As always, the Star Route Association meeting held in Las Vegas on January 26 - 27, 2010 was chock full of probing, important, and often passionate questions from HCR contractors. And sometimes, even answers! What follows is a list of questions and answers that I heard at various meetings, including the CDS contractors meeting.
We hired a part-time employee to work 1 day per week, and even though that never changed, that person was able to recover under-employment compensation from the state -- and that is being charged against my company. There was no answer to this one; glad I'm not an employment law attorney.
We let one of our employees go because they got a speeding ticket -- and now they are getting unemployment insurance! Right after this question, someone else said they had a similar experience when they fired someone for theft. Then someone else said they had a similar experience after an employee failed a drug test. What is this world coming to? The answer given was that these are state by state issues, but the problem in these cases may have been the contractor's inability to document and prove that the employee was fired for good cause. The point was made that to win these cases, you must "document every little thing."
Is the Postal Service required to give first priority for running extra trips to the contractor who holds the route? While no definitive answer was given, the Postal Service representative stated that he didn't know any reason why the contractor would not be given first priority in such cases. The general practice is that the existing contractor is given the first crack at any extra trips on that route.
The Postal Service is seeking price reductions on my contract because of reduced volume on the route -- is that allowed? In follow-up to this question, it turns out that USPS did a route survey during the lowest volume day of a low volume month. Surveys should be taken in September, not during slow volume months. Other people noted that mail volume in rural areas, where CDS contractors are primarily located, has actually increased as many people have left the cities and come to rural areas. To answer the question posed, it would not be appropriate for the Postal Service to re-negotiate the contract price during the contract term simply because there is less mail volume.
The Postmaster told me to scan EV tags, but this is not in my contract and others at the Postal Service have told me these tags should not be scanned. This is causing me to perform extra work, and it seems needless -- what should I do? If you are being asked to perform work which you believe is not required by the contract, you need to confirm this in writing with a person who has authority to order such changes. Keep in mind that the Postmaster may or may not have any authority to change your work. What I typically advise is to send a letter to the contracting officer stating that you have been directed to perform such-and-such work, that you are doing so but believe it is extra work, and you are tracking your costs and will be submitting an invoice for the cost impact of the extra work. That will usually get a response. And if you do not receive a response, you have put the contracting officer (CO) on notice of the additional work. If the CO does not respond to such a letter, the CO will typically be presumed to have notice of it and to have authorized the work.
The shipping label on a mail piece states a "Preferred Day" of delivery but the Postmaster has told me to deliver it earlier than that day -- what should I do? Do what the Postmaster says. If the mailer has a problem with the Postmaster's direction, that's the Postal Service's headache, not yours.
How often do district volume formulas change? Some contractors thought they changed monthly, others had different opinions. The Postal Service representative was unsure.
Is there a response time for getting box increases paid? This question wasn't answered, but I'll have a go at it. What starts the clock is your submission. You need to make a written request for a price adjustment, and your request should contain the dollar amount sought and all necessary information to back up that amount. If the request sits for more than 30 days, I'd send a reminder, and then 10 days later I would turn the request into a contract claim. Check out my prior articles on how to submit a claim.
Why are some of my employees being drug-tested after the contract was renewed? The expiration date for drug tests is not necessarily in sync with the expiration date of a contract, so this situation can arise.
If the Postal Service issues a late-slip for a one-half hour delay in releasing a driver, but the driver makes up the time and arrives at the next stop on time, can he take a half-hour break later in the day? A good question deserves a good answer, but life is not fair, and I don't remember this question being answered.
If the Postal Service goes to 5-day delivery, will CDS carriers be allowed to come in on Saturday to do some advance casing? USPS Vice President of Sustainability Sam Pulcrano is responsible for developing this plan.
There is no incentive for contractors to save fuel beyond their fuel allotment -- is the Postal Service considering any changes to this? I don't remember if there was a substantive answer to this question, but this is something the Postal Service surely needs to look at.
The media keeps reporting that the Postal Service is going out of business, and in turn we get calls from our bankers and suppliers questioning our own viability. The Postal Service is aware that it is critical to make sure the media is properly informed. While the Postal Service is facing challenges and will not be the same size it once was, it will still be a healthy and viable business.
The ad campaign for the Priority Mail Flat-Rate box is great [group applause], sheds a positive light on the Postal Service, and we are seeing the extra volume resulting from it. Just wanted to say -- keep it up! The Shipping Services category was the only class of mail with increased volume this year over last year, much of it due to the successful ad campaign for the flat-rate box. That product fits a niche for home and small office use.
So there you have it -- a lot of questions and even some answers. That's what you get for waking up in Vegas.
Our Postal Service Contracting practice information is available through the Postal Service Contracting page.
David P. Hendel
Husch Blackwell Sanders LLP
750 17th Street, N.W., Suite 1000
Washington, D.C. 20006