Why does my postal carrier use such a small personal vehicle?
December 6, 2010 6:48 PM   Subscribe

[Government Service Flame Filter] My postal carrier uses their own vehicle, which is a small old Ford Ranger and only puts the mail in the cab, sometimes I don't get mail until 7:30 or 8 p.m., why would they do this, is there some sort of benefit?

I live in a tiny town outside of a large city, I've had the same postal carrier for the past two years, a middle aged woman who drives a small Ford Ranger, I've asked her if she carries any mail in the bed and she said no, unless its a big package and even then most likely not.

My guess is I'm in a 'rural' delivery area and/or USPS requires this postal carriers in this area to provide own vehicle.

Ultimately what I'm asking, are postal carriers paid by the miles they put on their vehicles in addition to a salary? Are they usually hourly +mileage? I don't get why someone would want to go a few blocks, deliver mail, and return back to the post office to refill.

Before I posted this I kinda 'followed' her for about 45 mins to an hour once or twice to see if if my hunch was true; and that's what she does, fills half the cab (she has to sit in the other half), delivers mail and then repeats the process of filling, etc.

Latest I've ever seen her deliver my own mail is 8:30 p.m. (no inclement weather), which is no big deal I'm in no rush to get my bills any sooner but like I stated, curious what benefit this has for the postal carrier if any.
posted by dolemite01 to Law & Government (12 answers total)
Carrying mail in the bed of her truck would mean she'd have to move it all into the cab if it rained. She'd have to keep the bed clean and free of debris. Depending on local laws, she might be required to cover the load, which would mean extra hassle each time she delivered a package. And she'd be leaving potentially valuable parcels at risk of theift each time she turned her back on the truck.

The more pertinent question is, why are you following your postal worker around? By your own admission, the mail is getting delivered and you're not in any particular hurry to receive it. Why is it any of your business how she handles the minutiae of her job?
posted by embrangled at 6:59 PM on December 6, 2010 [8 favorites]

What's the question, exactly? Why does she use her own vehicle, or why does she store the mail in the cab?

Suggested answers:

1. She may be a subcontractor. It's not unusual for postal services & courier companies to contract the delivery work out to private companies or individuals in remote areas. Part of this arrangement is that the contractor supplies & maintains their own vehicle.

2. It's probably easier for her to check, on the fly, whether she needs to stop at a particular residence, or even take a particular road at all. In busy metropolitan areas, posties probably don't have that kind of luxury because they're normally on foot, bicycle or small motorbike.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:00 PM on December 6, 2010

theft, not theift.
posted by embrangled at 7:00 PM on December 6, 2010

These routes are contracted out on the basis that the carrier picks up all the mail at once, barring unusual circumstances, and that they drive the route once through and deliver it all. Going back and forth, picking up small batches like this, and delivering during the evening are not part of the deal. She is a contractor, not an employee, and is paid neither salary nor mileage but some agreed-upon daily rate for the route, which does not include compensation for duplicated mileage. IOW, taxpayer dollars are not being wasted. On the other hand, delivery that late is non-standard, and your postmaster might correct the situation if notified about it.
posted by beagle at 7:09 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hey, I live in DC proper and sometimes get my USPS mail after 9pm.

I've also seen job ads in post offices that required your own vehicle to deliver mail in rural areas. There may be some policy keeping her from putting mail in the bed - so it won't get wet, won't blow away in the wind, etc...

Kinda weird that you followed her, man...
posted by Neekee at 7:21 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, private vehicles are common out in the sticks. My folks live in the country and their carrier has always used a private vehicle.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:50 PM on December 6, 2010

The federal government decides what the cost of driving a car a mile is and then reimburses on that basis. Here is the current rate.
posted by Felex at 8:27 PM on December 6, 2010

Mail carriers using private vehicles for mail delivery are quite common in the country. Rural post offices have only a certain number of vehicles. There are almost always more routes than vehicles. A Postal Carrier using a private vehicle for mail delivery is paid by successful completion of route, not by the hour or by the mile. Mail cannot be exposed to the elements (say, in the bed of a pickup truck) or left vulnerable to theft or loss. If that's the only vehicle she has, that's the one she drives to deliver the mail. Our mail carrier used to use her own vehicle, but then the local PO got some lightly-used trucks from a city PO (they were being replaced with electrics), so now she has a USPS truck.
posted by jlkr at 8:47 PM on December 6, 2010

Former (seasonal) postal employee here. If she's using her own vehicle, she's delivering a rural route where she's paid a flat rate. Postal regulations require that mail be locked up when the carrier is away from the mail to protect against theft, so that's why she has it locked up in the cab.
posted by zombiedance at 10:39 PM on December 6, 2010

Appreciate the responses, I understand why she puts no mail in the bed of her truck. What I'm asking which may not be very clear is, what's the advantage to her if any to have such a small area to carry mail in and have to go back and forth.

Ultimately if I was a contractor paid a flat rate I would want to carry as much as possible to avoid unnecessary costs, but if I'm being paid by say the miles driven/hourly I may be more inclined to take longer, maybe. So I was just curious if anyone was/knew a postal carrier that could chime in if there's a benefit to the carrier for having such a small area to carry post with.

And people who say its 'creepy' to 'follow her' its a very small town and before I assumed that my hunch was correct I just did a few errands and just was aware of what the carrier was doing, its not like I was ten feet back the whole time, in that case I would hope for her own safety she would have sprayed me with pepper spray or something.
posted by dolemite01 at 3:09 AM on December 7, 2010

The advantage is that she doesn't have to buy a new vehicle. She has a small truck so she uses a small truck, despite the disadvantage of having to resupply periodically. The rural contract postal carriers I've known were paid a flat rate per day and they struggled with slim margins of money and time. She probably doesn't have the resources to buy a new vehicle, despite any marginal improvement in efficiency that may be gained.
posted by ChrisHartley at 5:29 AM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

Thanks, I had guessed this was most likely the answer but as stated wanted to inquire if there may be other economic advantages (or any) so that's a real shame that there isn't for a carrier. Thanks again.
posted by dolemite01 at 6:16 AM on December 7, 2010

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