Opponents of the exigent rate case argue that a circumstance must rise to the level of national disaster, for example, before it is qualifies as “extraordinary and exceptional.” Because this is the first invocation of exigency, the current rate case is precedent setting and therefore deserving of testing for appropriateness.
The Postal Regulatory Commission is hearing testimony from the USPS as well as receiving comments from industry organizations. Its deadline for rendering its decision is October 4, 2010.
Implementation of IMb
Intelligent Mail is the USPS product for uniquely identifying mail. Originally developed to help the USPS with its performance statistics (end-to-end visibility), Intelligent Mail has been expanded to include mailpiece tracking, confirmation of delivery and change of address information delivered electronically to mailers.
The enabling technology for Intelligent Mail is the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb), a machine readable barcode that contains all the information of a PostNet barcode (postal routing), plus sorting and additional services information. IMb allows each mailpiece to be uniquely identified and therefore tracked as it makes its way through the postal delivery system, and allows address correction information and confirmation of delivery to be transmitted electronically to the mailer.
Beginning in May 2011, mailers who seek a postage discount based on automation compatibility and those who want tracking services will be required to use the IMb on every mailpiece. Mail without an IMb will not be rejected by the USPS, but will be charged a higher rate and will not have tracking services available.
Implementing IMb requires several things:
- The ability to print the barcode. Since it is larger than the POSTNET code, it is possible that some mailers may have to invest in new inkjet heads that will address more than an inch of area.
- A mailer’s identification number. Because the IMb contains information about the mailer as well as the mailpiece, all mailers who print an IMb must have an identification number that is part of the IMb. The ID is issued by the USPS and can be obtained by applying through PostalOne!
- Decide on level of service. Intelligent Mail has two service levels: basic and full service. Basic requires a non-unique IMb to be printed on the mailpiece, and IMb on tray labels and container placards is optional. Full service requires a unique IMb on each mailpiece, each tray label, and container placard.
Because the basic service does not uniquely identify each mailpiece, the amount and type of tracking information is limited. If your customers need to know the status of each mailpiece or need delivery confirmation services, then full service is the best option. You will also need to identify a vendor who acts as an intermediary between the USPS (which provides tracking information as basically raw data) and you. Most mail list management software vendors provide Intelligent Mail tracking services.
Earlier this year there was some confusion about whether the IMb needed to be printed on reply mail (business reply and courtesy reply). Initially the USPS had set May 2010 as the implementation date for IMb on reply mail, but it later postponed implementation to May 2011 to allow customers to use up their stock of non-IMb envelopes.
The USPS has a Remittance Mail Advisory Committee that is working on IMb implementation for reply mail. To stay abreast of the latest information, contact your Business Service Representative (http://www.usps.com/ncsc/locators/find-bsn.html) or Mailpiece Design Analyst (MDA) before you print any reply envelopes. If you need the IMb on reply mail, they will guide you.
IMb is coming and will be expanded as the USPS converts mailing processes to more sophisticated, data driven technologies. The sooner mailers begin migrating to IMb, the sooner they will be ready to provide their customers with the benefits of Intelligent Mail.
Nancy DeDiemar is the president of Printing Resources of Southern California, a quick print shop in Upland, CA, offering printing, copying, electronic prepress, and mailing services. Nancy is the co-publisher of Printips (www.printips.com), a newsletter subscription service for printers. Contact her at Nancy@printingresources.com.