LINCOLN, Mont. — As of Oct. 1, the U.S. Postal Service has adopted new delivery standards, changing the number of days it’s expected to take certain pieces of mail to get across the country. Any change to mail delivery could have a big impact on business owners who rely on shipping products – owners like Tammy Jordan, of Lincoln.
Jordan is a fiber artist and instructor. In 2016, she created Goldieknots Montana, through which she sells yarn, craft kits and other products made from Montana wool. She says she is shipping orders through the post office twice a week on average – some as far away as California and Maine.
In many cases, Jordan is sending items using first-class mail – the mail service used for letters and flat envelopes, along with small packages that weigh less than 13 ounces. Prior to the Oct. 1 changes, the standard was for all first-class mail within the continental U.S. to be delivered within three days. Under the new USPS protocol, that standard will increase to four or five days for some mail – particularly if it’s traveling long distances across the country.
Jordan says she was disappointed to hear about the changes – particularly because the prices for first-class mail have increased several times since she started her business.
“To have it take longer to get there, it backs everything up – all the way through the business line, from production and getting some of the inventory,” she said.
However, the Postal Service says the goal isn’t to slow the mail down, but to make sure people can count on the standard delivery dates.
“These new service standards will increase delivery reliability, consistency, and efficiency for our customers and across our network,” a USPS spokesperson said in a statement to MTN.
The changes are part of a ten-year comprehensive plan, called “Delivering for America.” The Postal Service says 61% of first-class mail shouldn’t be affected by the change in service standards, and 68% of first-class packages will still be expected to arrive within three days.
However, an analysis from the Washington Post says Montana could see a larger impact than other states. They estimate 57% of first-class mail sent to Montana will take longer to arrive.
Under the old standard, nearly 20% of first-class packages were expected to arrive within two days, and the standard for all the rest was three days. Now, more than 23% of packages will fall under the two-day service standard, but 17% will have a four-day standard and almost 15% will have a five-day standard.
USPS says the old standard simply wasn’t realistic.
“Whether it’s 300 miles or 3,000 miles, the current standard for FCPS [First-Class Package Service] requires three-day service for any destination within the contiguous U.S. with a drive time greater than six hours,” the statement continued. “This is unattainable and forces us to overly rely on air transportation, yielding unreliable service. With this change of offering two- to five-day service based on distance, we will improve service reliability and predictability for customers, while also driving efficiencies across the Postal Service network.”
Leaders say the changes will let them shift more long-distance mail to their truck network, which they say is significantly more consistent. They hope that means fewer pieces of mail will be delayed far beyond the expected arrival time.
Jordan says she has noticed more variation in how long it’s taking for her packages to be delivered, especially in the last six to nine months.
“In the past, it’s taken two, three, maybe four days,” she said. “Now, even in the last couple weeks, I’m getting responses saying it’s taking seven days. Even in the state of Montana, to send to Eureka took five days.”
Jordan said she’s hopeful there will be more reliable delivery dates now, and she’ll be watching over the coming months.
“Just keeping an eye on how those times actually are, so that I can communicate with my customers and keep them happy – just so that they have realistic expectations as well and they’re not upset with me,” she said.
The Postal Service has also announced they’re temporarily increasing prices for commercial and retail package shipments, through Christmas. Leaders say they’re anticipating another big jump in package volume during the fall and peak holiday season – similar to what they saw in 2020.
You can find more information about the USPS service changes at the Delivering for America website.