How Route Optimization Keeps USPS in the Game

These days, you have to have a delivery service with the best tech to compete with giants like FedEx and Amazon. The US Postal Service (USPS) has been around since the days of stagecoach mail service.  As American innovation brought us bicycles, trains, then planes, then automobiles, USPS has successfully evolved to continue delivering to its customers. When something new comes up, it’s incredible how USPS embraces the change and even the challenges. Though USPS has continued to deliver packages and mail, they still have to compete with huge companies like FedEx and Amazon. Companies like Etsy and other e-commerce platforms have to find ways to get their good to customers efficiently. 

Businesses are utilizing delivery services at skyrocketing rates due to the demand in pandemic times. E-commerce grew by 129 percent in 2020. This created a tremendous difficulty for small businesses without a solid delivery model. Yet, as the world moves forward in technology, it makes it much easier for businesses to compete with the giants. The US Postal Service has been leading the way. 

The Need for Speed and Courtesy

The competition is steep. Customers and retailers can pick and choose when considering a delivery partner. You have to wonder how USPS drivers and strategists stay in the game, when UPS, Amazon, and FedEx seem to have every corner of the delivery business covered? It’s a customer-centric approach that brings businesses to the top. Reliable, quick, and on-time delivery is what customers want, and delivery services that prioritize customer satisfaction edge out their competitors every time. USPS has definitely figured out what customers need. This is how they stay relevant:

Efficiency Is Key

The USPS supply model has been improved to embrace available technologies that increase efficiency:

Sorting: USPS spared no expense for sorting machines that are the size of football fields! These super-machines have ultra-high speed cameras to read shipping labels dozens of times per second. The sorted mail is then ready to be delivered to hundreds of thousands of routes throughout the country.

Expected Delivery (ExD): Customers want in on the status of their mail, so the USPS recently debuted ExD: a whole new way to keep customers in on the delivery process.

Informed Delivery: Customers can see photographs of all the mail arriving that day when they check their emails, allowing consumers a peek inside their mailbox, and to have a little piece of mind that the letter they’re expecting will arrive soon. 

Now that mail has taken a big step into the future every delivery service (big and small) relies on route optimization software (ROS) to save time on deliveries. USPS is all about remaining competitive, and they seem to be ready for their drivers to have the best route optimization software possible.

USPS and Route Optimization Software

Wanting to edge into the world of high tech, USPS stepped into ROS with OIG: an in-house route optimization software system. Unfortunately, this software isn’t very accurate, hardly reliable, and not widely accessible.

However, optimization can make a huge difference, and USPS competitors are picking up on the most cutting edge systems—especially in respect to the ‘last-mile’ of delivery. When UPS added the ORION Delivery Optimization System to their route optimization toolbox, they reported $400 million in annual savings. Amazon got in on the latest ROS software too, centralizing their delivery methods with ‘Rabbit’ devices that combine GPS and Inventory Log.

Being a leader in innovation, it’s curious why USPS hasn’t developed a reliable route optimization software consistently for all their couriers. Drivers are left to find the best ROS app on their own. With many inconsistent and inefficient approaches, drivers are dealing with the variables the best they can.

A Day on the Job for a USPS Driver

The first step a USPS driver takes each shift, is the planning. Drivers prepare their route, then  strategically load their vehicles based on the order of stops on their route. Thanks to the super-sorters, mail is specifically ordered for each driver’s route. The mail is already separated between letters (envelopes), packages, and flats of magazines and catalogues. 

The delivery process varies between suburban, rural, and metropolitan routes, but the protocol basically remains the same. When a USPS courier nears an address, the deliveries for that mailbox are right at the top of the pile. That’s how they go so fast!  Many USPS drivers will move the mail from the truck to the mailbox without having to get out at all. This technique ‘stop-and-drop’ technique has given USPS some great mileage over the years. It still works, and remains a full-proof method.

For decades, if something came up— road closures, accidents, or traffic jams the driver would be delayed, and deliveries and customer satisfaction suffered. Seasoned drivers would have to rely on the radio or their knowledge of the neighborhoods to make route changes. Time has always been a problem, and that is why some USPS drivers are getting with the times to try an ROS. 

Route Optimization, USPS, and the Future

USPS drivers are catching on that route optimization software saves them time and stress, but there seem to be so many. Which one is best?

Google Maps and Waze may be familiar choices, but they aren’t so great with hundreds of stops planned on a given day. Courier-focused apps like Straightaway provide USPS drivers with exactly what they need, and more.

Straightaway is an easy-to-use app built specifically for delivery drivers. Using the most advanced algorithms on the market, Straightaway’s features save USPS drivers time and place them ahead of the curve in customer service. Here’s why most drivers are using Straightaway:

• Drivers may add up to 500 stops

• Drivers can use photo capture to enter addresses

• The built-in navigation keeps driver’s safe and hands-on, never having to switch screens

Using Straightaway is so easy. USPS drivers just scan the package barcodes (or use a print-out of the daily manifest). The app does the rest. USPS drivers can save an average of one hour a day according to Straightaway courier reports. 

USPS Can Innovate 

Every saved second matters. As the USPS continues to develop efficient systems and their drivers sign on for apps like Straightaways route optimization, they will be able to do more in less time. This translates into more happy customers. For the US Postal Service, the right route optimization can be a game changer. Straightaway might be the breakthrough technology USPS needs. And if history has anything to do with their motivation, they might just try it. 

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Christophe Rude

Christophe Rude

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