, which may involve adjusting employee compensation and cost-effective mail deliveries. With the added threat of its commercial delivery competitors, chances are that the service's monopoly will continue to dwindle into much lesser relevance.

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