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Protecting our postal service

February 27, 2012
Tribune Chronicle |

As a customer of the U.S. Postal Service, I appreciate the value of First Class Mail. For a mere 45 cents, a one-ounce letter will be delivered across town, or across the country, quickly and reliably.

Ever since Benjamin Franklin, the wisest of our Founding Fathers, became our first postmaster general, the USPS has tried to improve the quality of its service. Our postal workers deserve the respect and support of our community, especially now.

In my business, I depend upon mail sorting and delivery workers to get my letters to their destinations on time, every time. That is why I am outraged at their top management decision to make their service slower and less reliable. Usually I keep my attitude positive and supportive, but there comes a time to take a stand and demand better decision making.

The USPS has announced its decision to close our regional Area Mail Processing facility in Youngstown along with 222 more throughout the U.S. This plan has vocal opposition from Postal Regulatory Commission members, Postal workers' representatives, business customers and public citizens.

Locally addressed mail is now processed overnight and delivered the following day. Soon it will be driven more than 100 miles to Cleveland and back, slowing our local First Class Mail delivery from one day to the greater part of a week. This is not good for businesses, for our Mahoning Valley, or for our nation.

The U.S. Postal Service is taking these drastic measures in response to its operating losses, reported as $3.3 billion for the past quarter. By closing almost half of its mail sorting facilities, 35,000 jobs are to be eliminated nationwide, including 500 in our valley.

The primary causes cited in its press releases are the decrease in mail volume due to businesses using email, and the Congressional mandate to pre-fund its pensions immediately for 75 years in advance.

What it's not even mentioning is the cost of truck fuel that has more than tripled in the past decade. Why is the USPS top-level management not trying to save money by cutting their expenditures on truck fuel? Instead, they intend to drive massive quantities of mail hundreds of extra miles to their remaining sorting centers. Their results will be slowing their service and wasting money burning-up more diesel fuel.

With a fleet of 220,000 vehicles, driving almost every road in the U.S. almost every day, the Postal Service's cost of fuel must be astronomical. If it really wanted to save money, convert the fleet to run on less expensive compressed natural gas. The fleet is aging, and CNG powered vehicles or drive trains could quickly be phased in as older equipment is retired.

Thanks to the abundant Marcellus/Utica shale gas in our region, 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas costs about $2.40 (and dropping) and produces the power of 7.46 gallons of diesel fuel. Do the math and the savings add up big and fast. The benefits to our national and regional economy are obvious because this fuel can be produced here in the Mahoning Valley and not imported.

Addressing the USPS personnel costs will take another measure of common sense. If the USPS local sorting centers are overstaffed, they could reduce the staffing at each center to match the local demand for service instead of completely shutting down and inconveniencing their customers.

Regarding the Congressional mandate to pre-fund its pensions immediately for 75 years in advance, we need the full House and Senate to stop stalling and pass this common sense legislation that is languishing in their committees. Sometimes common sense and Congressional leadership do not coincide, which so often prompted our former Congressman Jim Traficant to remark on the House floor ''Beam me up, Scotty; there is no intelligent life on this planet.''

Pirko is a Weathersfield resident. Email him at



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