Ahwatukee letter carriers say they’re going into overtime and customer service is getting worse since the post office has asked them to park their vehicles and walk the streets to deliver mail, but officials with the United States Postal Service (USPS) say the changes are meant to increase efficiency and safety for the carriers.
“There have been some changes made on some of the routes in Ahwatukee, but it is also being done throughout the city of Phoenix,” said Peter Hass, spokesperson for the USPS Arizona district. “In some areas of Ahwatukee there are delivery boxes that are not on the curb next to the street but are across the sidewalk. For each delivery the carrier would stop his or her vehicle, stop the engine, set the brake, walk across the sidewalk to deliver mail. In order to be more efficient and also provide safer delivery conditions for those employees we made a change to those routes in Ahwatukee, and others in Phoenix.”
Hass went on to explain the change was done to decrease the time letter carriers are spending parking and getting in and out of their trucks. Having a designated parking spot and walking the route is actually safer for carriers, he said. Some carriers may be taking extra time right now, but Hass expects times to improve once the carriers adjust to the new delivery schedule.
“It becomes more efficient, reduces fuel consumption, is more environmentally friendly, and reduces wear and tear on the vehicles as well, and it’s safer for the carriers to deliver this way,” Hass said.
Ahwatukee letter carriers disagree. One letter carrier, who did not wish to be identified, said it’s well known that there are more injuries to carriers walking than riding in trucks. In his case he has asked for a cart to help with delivering his mail, rather than a satchel, but the cart weighs 45 pounds on its own and it’s a heavy piece of equipment to load and unload up to 18 times a day. It’s also harder to respond to a dangerous situation when your hands are full of mail.
“In a truck if a dog gets loose I can just close the door,” he said. “The basic feeling at the station is they are sacrificing customer service and efficiency, and for what?”
A 2002 editorial on postalmag.com, an online news source for postal employees, points out the problems with walking deliveries.
“Park and Loop (walking) routes are very labor intensive and contribute to a large number of injuries,” the article said. “About 15,000 trips, slips, and falls are experienced annually by letter carriers on walking routes. And because the work is so intensive and arduous, some letter carriers are in no hurry to return to letter carrying duties after sustaining injuries… Mounted deliveries would minimize foot, leg, shoulder, and arm injuries while also potentially reducing dog attacks and other injuries. Mounted deliveries would also minimize the resistance to carrying that some reluctant carriers exhibit.”
Hass said the routes in Ahwatukee cannot correctly be categorized as “mounted” routes, those are routes where carriers deliver all mail without getting out of their vehicles. Walking the route rather than continuously mounting and dismounting a vehicle is safer for carriers, he said.
Ahwatukee resident Larry Larson said his mailbox is right up against the street and he was surprised to find his mail carrier delivering mail in the dark one night.
“I saw someone in my front yard with a flashlight and it was the mailman,” Larson said. “At that time it was seven o’clock at night and he still had two hours left… It’s been like that ever since. It doesn’t make sense for customer service, and they’re definitely not saving any money in overtime.”
Letter carriers say the late delivery is no surprise. Some routes in Ahwatukee are taking three to four hours longer to complete on foot, according to carriers who work those routes. Mail is also more difficult to organize in a satchel or cart so some bundles of mail may have to be left and delivered on another day.
Letter carriers can ask to have their routes inspected for possible changes if they go into overtime three or more days of the week, however, those inspections cannot take place until the carrier has been on the route at least 30 days, and inspections do not take place in December when the volume of mail is greater. Park and Loop routes in Ahwatukee may not be inspected and adjusted until January.
Hass said he’s not aware of any customer complaints since the changes have gone into effect, but said the postal service welcomes calls to their customer service line, 1-800-ASK-USPS.
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