USPS seeks comment on standards

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The U.S. Postal Service wants more comments from mailers on plans to revise its standards to encourage mail preparation that is compatible with improved USPS processing capabilities.
The new standards, scheduled to accompany the proposed price adjustments expected in May, give customers more choices in terms of shape, sorting, packaging and containers that encourage efficient mail preparation. The announcement came Jan. 17 in the Federal Register. Comments are being accepted through Jan. 31.
"Our pricing proposal reflects changes in operations and the marketplace and will enhance efficiency, offer more choices and ensure that all types of mail cover their costs," the USPS said in the notice. "We include incentives to create mail pieces compatible with our processing systems and to deposit flats and parcels closer to where they are delivered."
For commercial mailers, the USPS proposed new sorting options to reduce the number of trays in a mailing and new scheme preparations to give mailers access to lower rates and to better align flat-size mail preparation with mail processing.
It also added a new automated Address Change Service to reduce the costs associated with undeliverable-as-addressed mail. First Class Mail parcel mailers would have new barcode options, and the agency proposed opportunities for mailers to combine Standard Mail and Package Services parcels in one mailing.
This is the second chance for mailers to comment. The first came after a Sept. 27 Federal Register notice. Mailers had until Nov. 13 to make comments. The USPS received 351 letters on its proposal from mailers, vendors, associations and individuals. Of those, 310 were similar comments on behalf of three nonprofit groups that mail children's books.
The other 41 were submitted by 28 publishers, printers and large mailers; six mailing associations; two software vendors; two individuals; one envelope vendor; one small-business owner; and one postal service employee.
Since Sept. 27, the proposal has been revised based on these comments. Highlights of the revised standards:
Relaxed standards for automation flats.
• Relaxed flexibility test: administered by pressing 1 inch from the edge of the piece instead of 1 inch from the edge of the table. This new test is more forgiving of flats with rigid inserts. Typical bound publications and catalogs do not need to be tested when they are not in a box and do not contain rigid inserts.
• Relaxed/clarified definition of uniform thickness: allow a variation of up to 0.25 inch in thickness, not counting selvage.
• Relaxed deflection test: let pieces droop to within 1 inch of length, up to a maximum of 4 inches.
Relaxed standards and new payment option for Periodicals container charge.
• Waive the container charge for direct carrier route, five-digit carrier routes and five-digit containers of mixed Outside-County and In-County pieces.
• A new option to pay the container charge by prorating it across multiple titles in a combined mailing if documentation is submitted through Mail.dat.
Relaxed standards and easier preparation for letters.
• Let mailers apply the no-overflow tray option selectively at the three-digit and Automated Area Distribution Center tray levels.
• Extended "no bundling" standards to all automated carrier route letters, not just the letters sorted in delivery point sequence.
Send written comments to the Manager of Mailing Standards, U.S. Postal Service, 475 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3436, Washington, DC 20260-3436. In early February, the USPS will publish a Federal Register notice incorporating comments from this proposal.
"The updated notice will provide a comprehensive view of the final proposal at least a month before the postal service governors vote on the new prices and an early opportunity to update software and other systems," the USPS said.

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