Monday, June 30, 2008

Neither Rain nor Snow - Carrying the mail 101

Writing for most of us is not the most dependable way to make a living, or even spare change it seems until you get some sales and get going. So most of us have at least one other job or work at home caring for their children.

I work as a Rural Carrier for the United States Postal Service.

Sometimes people think, like I used to, that mail carriers have it easy. They just show up at the post office. Someone loads their mail for their route in order into their vehicle. They then proceed to just amble along and poke the mail into the mail boxes. This couldn't be further from the truth!

Rural Carrier delivering from the passenger seat. Many of us drive and deliver from the middle of the front seat or straddled on the console.

The truck arrives in our small town from the distribution center around 6 am. The mail handlers and clerks unload racks of mail - presorted letters, letters that weren't able to be presorted, tubs of presorted flats and huge bins of flats (magazines, oversize envelopes, newspapers, advertisements) that must be sorted within the next two hours so that the arriving carriers can 'case' them for delivery and leave the PO by around 9:30 or 10:00.

All of this activity has time, volume and accuracy factors. The carriers arrive an hour or so after the delivery truck and begin casing the presorted letters. Though the letters are presorted, each piece must be verified to make sure it isn't out of sequence and delivered to the wrong box.

Mail Carrier casing mail.

Then each carrier must collect the 35lb totes of flats that must also be cased around the letters in order of the route. Once the mail is cased and packages sorted by customer and marked, it must be 'pulled down' into smaller bundles and transferred to large tubs which can hold several hundred pounds of mail and packages.

The tub is rolled out to the carrier's truck or SUV or car. Each carrier loads the contents of the tub into their vehicle making provisions for bad weather. Most routes require the carrier to be finished by mid afternoon.

In the case of Rural Carriers these are their personal vehicles and at today's gas prices most carriers don't make enough off their gas and maintenance allowance to cover anything but gas.

Add to that wasps, snakes, birds in mailboxes, dogs, irate customers and highway hazards and you wonder why mail carriers don't get hazardous duty pay.

A recent web article reported that during National Dog Bite Awareness week a customer sicked their pitt bull on the carrier for trying to deliver a certified letter! Recent statistics pegged the number of dog bites nationally at 4.7 million, with letter carriers comprising the third-highest number of victims.

That's why when someone says to me - Oh, it's okay, he won't bite - I stay in my truck.

Mail carriers really don't want recognition though it's nice to receive appreciative comments from customers who realize how tough the job is. But next time you see a mail carrier driving along the shoulder, maybe you could move over and allow them onto the highway. Or maybe you could clean the wasps and birds nests out of your mailbox.

Next time you hear about national security, think about the mail carriers who keep your mail safe.

But even if you don't, we'll still keep doing what we do, because we believe we provide an invaluable service, especially in these days of high gas prices.

1 comment:

Leah Braemel said...

I'd never thought about the casing part of the job before. And I pity the mail carriers who have to deliver through fog, snow and freezing rain when I daren't be out on the road. It's a tough job - I know my parents, and my in-laws used to leave Christmas presents for our carriers in their mail boxes (for the inlaws it was generally a bottle of something to keep them warm - which when I think about it now, wasn't too good an idea, was it?)