USPS Four-State Barcode Starts Today

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The U.S. Postal Service's new four-state barcode and OneCode solutions are live for all letter mailers that wish to use it.

The voluntary four-state barcode lets business mailers track up to 1 billion pieces of mail at a time. Previous barcodes, which can still be used, ID about 1 million unique pieces.

The new barcodes let mailers more easily request services, such as address correction and confirmation of delivery, and help the USPS to process and deliver mail more efficiently, the agency said.

The barcode is the latest offering under the USPS Intelligent Mail program. The postal service expects the program, started in late 2001, to eventually let customers track every piece of mail from pickup to delivery.

The four-state barcodes use four types of barcode lines instead of the two used in the Postnet barcode and the Planet Code barcodes.

The four-state code will incorporate the Postnet barcode, which is used for sorting, and the PlanetCode, which mailers apply to letter or flat mail for tracking and other value-added services.

The four-state barcode is the vehicle through which the USPS can offer two new services: OneCode Confirm and OneCode ACS. OneCode Confirm lets mailers access the agency's Confirm service, which uses barcode technology to provide customers with information about where their letters or flats are as they travel through the mail stream.

OneCode ACS lets mailers access the agency's electronic Address Change Service to obtain move information when someone relocates after a mail piece has entered the mail stream.

On Sept. 1 the four-state barcode with OneCode Confirm became available for all letter mail classes. It will also be available for First Class letters only with OneCode ACS. For Standard Mail letters, the four-state barcode with OneCode ACS will be available in fall 2007. All letter mail without services will be available March 1, 2007.

OneCode Confirm for all flat mail classes will be available in spring 2007. With OneCode ACS, First Class and Periodical flat mail became available in spring 2007. With OneCode ACS, Standard Mail flat mail will be available fall 2007

USPS said that since the reading technology is different on flats than it is on letters, testing is currently under way with a number of mailers regarding the height of the four-state barcode of flats. USPS said a decision will be made by Dec. 1.

The USPS said last month that the four-state barcode will be required in order to receive automation discounts in 2009.

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