OK, this is complicated, but you should read it anyway. I have honestly stayed away from saying too much on the network realignment because it is a topic best served by vagueness. Very little detailed information is released from the Postal Service. But it looks like a lot of changes will be coming in 2024, with many existing facilities repurposed. And finally, there are a few details available.
In the past, changing or moving a postal facility was a Big Deal, and the Postal Service went through a lot of critical processes to make sure all went smoothly. Industry needed to be notified well in advance, as there were a lot of changes that needed to be made. Labeling lists had to be updated, presort software needed updating, and trucking providers had to make plans for new routes and destinations. Industry was generally notified months in advance. These days, even with a lot of changes happening simultaneously, there may be less notice. In the case of the last major change only three days’ notice was provided. In between Christmas and New Years.
Here’s our interpretation of what to expect.
The current postal network has a lot of P&DCs – Production and Distribution Centers. For example, the Reno, NV, P&DC processes outgoing and incoming mail for ZIP Codes beginning with 894, 895, 897, and 961. If you send a letter to someone in Reno, NV, 89433, it will in most cases go to the Reno P&DC and be sorted and routed to you. Similarly, if someone writes back to you and drops it in a blue box in Reno, it will be taken to the Reno P&DC, combined with mail from other covered ZIP Codes, postmarked, and begin its slow tortuous journey to you.
However, in the new network, the Reno P&DC will no longer be. It will be consolidated with the Sacramento, CA, P&DC, which is about 132 miles away. So, after the consolidation, that letter dropped in a blue box in Reno will be taken to Sacramento for “origin” processing. In this case, the Sacramento P&DC will be the “gaining” facility. The Reno P&DC will be the “losing” facility. In most cases, according to the scant information provided by USPS, the losing facility will not be shut down – it will likely be “modernized and repurposed as a Local Processing Center, a Sorting & Delivery Center, or both, consistent with the broader network redesign outlined in the DFA Plan.”
Eventually, the gaining P&DCs will largely be converted into one of the new network’s sixty Regional Processing & Distribution Centers (RPDC).
So, when it is all completed, these are the expected facilities:
- Approximately 60 RPDCs will be at the top of the facility pyramid handling, as the name implies, mail and packages for a large region.
- Local Processing Centers (LPC) will handle incoming mail only, for a more localized area.
- Sorting and Delivery Centers (SDC) will consolidate carrier stations for multiple ZIP codes into a single big unit. LPCs and SDCs may both share a facility.
- Surface Transfer Centers (STC) are contracted facilities that distribute, consolidate, dispatch, and transfer all mail classes within the surface network. There are thirteen of these.
- Local Post Office – retail and DDU. Traditionally, while you are buying stamps at the counter in your local Post Office, carriers are in the back preparing their mail for delivery. Where SDCs have replaced carriers in a particular office, these will just become retail units with no onsite mail processing.
What Does All This Mean – Should I care?
Network changes are not a new phenomenon. As population shifts and grows some facilities become obsolete, others need to grow. But a lot of work and preparation by industry is necessary to adapt:
- Presort software needs to be updated to accommodate new facilities, and new presort patterns.
- Labeling lists from the Postal Service need to be updated, distributed, and incorporated into Postal and industry software.
- Trucking companies need to design new routes and new destinations for many of their shipments.
- Postal employees may have some tough decisions to make, as the equipment they ran moves hours away.
- At best, it is almost certain that service performance will continue to decline as the Postal Service and industry adapt to a new network. The question we cannot answer yet is will it recover?
Getting Information Out of the Postal Service
Clearly, with all the work that needs to be done, it is important to include the mailing industry, providing notice so they can be ready to work within the changes. To date, the Postal Service has been almost secretive about the changes. Most of the information I have shared in the article comes from Save the Post Office, a valuable resource. Much of what they share comes from announcements made to the Postal labor unions under contractual requirements.
The Postal Service has promised 60 days’ notice on consolidations but has tended not to honor that promise. On December 26, 2023, a USPS Industry Alert notified that the Mid-Carolinas P&DC would be closing on December 29. Mailers had mail prepared, loaded, and in some cases already enroute to the closing facility. Eventually, USPS granted a 10-day extension, still not really enough time to do things correctly.
30 More Consolidations Planned for 2024
The Postal Service has announced that they plan to consolidate 30 more facilities in the coming months. Given the track record so far, it may be a challenging year.
The 30 facilities are listed below. For more detailed information, check out Save the Post Office, from which I gathered most of this information. https://www.savethepostoffice.com/postal-service-announces-30-more-consolidations/