Will the USPS Stop Delivering?
Logistics providers are integral to the health of any economy, and the USPS plays a role of unique importance, considering that it is the only provider which has a universal service mandate. Mail services like DHL and UPS enforce surcharges for delivering mail to rural areas, while the USPS charges the same amount of postage to send a letter to Manhattan as it does to remote Alaska. Understandably, maintaining this essential service is costly and requires incredible logistical coordination and financial support.
Ordinarily, the United States Postal Service is self-funding, receiving zero tax dollars a year. However, recently the service has been in financial difficulties, which have been compounded by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic reducing mail volume. There are fears that it will have to shut down in June, meaning that local post offices and distribution centers will close, postal workers will join the growing ranks of the unemployed, and there will be more pressure on private mail providers to deliver packages and priority mail in a timely manner. However, other letter carriers have themselves declared force majeure, suspending service, or altering the terms of their service. Every company that does this creates additional pressure on those remaining in service.
USPS Shutdown Logistics
If the United States Postal Service were to close, it would have significant effects on business owners, particularly those who partner with Amazon. While Amazon has been taking more responsibility for its own deliveries in the past few years, the USPS is still the second-biggest package carrier for Amazon and its partners. Amazon has been focused on concentrating its delivery networks in urban areas: Amazon Logistics delivers five times more packages to urban addresses than rural addresses. Amazon is the most prominent of the services that would need to rapidly improve their ‘last-mile’ provision in rural areas in the event of a USPS shutdown. The delivery day of packages in rural areas could really suffer if the USPS is allowed to shut down— and in pandemic conditions, where millions have become dependent on online shopping services for medication and other vital supplies, delays to shipping could jeopardize people’s health, and possibly even their lives. Over one billion shipments of prescription medication were delivered by postal workers in 2019.
However, despite the discussion of these issues by members of Congress, the federal government does not seem in a hurry to support the USPS. The White House has been hostile to the idea of providing financial relief to the Postal Service, making it likelier that some kind of shutdown will be necessary to preserve the service’s long-term solvency.
What To Do in the Event of a USPS Shutdown
If there is some form of USPS shutdown, which is disputed by some, organizations currently reliant on USPS for shipping will need to turn to other mail services such as Fed-Ex, DHL, or UPS. It is likely that there will be additional expenses for using these services, especially if you are shipping to predominantly rural areas.