According to Steve Doherty, northeast area communications specialist for the United States Postal Service, the signs are part of an overall push on the part of the post office. Doherty says that last year, the parcel side of USPS’s business increased by $2.1 billion, with package volume up 11.4%.
Doherty says that traditionally in rural areas, mail is delivered to the curb. But as customers receive more and more packages, carriers have felt compelled to deliver packages to the door.
“Normally a rural carrier will pull up to your curbside box and deposit your mail,” says Doherty. “If there’s a package that’s oversized and won’t fit in the box, (the carriers) don’t usually like to leave something on the ground by your mailbox, and it’s a nuisance when they leave a notice and tell you to come to the post office to pick a package up. So more often than not, they do make the trip to the door to safely deliver it out of sight and weather.”
Those trips to the door take time, though, and the volume of packages coming through the mail is consistently increasing. “These new curbside boxes can accommodate something the size of a shirt box,” says Doherty. “So if you’re someone who routinely orders thing online, by getting a larger mailbox, everything can now be delivered to the curb.”
An unexpected side effect of carriers making more trips to the door, says Doherty, has been an increase in dog bites. “You have houses where the dog is loose in the yard or on a chain, and the dog isn’t used to seeing the letter carrier and all of a sudden there’s one there,” says Doherty. “So that’s another campaign we’re pushing with people. If you are expecting a package, please keep your dog secure.”
According to Doherty, in addition to pushing parcel boxes and dog security, nationally, the post office is considering making changes to their trucks to accommodate the greater volume of packages. “They have to be designed for our new reality, which is less letter mail and more parcels,” says Doherty. He says the post office is exploring options, but that as new trucks are rolled out nationwide, they may look more like UPS trucks — boxy, big, and with shelves inside — than the smaller mail trucks we’re used to seeing.
Doherty says that like the decrease of letters, the increase of packages has been gradual as the internet has become more a part of daily life. “When email came along, it didn’t immediately kill mail,” says Doherty. “But more and more, people started sending invitations through email and wishing people a happy birthday through Facebook instead of sending cards.”
Last year, first class mail was down about five billion pieces, which was an overall 3.7% decrease. One tradition that hasn’t died due to the internet, though, says Doherty, is Christmas cards. “During the week of December 18 through 24, we’ll deliver three billion pieces of first class mail,” says Doherty.
As for whether or not locals should run out and buy parcel boxes, Doherty says everyone should do what makes the most sense for their shopping habits. “It all depends on how you’re using the mail,” says Doherty. “If you’re getting packages frequently, yes. If you get one to two a year, you might not need to.”