The Postal Service could leverage its facilities and daily activities to provide more services but that “would not likely significantly affect USPS’s current financial condition,” a GAO report has said.
The report said that the “last mile” service that USPS provides—delivery to individual addresses, which accounts for a third of its operating costs—“could potentially generate more value—including societal benefits and possibly revenue.”
“For example, adding nonpostal services to existing mail carrier activities—such as providing check-in services for older or homebound individuals—could help improve social isolation among at-risk populations,” it said. USPS previously had a formal program in which mail carriers to look for and report unusual mail accumulation at a given address to local service agencies, it noted.
A revenue-generating possibility, it said, would be attaching mobile sensors to delivery vehicles to collect data such as mobile wireless coverage and air quality information. The USPS could allow other entities to attach those devices under contract, or USPS itself could collect, store, and analyze such data on its own, “functions that could lead to potentially greater revenues but may require large up-front costs.”
Other possibilities, it said, include having letter carriers distribute medications rather than mail in the case of a biological attack and having them carry small radiological monitoring devices. Pilot tests of those concepts have been conducted but are not currently active, GAO said, adding that “given that these potential services present both benefits and limitations, the decision to pursue them—including addressing current legal prohibitions—is dependent on the goal for providing such services and desired effect for USPS.”