PRC Official: USPS Needs More Innovation

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The U.S. Postal Service is too focused on volume growth, Postal Rate Commissioner Ruth Goldway said last week in an interview with DM News.

Postmaster general John E. Potter "is trying -- with a good deal more diligence -- to implement cost-control and structural changes," she said. "Instead of just cutting capital expenditures, he is reviewing the way mail flows through the system."

However, the postal service needs to differentiate itself, she said, citing First-Class mail that is trackable and stamps with barcodes as examples. Though a similar concept is used at, "there should be a way for this to be done more easily with everyone."

Goldway also said the USPS needs to pay more attention to standards and quality issues. Instead of saying that First-Class mail will be delivered in one to three days, it needs to give a specific number of days for delivery.

Given what Potter has said about the next rate increase not taking effect until well into 2004, Goldway said she expects the next rate case will be filed in late spring at the earliest.

Goldway was appointed by President Clinton to serve a partial term in 1998. The Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs recently confirmed her nomination for a second term for a full six years, and a final vote is expected when the Senate reconvenes. The other commissioners are chairman George Omas, vice chairman Danny Covington and Tony Hammond. One seat is vacant.

"It's a valuable public service to have. ... [But] given the knowledge I have now, do I think it could be better? Yes," she said. Potter is focused on "making the current [postal] system better, but I'd also like to think that there are postal visionaries coming up with new, innovative ideas."

Goldway explained some of the PRC's current cases, including the negotiated service agreement the USPS filed involving Capital One Services Inc. in September. This would be its first such special rate and service arrangement. The postal service says NSAs will provide pricing incentives that encourage greater mail volume.

"All of [the commissioners] are open to new opportunities for rates and classifications. We are open to ways to change the system within the law. Is this the concept for NSA that I had in mind? No. But I'm open to considering it," she said, though she would not say whether she thought it would be approved.

Goldway also said NSAs "are not the salvation for the postal service. They are only one small part."

The PRC held a pre-hearing Oct. 23 about the NSA. The commission is setting up a schedule for the case and it most likely will take 150 days, she said, the standard time for an expedited case.

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