WASHINGTON Jan 29 The financially squeezed
U.S. Postal Service is asking reluctant lawmakers to lift a
26-year-old requirement that it deliver mail six days a week.
Postmaster General John Potter made the surprise request at
a U.S. congressional hearing on Wednesday, saying it may have
to cut deliveries to five days a week.
The proposal may have little impact on rival U.S. package
delivery giants United Parcel Service Inc (UPS.N) and FedEx
Corp (FDX.N). Both companies carry express mail for the U.S.
Postal Service under contract.
Analysts said if the overall volume of mail remained
unchanged, it would not matter to UPS or FedEx whether the
postal service delivered mail five or six days a week.
Democratic Senator Tom Carper, who chaired the hearing,
would like to see the Postal Service explore other options, his
spokeswoman said on Thursday.
The Postal Service has been facing shrinking revenues due
to reduced mail volume, largely because of rising electronic
communications and the rising costs of delivering mail.
At Wednesday's hearing, Potter said: "It could become
necessary to temporarily reduce mail delivery to only five days
"Toward this end, I reluctantly request that Congress
remove" an annual requirement dating back to 1983 that it
deliver mail six days a week," he said.
Potter did not specify a day to possibly stop service.
While some have suggested in the past halting Saturday
deliveries, doing so would mean a buildup of mail every weekend
since there is already no delivery on Sundays.
Earlier postal-service studies examined the possibility of
halting delivery on days when mail is relatively slow, such as
Potter asked Congress to ease a multibillion-dollar
requirement that it prepay health benefits for future retirees
without removing its obligation to provide such coverage.
Carper said reducing mail delivery "wouldn't be his first
choice as a means to cut losses" and would prefer a
rescheduling of health payments, his spokeswoman said.
She said Carper would like to see the postal service become
more efficient without any cuts in its workforce.
Keith Schoonmaker, an analyst at Morningstar, said he saw
limited scope for either UPS or FedEx taking business from the
U.S. Postal Service, especially during a recession. Both UPS
and FedEx have reported that some customers have switched from
higher cost air express services to slower ground delivery
services to save money in the downturn.
"It's hard to imagine that people will pay a premium for
mail they're currently sending first class to have it shipped
by FedEx or UPS," Schoonmaker said. "I don't see this (five-day
delivery) having any material impact on either company."
UPS is the world's largest package delivery company.
Deutsche Post AG (DPWGn.DE) unit DHL will halt its U.S.
domestic package service on Jan 30.
(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro in Washington and Nick Carey
in Chicago; Editing by Howard Goller)