Get Ready for a Commerce Crisis

As controversial Postmaster General Louis DeJoy implements new standards that are expected to further slow the mail, supply workers are warning of a "global transport system collapse."

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A record number of cargo ships are seen stuck, waiting off the southern California coast at the Port of Los Angeles on September 28, 2021, in Los Angeles, California.(Photo by Frederic J. Brown/via Getty Images)

The US Postal Service is set to implement its new plan today, put forward by controversial Trump appointee Louis DeJoy, that will further delay first-class mail delivery times and cut post office hours, a move that is expected to increase USPS transit time across the board.

This new arrangement, titled "Delivering for America," is a 58-page promise of sorts, to modernize the postal service to make the USPS more competitive, that includes investments in equipment, upgrades to facilities and uniforms, new technology and training. But, one of the immediate costs appears to be a decrease of expectations for delivery times, something the plan notes the USPS has been unable to meet "over the past eight years."

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DeJoy’s new system will further change the standard for first class letter delivery and while USPS spokespeople claim first-class mail is expected to be delivered on time, 96% of the time, this is a goal that has not been met in the last five years. The Postal Service also claims that the plan should create a three day delivery window for about 70% of first class mail, but during the 2020 December holiday rush the on-time rate plummeted to as low as 38% for some mail, according to Postal Service statistics.

"This is a very positive vision," Louis DeJoy said. If the Postal Service's long-term financial woes are not addressed, he said, the USPS will "run out of cash and require a government bailout." DeJoy did not address what kind of government bailout would be still be required if his new plan was put into place, but failed to increase overall USPS profitability. The Postmaster General also did not address what the country could expect with regard to an increase in postage costs. DeJoy did say that the USPS is counting on the authority to increase pricing up to $44 billion.

Applicants receive help with their applications during a job fair at a Post Office in Los Angeles, California on September 30, 2021, as the US Postal Service looks to fill 40,000 seasonal-worker positions in preparation for the winter holidays. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown/via Getty Images)

The mail traveling longer distances will undoubtedly take longer to arrive in some cases, due to the USPS increased transit time. Kristin Seaver, the Postal Service's executive vice president, has said that the change in delivery times would affect only "the fringes of [the] network," which means that twenty percent of what she identified as coast-to-coast mail "might not arrive for five days."

While USPS spokeswoman Kim Frum tried to reassure the public by saying that the mail service changes won't affect about 60% of first-class mail, she also made a contradictory statement about why these changes are being implemented. In explaining why the USPS would be moving to a more “cost effective” ground plan, rather than using costly air transportation, she maintained that air transportation is less reliable due to weather and other constraints, as opposed to ground service — a system that is obviously more impacted by weather.

Nearly two years into the pandemic, the vast network of ports, container vessels and trucking companies that move goods around the world also continues to experience massive disruptions, shortages and skyrocketing shipping costs. As DeJoy plans to further slow the system, transport managers all over the world warn of the complete breakdown of the global supply chain as the holiday approaches.

US Postal service mail handler Eric Smith sorts packages at the US Postal service's Royal Palm Processing and Distribution Center on December 4, 2017 in Opa Locka, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/via Getty Images)

In an open letter delivered on Wednesday to the heads of state attending the United Nations General Assembly, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and other industry groups warned of a "global transport system collapse." The ICS specifically cited the need for governments to decrease travel limitations for transport workers, put in place as a result of the pandemic.

"Global supply chains are beginning to buckle as two years' worth of strain on transport workers take their toll," the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Road Transport Union (IRU) and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) said collectively in their letter.

Shipping workers stressed the need for the World Health Organization to give the industry priority to receive Covid vaccines, as well. According to the letter, "All transport sectors are also seeing a shortage of workers, and expect more to leave as a result of the poor treatment millions have faced during the pandemic, putting the supply chain under greater threat."

"The pressures on global supply chains have not eased, and we do not expect them to any time soon," said logistics firm CEO Bob Biesterfeld. Shipping costs from China to North America and Europe have continued to climb due to demand and the pressures resulting from closed ports and the pandemic.

The World Container Index for London-based Drewry Shipping shows that the composite cost of shipping a 40-foot container on eight major East-West routes hit $9,613 in the week to August 19, up 360% from a year ago. The cost for a similar sized container, en route from Shanghai to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, has jumped to $13,698, which is a 659% increase from last year.

Shipping giant Maersk ultimately equates the historically high freight rates to the unmet demand that is a direct result of lack of shipping capacity across the globe in the face of such increased demand. The closure of several major ports, due to positive Covid tests for dock workers, and the slow re-opening of the facilities following viral outbreaks are creating backlogs down the line for all of the smaller outlets. Coupled with increased demand, the ongoing shipping delays have only continued to fuel the increase in shipping costs, a cost that is ultimately passed on to the consumer.

An aerial view of container ships that are anchored by the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, as they wait to offload on September 20, 2021 near Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/via Getty Images)

This latest plan from the USPS looks to mimic the global delays within the United States. While Louis DeJoy has promised the cuts will ultimately create a mail system that is better equipped to meet deadlines in the modern age, his past partisanship and failures do not make this outcome seem likely.

The global transportation community has cited a shortage of workers, the poor treatment millions of workers during the pandemic, and greater risk to the supply chain, all issues that should sound very familiar to postal workers who are only being further crunched by Louis DeJoy’s ongoing actions.

For more background on Louis DeJoy and his last several years heading up the United States Postal Service, please read the following SHERO articles:

Will You Vote By Mail?

Trump's Postmaster General has Financial Conflicts

US Post Office is Removing Ballot Sorting Machines from Facilities

USPS Warns of Ballot Delay; Mailboxes Removed in Oregon

Definitive Guide to Trump's Attempts to Destroy USPS

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Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines, and analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at avanderpool@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.

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