USPS asking mailers for more comments regarding mailing standards

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The U.S. Postal Service is seeking additional comments from mailers on plans to revise its mailing standards to encourage mail preparation that is compatible with improved postal service processing capabilities.

The new standards, scheduled to accompany the proposed price adjustments in May, give customers more choices in terms of shape, sorting, packaging and containers that encourage more efficient mail preparation. The announcement was made in a Jan. 17 Federal Register notice, and comments on the proposal 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."

In general, 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 also have new barcode options, and the agency proposed new opportunities for mailers to combine Standard Mail and Package Services parcels in the same mailing.

This is the second opportunity for mailers to comment on and make suggestions for the proposed mailing standards. The first opportunity came after a Sept. 27 Federal Register notice. At that time, mailers had until Nov. 13 to make comments.

Since then, the USPS received 351 letters commenting on its mailing standards proposal from mailers, vendors, associations and individuals. Of the 351 letters received, 310 were similar comments on behalf of three nonprofit organizations that mail children's books.

The other 41 comments 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 the Sept. 27 notice, the proposal has been revised as a result of these comments and suggestions made during the comment period.

Highlights of the revised mailing standards include the following:

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 one-quarter inch in thickness, not counting selvage.

-- Relaxed deflection test: allow pieces to droop to within 1 inch of length, up to a maximum of 4 inches, instead of 4 inches for pieces greater than 10 inches long and 2 inches for pieces less than 10 inches long.

Relaxed standards and new payment option for periodicals container charge

-- Proposed to waive the container charge for direct carrier route, 5-digit carrier routes, and 5-digit containers of mixed Outside-County and In-County pieces.

-- Proposed 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

-- Allowed mailers to apply the no-overflow tray option selectively at the 3-digit and Automated Area Distribution Center tray levels.

-- Extended the "no bundling" standards to all automated carrier route letters, not just the letters we sorted in delivery point sequence.

In the notice, the USPS is requesting mailers send written comments to the Manager of Mailing Standards, U.S. Postal Service, 475 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3436, Washington, DC 20260-3436. The complete Federal Register notice on the revised proposal is available at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/frcont07.html.

In early February 2007, the USPS will publish an additional 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," said the USPS.

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