The United States Postal Service (USPS) is planning to end overnight delivery for First Class mail in many parts of South Carolina, as the agency also considers closing its Pee Dee distribution center and moving its operations to Columbia.
The move is one of several announced Monday as USPS looks to shave $20 billion off its operating costs in an effort to become profitable again.
“We couldn’t afford to do nothing,” said Harry Spratlin, the USPS spokesman for South Carolina, “We had to have a response and we feel like this is a suitable and intelligent way to provide the services that our customers need and do it at a cost level that we could afford.”
First class mail will no longer have a 1-2 day standard for delivery, instead moving to a 2-3 day standard. However, Priority (1-3 days) and Express (overnight) mail will not be affected. Periodicals will move to a 2-9 day standard.
While customers mailing in urban areas like Greenville, Charleston, and Columbia will likely not notice a difference, those in more rural areas (especially in the Pee Dee) will be affected as distribution centers begin consolidating to handle larger amounts of mail.
The Postal Service will send to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) a request for an advisory opinion about the changes. Those changes will likely take place in the spring.
It is also studying whether or not to close down its Florence distribution center and transfer those operations to Columbia. If USPS decides to move forward, that would leave only three distribution centers in the state: Columbia, Charleston, and Greenville.
Overall, the Postal Service is looking to possibly close 252 out of its 487 distribution centers nationwide (52%).
Spratlin said none of the 158 postal employees in Florence will be laid off if the facility’s operations do move to Columbia. Since they are union employees, they will be “excessed”– essentially meaning their job title no longer exists and they will be reassigned to a new one based on their seniority level.
“This will be a big step for us,” Spratlin said, “Once we get past this mark, I think we’ll be on a much better financial standing and be able to provide steady and reliable service.”
The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for its operations and relies on postage and delivery fees.
In July, the agency announced it was studying whether to close 28 South Carolina post offices. Spratlin said officials have since decided to keep the Shaw Air Force Base and Greenville-Pleasantburg branches open, while the others are still being considered.