Cutbacks force changes in U.S. mail delivery times

If you're not home during the day, you may not even notice.

But if you're used to seeing the same person deliver your mail — at the same time each day — chances are that has changed.

E-mail, Facebook, online billing and other Internet conveniences long have cut the volume of daily mail traveling through the post office. In reponse to that trend and to trim costs, the U.S. Postal Service has left jobs unfilled and offered early retirement to some workers.

It also has combined many delivery routes, saving on transportation expenses and other costs in the long run, spokesman Michael Miles said.

So your mail may show up a couple of hours earlier or later depending upon how the routes were combined, Miles said.

Longtime Decatur resident Larry Vann, 81, said mail used to land in his box between noon and 2 p.m. until about a year ago. His mail carrier said his route had changed, and he likely would receive letters around 3:30 or 4 p.m.

"It never happened," Vann contends. Mail started showing up at 6 or 7 p.m., he said. Lately, however, he said he's received mail in the mid-afternoon.

Miles said carriers usually wrap up their travel between 3 and 4 p.m. but the goal is to deliver all of the mail by 5 p.m.,

There are exceptions. "There's no set time, but they have a set line of travel," said Miles. "They are delivering in a pattern."

The postal service delivered 202.7 billion pieces of mail in 2008, but that was down 9.5 billion pieces, or 4.5 percent, according to the agency's Web Site.

It is preparing to lose $3 billion in 2009 but expects to offset that with more than $4 billion in planned cuts, according to the agency's 2009 integrated financial plan. The agency is considering cutting some supervisors and managers, Miles said.

People shouldn't see that trickle down to daily delivery, he said. "Those kinds of things would be transparent to our customers."