Senate Bill Could Save USPS $30M, Change Alaska Rules

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The U.S. Senate approved changes this month to Alaska's system for delivering mail to isolated communities that one senator said would save the U.S. Postal Service $30 million per year.


Under the current system, called the bypass mail program, shippers can send 1,000 pounds or more of material to remote sections of Alaska at parcel post rates. It is dubbed "bypass" because the packages bypass post offices and go directly to eligible air carriers on a rotating basis. The USPS pays the air carriers to carry the bypass mail, using a formula based on industry costs.


The Senate changes, which were added to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill, would restrict the number of new carriers on routes between Alaska's larger cities and outer areas. No new carriers on a route would be allowed unless they provided at least as many passenger seats as the current largest passenger carrier serving the hub community. Carriers using small planes would have to upgrade to twin-engine aircraft under certain conditions to remain eligible.


Sen. Ted Stevens, R-AK, ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee and a member of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, introduced the legislation last year because he said costs will rise under the current system as more companies get into the bypass mail business. Under the cost-based formula, those rising expenses must be reimbursed by the USPS.


The legislation would delay the new rules for 15 months.


The House of Representatives version of the supplemental bill, which passed last month, also contains revisions to the bypass mail system.


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