A Tangled Web: USPS, FedEx, UPS

By | October 11, 2011

I drove past my local post office yesterday morning, one that is not closing, as far as I know, and noticed a FedEx drop box about ten feet from the main entrance door. It was clearly on USPS property. Or rather, on my property, and your property. I never noticed it before, in the way that many things that are a little out of place are invisible until you need them, or your brain has a spare moment and recognizes them. So as I ran my errands, I arranged to pass a couple of other post offices and found the same thing –FedEx drop boxes lined up next to the Express Mail box and regular USPS mailboxes.

This reminded me of our collective reactions at shows like Graph Expo as the major equipment providers, many with competing hardware or software or services offerings, began to populate each other’s booths as part of “solutions”. Often we did not know whose booth we were in. At the time, this blew our minds.

Of course, there are collaborations – or contracts – between the USPS and the private package delivery carriers already in place. The USPS Global Express Guaranteed service is the USPS’s “fastest international shipping service with transportation and delivery by FedEx Express”. And UPS Returns Flexible Access uses the USPS Parcel Return Service combined with UPS’s own delivery network.

These collaborations appear to leverage the strengths of each organization. The USPS, however, with its monopoly, (or responsibility), for First Class Mail and Standard Class Mail, is left with the less profitable deliveries of the carriers’ packages in out-of-the-way locales. FedEx and UPS are clearly dependent on the USPS for final delivery and pickups of packages in remote areas that are, of course, routes covered by the USPS.

The USPS must continue to focus on performance improvement in its core areas of responsibility – First Class and Standard Mail, but it’s time for the USPS to start thinking about “solutions”, and “collaborations” in the true sense of those words, to help promote its own sustainability instead of mere survival through cost-cutting.

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4 thoughts on “A Tangled Web: USPS, FedEx, UPS

  1. joel salus

    In the U.S., like in some countries in Europe, we ought to consider privatizing the U.S. mail? I suspect that losses being incurred (regularly, I might add) by the USPS are primarily generated by two things: a) bloat and inefficiency, same as you would find if you closely examined any U.S. government agency’s operations, b) charges for service that, in the aggregate, are lower than overall cost. Neither UPS or Fedex would want that or could survive as ongoing businesses if their businesses did that. One of the greatest bargains is the ability to mail a first class letter, clear across the U.S. for less than $.50.

  2. Roger Albert

    As an industry mailer, I recently received a DMM Advisory (Domestic Mail Manual) asking for industry input on proposed changes to current SLAs (i.e. narrowing 2-day delivery ranges and enlarging 3-day delivery ranges).
    There certainly has been a lot of hay making about other proposed changes like shutting down rural offices and numerous distribution centers. I suggested, as Joel does, that they get on with the business of trimming unused excess capacity (facilities and payroll) and lay out plans for more of the same down the road. Please don’t put it on the backs of taxpayers. Congress is going to have to allow the USPS to relax standards if this is to happen. Saturday delivery? – a luxury we can do without. This industry is changing. It’s time to change with the times. The wheels have already fallen off the cart…

  3. Donald

    The USPS is as close to privatized right now as I think its ever gonna get. The fact that its mandated by federal law to serve everyone throughout the US makes its job, by default, hard. In the past, when the USPS has tried to chance Congress has resisted allowing it to do so, but now that every dollar counts, they are being pushed to cut corners. If the USPS was completely privatized, it would quickly becomes UPS/FedEx 2.0, and a first class letter would cost $4.95 to go across the street.

    When it comes to the decision to stop Saturday service, I think they should consider stopping Monday service, as many people who work during the week would get their Amazon or whatever package on Saturday. Would business really miss one day a week? If they stopped Saturday service, and weekend routing, if a letter across town was mailed on Friday, you wouldn’t get it till Tuesday anyway.

    If they would just in force there own rules and fines for improperly labeled bulk mail, I think they could make enough money in fines like the airlines does off baggage. I can’t tell you how many times I drop off a properly sorted, metered, bulk drop, only to see sitting next to it so called “bulk rate” thats miss-sorted, etc… and I’ve gotten that mail a few days later, with the cute USPS slapped on barcode.

  4. Marc Zazeela

    So true Debra.

    Successful collaboration is a two way street. The USPS partnerships with Fed Ex and UPS pretty much gives the cream to them and the Post Office keep the unprofitable stuff. Lots of competing companies have partnerships that leverage the strengths of each in fair and equitable ways.

    They need to restructure the deal. UPS and Fed Ex should be giving more. They don’t want to be delivering packages in small town Montana, or Wyoming.


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