Wheels in motion

Postal tractor-trailer on road

After months of preparation, the Postal Service’s Logistics management teams are confident the organization is ready for the busy peak season that begins this week.

Together with Processing Operations, Logistics focuses on processing and moving mail and packages efficiently to delivery units.

Managers have met several times this year, including a three-day gathering in Salt Lake City that allowed participants to review challenges the organization faced during the 2020 holiday season and discuss lessons learned to improve performance and service.

“We’ve been preparing for peak all year long,” said Logistics Vice President Robert Cintron. “We’re focused on reducing the cycle time a container takes to get to its destination and reducing the number of trips needed in the network.”

Since summer, the teams have been busy updating technology to improve network efficiencies, including installing new state-of-the-art sorting machines and deploying handheld devices.

A new program Business Intelligence Capacity Model — has been launched to provide managers with round-the-clock operational insights to better identify potential gridlock.

Improving technology and achieving financial sustainability are key parts of the Postal Service’s 10-year Delivering for America plan.

“This is one our most important peak seasons to date because it’s our first step in implementing the Delivering for America plan,” said Chief Logistics and Processing Officer Isaac Cronkhite. “We’re implementing long-term strategies that are not only setting us up for a successful peak this year but leading us into the future.”

Those steps include hiring seasonal employees, training additional tractor-trailer drivers and leasing extra delivery vehicles.

Overall, the organization’s Logistics capabilities have been significantly improved, said Yvette King, acting distribution operations, transportation and networks system manager at the International Service Center in Los Angeles.

“With upgrades to our fleet, processes and staffing, we are finally moving Logistics into the 21st century,” she said.

Cyber Monday

Woman holds credit card while typing on computer keyboard

The Postal Service is helping customers get ready for Cyber Monday.

Online purchases on the Monday after Thanksgiving are expected to hit $11.3 billion, becoming the busiest day of the season, according to projections from market researcher Adobe Analytics.

Shoppers who have their Cyber Monday gift purchases shipped to their own home before sending them along to friends and family later will find a variety of helpful USPS products and services, including Click-N-Ship, Package Pickup and free Priority Mail boxes, available on usps.com.

Additionally, in a news release this week, the organization encouraged customers to watch several “how to” videos with shipping tips on YouTube and refer to the USPS Holiday Newsroom website for domestic, international and military mail and shipping deadlines.

To help handle this year’s holiday shipping, the Postal Service is expanding Sunday deliveries in high package volume locations. Mail carriers will also deliver Priority Mail Express packages on Christmas Day for an additional fee in select locations.

USPS expects holiday customer traffic to increase beginning Dec. 6, with the season’s busiest period for mailing, shipping and deliveries occurring Dec. 13-18.

Overall, the Postal Service expects to deliver 12 billion mailpieces this season, including 850-950 million packages.

Holiday ethics

Masked woman presents gift near Christmas tree

Now that the holiday season is here, the Postal Service wants to remind employees to be mindful of the rules concerning gifts from outside sources.

Employees generally cannot accept gifts given because of the employee’s official position or from customers, vendors, suppliers, mailers, contractors, business partners, local businesses or other outside entities.

A gift is anything that has a monetary value. Cash gifts — including cash, checks, money orders or gift cards — may never be accepted.

Employees can accept food or other refreshments, as long as it is not part of a meal.

The rules on gifts also let employees accept an unsolicited noncash gift worth $20 or less from an outside source, but the total value of gifts from that source cannot exceed $50 in a calendar year.

If accepting an allowable gift still creates an appearance of violating the rules, an employee should not accept the gift.

The USPS Ethics Office Blue page has more information. Employees who have questions can email the office at ethics.help@usps.gov or call its hotline at 202-268-6346.

Be flexible

Masked doctor speaks to masked patient

Do you wear eyeglasses, contact lenses, or visit the dentist more than twice a year? If so, experts say a flexible spending account (FSA) is likely a good option for you.

FSAs can help your health care dollars go further — but only if you plan accordingly.

FSAs allow you to set aside money on a pretax basis to pay for health care and dependent care expenses. You can enroll in an FSA during this year’s open season benefits enrollment period, which runs from Nov. 8-Dec. 13.

Beginning Jan. 1, the maximum amount you can contribute for 2022 is $2,850 toward a health care FSA and $5,000 toward a dependent care FSA.

With a health care FSA, you can roll over as much as $550 into next year if you reenroll. Anything above this amount must be used by Dec. 31, 2021.

You can learn more about FSAs on the Open Season and FSA LiteBlue pages.