USPS: Super-Size Those Apartment Mailboxes

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The U.S. Postal Service has proposed requiring larger-sized mailbox systems in new apartment and business buildings to alleviate rising levels of undeliverable mail.

"Today's small apartment boxes are not large enough to accept today's larger-shaped mail," said Jeffery Lewis, USPS program manager, apartment box standardization. "Our delivery confirmation data reflects that 30 percent more mail is undeliverable to apartments than to a regular household. Nationally, the average is 7.5 percent. In high-density metropolitan areas the undeliverable rate is 10 percent."

The existing apartment mailbox standard of 5 inches by 6 inches by 15 inches has been in effect since 1975 despite a rise in volume for flat mail and packages. According to the postal service's Household Diary Study, the average household has seen a 47 percent increase in magazines, catalogs and other periodicals from 1985 to 2002 and a 42 percent rise in packages. Also, mail is larger than in the past.

The proposed new standard calls for an improved, tamper-resistant box 3 inches high by 12 inches wide by 15 inches deep. Most Express Mail and Priority Mail packages will be able to use the new boxes, the USPS said.

The new standard would apply to mailbox systems in new construction or buildings with substantial renovations to the area housing the mailboxes. Postmasters can grant exceptions if they find that the changes would cause buildings to violate local building codes or other laws, create safety hazards or impose unreasonable financial hardship on the owner.

The proposal also calls for "parcel lockers" for packages that won't fit into the mailbox. Only one tenant at a time would be able to access the locker when the letter carrier provides the appropriate key.

Recognizing that the proposal affects a variety of interests, the USPS formed a consensus committee of representatives from business segments including real estate, mailbox manufacturers, building owners, the construction industry and mailers.

The committee hopes to finalize standards this spring and publish a proposal in a Federal Register notice. If approved, the new standard would not be instituted until next year at the earliest.


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