InsideSources is celebrating its one-year anniversary, and over the past year, we’ve been at the forefront of journalism examining postal reform. One year ago today, we published an original investigation on how the United States Postal Service (USPS) shut down an innovative startup called Outbox. That story helped to put our small news startup on the map as it set off a media firestorm and sparked a Congressional hearing.
Since then, we continued tracking the struggles of USPS as it reached outside its core mission of delivering the mail. InsideSources broke the news that then-Sen. Tom Coburn, the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, was calling for the head of the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), Ruth Goldway, to be replaced as taxpayer-funded international travel took precedence rather than oversight. Since then, InsideSources has tracked how the new PRC chair, Robert Taub, was scrutinizing USPS.
InsideSources will continue to closely follow the troubles of the USPS because its business model continues to fail as the government-mandated monopoly puts taxpayers at risk.
In the last four years, the USPS has lost $30.5 billion in revenue and has suffered eight consecutive years of billion dollar losses. And yet despite these colossal damages, the Postal Service continues to be unjustifiably ambitious in their business endeavors while slowing down delivery times of first-class mail.
After entering into the same-day delivery and grocery delivery market—a space already occupied by the private sector and vibrant with competition—next up for the Postal Service appears to be replacing their mail trucks with a shiny new fleet of vehicles. Averaging $30,000 a pop, it’s an incredibly bold venture for an agency that’s sustained massive revenue losses in 23 of the last 25 quarters. And even after they’ve tapped out of their $15 billion line of credit from the U.S. Treasury, some in Congress are encouraging the Postal Service to continue their irresponsible spending.
Last week, several members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, including Cory Booker (D-NJ), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Gary Peters (D-MI), sent a letter to USPS Postmaster General Megan Brennan, urging the agency to modernize their vehicles. Under the current proposals, which call for 180,000 new trucks, the Postal Service could be looking at a whopping $6.3 billion contract. In the House, Democratic Congressmen Jared Huffman, Gerry Connolly and Mark Takai cosponsored the Federal Leadership in Energy Efficient Transportation Act calling for an upgrade to the fleet.
A reform of this magnitude is an additional step further for USPS to divert from its core mission—letter delivery. U.S. mail delivery continues to slow as more and more Postal processing plants shut their doors to supposedly save the agency money. Instead, the Postal Service should be cutting costs by limiting their new product offerings and steering clear of business ventures that are in direct competition among other providers. While modernization is certainly necessary for the agency, an investment of this proportion should not be a priority. Congressional intervention should require institutional reforms at the onset—like the agency’s business model and faulty accounting practices—and should recognize that the Postal Service needs an internal makeover before it gets an external one.