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Route Optimization

How USPS Drivers use Route Optimization to Compete with Amazon & FedEx

Zach Blank


January 27, 2021

The world of Web 2.0 changes the way all businesses operate and function, and if you can’t keep up, your business won’t survive the next generation. Web 2.0 is the technology that allows the Internet to be accessible from everywhere. Laptops, phones, watches, even refrigerators. In the delivery business, Web 2.0 brings new apps to the table to shake up how couriers like the US Postal Service can remain competitive. In this new paradigm, the USPS must adapt to serve customers or face extinction.

USPS is the original American delivery service and has been able to adapt since its early days as the Pony Express. Throughout its history, the USPS has successfully evolved to changes in the industry to deliver to its customers. Employing every tactic under the sun, the US Postal Service has utilized horses, trains, cars, planes, and even bicycles to get packages where they need to go. While their legacy and history are impressive, the technological challenges and competition they face today are unlike anything they’ve handled before.

Crop person putting envelope in mailbox on street

The Need for Efficiency

With the growth of Amazon, Shopify, Etsy, and newer e-commerce platforms, customers and retailers have more options than ever when considering a delivery partner. Plus, businesses are shipping at unprecedented rates as a reaction to the 2020 pandemic and lockdown. The demands of the last year posed tremendous difficulty for many businesses, but e-commerce thrived, growing by 129% in 2020. As the world moves forward, technology will increasingly bring more and more users towards online shopping and transactions, tightening the race between delivery providers like Amazon, UPS, FedEx, and the US Postal Service.

So how can USPS drivers and strategists compete with giants like Amazon, FedEx, and UPS? In the 21st century, a customer-centric approach is the key to keeping your business on top, which means delivery services should prioritize customer satisfaction to edge out their competitors. The best way to get happy customers is with reliable, rapid, and on-time deliveries.

The key is efficiency, so here’s how USPS is investing in being efficient:

How The USPS Maximizes Efficiency

Every step in the USPS supply chain is being improved to incorporate technology and increase efficiency:

Machines the size of football fields use ultra-high speed cameras to parse shipping labels dozens of times per second for hundreds of thousands of routes.
Expected Delivery (ExD):
The USPS recently released ExD to give customers more clarity and insight into the delivery process.
Informed Delivery:
Today, customers can see all the mail arriving a day in advance, allowing consumers more visibility than ever before.

To stay ahead of the curve, every hour, minute, and second saved makes a difference to delivery partners. Saving time saves money, increases customer satisfaction, and reinforces customer loyalty.

In the world of Web 2.0, every efficient delivery service relies on route optimization software to save time on every single delivery. If USPS wants to remain competitive, drivers need the best route optimization software possible.

USPS and Route Optimization

Unlike their competitors, USPS is having mixed results with centralized route optimization. While the US Postal Service piloted and released an in-house route optimization software, it did not succeed. The software wasn’t accurate, reliable, nor widely accessible.

Yet, when it comes to the “last-mile” of delivery, optimization can make a huge difference, and USPS competitors are realizing this difference. The UPS alone reported $400 million in annual savings with the addition of their ORION Delivery Optimization System. Meanwhile, Amazon has centralized their delivery protocol with their “Rabbit” devices that combine GPS and Inventory Log.

As USPS has not developed a reliable route optimization software to use across the board, couriers are left to find the best tech on their own. This variability can throw off the day-to-day for a driver, and leads to many inefficient approaches.

Selective Focus Photography of a Mailbox

The Typical Route-Planning Approach for USPS Drivers

When a USPS Driver prepares their route, they strategically load their trucks based on their route.

Mail is specifically ordered for their route, categorized between packages, letters (envelope mail), and flats (magazines and catalogues). 

When a USPS driver approaches a mailbox, the deliveries for that address are at the top of the pile, allowing many drivers to move the mail from the vehicle into a curbside mailbox without having to get out. The process varies between rural, suburban, and metropolitan routes, but the organization tactics remain the same. This technique known as the “stop-and-drop” has allowed USPS to remain efficient in this competitive market.

For several decades drivers’ routes were static. Any road closures, accidents, or traffic jams were not considered as the driver set out for the day. The driver would have to rely on intuition and deep knowledge of the area, and local radio, to make changes on-the-fly and keep from losing time on the route.

Shalow Focus Photography of Mailed Letters

The Future of Route Optimization for the USPS

The savvy USPS driver knows that route optimization software can take their efficiency to the next level, but they might not know which app provides the best service for their needs.

Google Maps and Waze are popular choices, but are difficult to add to a delivery workflow. They’re great for consumers going from point A to B, but struggle to be useful with hundreds of stops planned in a given day. However, courier-focused apps like Straightaway provide USPS drivers with exactly what they need.

Straightaway is an app that is built for delivery drivers from the ground up. Using data analytics and artificial intelligence, Straightaway pulls together hundreds of factors to save USPS drivers time, and impress customers with above-and-beyond service. Here’s how:

• Drivers can add up to 500 stops
• Drivers can see everything from a bird's eye view
• With built-in navigation, the driver never needs to switch screens

To use Straightaway, USPS drivers scan the barcodes on their packages (or a print-out of their daily manifest) and the app takes care of the rest. Straightaway’s cutting-edge algorithms map out the ideal route for the driver, accounting for traffic, accidents, road closures, and speed limits.

Straightaway saves USPS drivers an average of one hour per day compared to “old school” optimization. Saving hours and minutes accounts for real impact as couriers get home sooner and customers get their products faster.

As the US Postal Service continues to develop efficient systems, route optimization fits right into the mix, enabling delivery drivers to do more in less time. This is true in rural, suburban, and dense metropolitan areas, providing big gains to drivers everywhere.

Straightaway is the best app to achieve this. Straightaway can cut hours out of a driver’s day, providing noticeable differences to all customers on all routes. Not to mention, the saved time mitigating traffic stops and jams can be given right back to the customer, with meaningful service that goes above and beyond.

What We Can Learn from USPS

As the landscape for delivery gets more and more competitive, every saved second matters. Minutes, hours, and days are regained with optimized route planning from Straightaway.

This translates to more satisfied customers and more deliveries per day. For the US Postal Service, an edge in route optimization can change the organization as a whole. Straightaway might be the breakthrough technology USPS needs to thrive. The best part: delivery drivers can start straight away.

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Zach Blank

Zach is the co-founder and CEO of Straightaway.

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