Traditional and Modern Canadian Letter Carriers

A general introduction to the typical traditional vs upcoming modern letter carrier in Canada and its economic impact.

A letter carrier is a word typically used for those who deliver by foot in urban areas as an employee of Canada Post corporation.

Letter carriers at Canada Post deliver letters, magazines, registered, priority or parcel items that are under 3lbs, magazines, and flyers.

Each letter carrier is designated a route. Each traditional route roughly consists of 400 to 1000 points of call. Points of call mean each mail receptacle on a house, apartment, business, community mailbox etc.  For example, a house would count for one point of call, an apartment with 250 suites would have 250 points of call.

A complex mathematical calculation of distance x volume x coverage x average walking speed and a number of other important variables are used to arrive at an average 8 hour day. This formula has been in use and refined for well-over 30 years.

Each letter carrier starts his day at his mail sorting workstation. When he or she arrives, there is typically about 1200 pieces of machined letter mail, 250 pieces of letter mail that needs to be hand sorted, about 300 pieces of magazines and oversized envelopes that need to be hand-sorted, and also about 10 small packets, 10 traceable items, and a number of flyers that have to be hand collated.

This is just an average and it varies considerably between route.

When it comes to flyers for collation, there are wide differences between regions and even routes. In Winnipeg, some areas can average 4 sets of flyers per day per year, while other poorer areas are less. In Vancouver, this number can average over 10-15 sets per day. It is not fair to give an average.

The collation and delivery of flyers is not really calculated in the 8 hour formula. Sometimes five to ten minutes are allotted for management of flyers in the formula but not often. Letter Carriers are instead paid by the piece. It is usually around 2 cents per piece.

If, say, it takes a letter carrier 30 minutes to collate ten sets of flyers, and this extra time puts him or her in a situation that makes the work day 8.5 hours long, one cannot ask for overtime or extra hours. It is considered lost time or paid for by the per piece agreement. Some strongly do not like the idea of flyers for this reason, on the other hand others find this a good source of alternate revenue.

Also flyer weight really adds to the typical day. Canada Post letter carriers are not to carry more than 15.9 kilos (35 lbs) at any given time. However, because flyers are not in the mathematical formula, they have been exempted from the weight formulation. For example, the typical letter carrier at Christmas can be carrying 15.9 kilos of mail, and required to carry an additional amount of flyers which combined with regular mail can easily weigh over 22.73 kilos (50 lbs) at any given time.

Letter Carriers are given on average 1.5 to 2.5 hours per day to sort and organize all their mail items. This includes bundling all mail items and putting them into relay bags. These relay bags are then marked for delivery to a relay box on the letter carriers route. These are the neutral grey boxes one sees by many corners or near apartments. These relay bags are delivered by a driver.

When a letter carrier has finished a block, he or she goes to the relay box, empties the contents from the relay bag into the satchel and goes on to the next block or apartment etc. This can be repeated 6-12 times on a typical day.

There are many ways a letter carrier can get to his route. First of all, if the route is close enough to his or her postal station, one can walk. If it is kind-of-close, Canada Post will pay for the bus ride to and from the walk. If it is getting pretty far, Canada Post will pay the taxi fare. Canada Post has a policy of paying for gas if one uses their own personal vehicle for getting back and forth, but there are some caveats to this, so few take advantage of that. Many however, use their own cars at their own cost because of convenience and time savings.

Many letter carriers are miffed at why Canada Post paid for employees to have a new corporate vehicle along with company gas when this was supplied pro-bono by the employee in the past.

Letter Carriers traditionally do not deliver parcels. A unit called UTS, a motorized unit, specifically deals with parcel pick-ups and drop-offs.

All the mail sorted by the letter carrier is typically combined. That is, the oversize, non-machinable, and machinable letter mail and anything else that will fit in a sortation case are all harmonized together in one unit. This is the most efficient way.

In the new way, letter carriers are not to sort the machined mail. This is already done by a machine beforehand. The oversize and stuff the machine can’t read, still have to be sorted by hand. This is sorted and collated separately from the machined mail. The letter carrier is then asked to combine them while delivering. The machined mail is to be held on the left hand, and all oversize and non-machined mail is be held on the forearm of the same left arm. The right hand is then to combine them together.

The problem with the two bundle system is that it never calculated two important variables; flyers and environment. The new system requires a large portion of letters carriers to deliver in the dark, the two bundle system makes it more difficult to do this. Looking twice instead of once at an address takes more time. The two bundle system was imported from the United States Postal system where flyers are not an integral part of the job. How would one carry two bundles plus deliver 3-10 sets of collated flyers? There is no easy solution except that it takes longer.

Parcels are added for the modernized letter Carrier to deliver.

The time saved on sorting is theoretically to be added to the time delivering. Canada Post roughly believes an hour of sorting time is saved on every route and typically adds 250 to 400 points of call to each route.

However, because the two bundle system adds an extra two seconds or so to every delivery point, the requirement to deliver all the parcels in the given route, delivering in the dark which increases time between each point of call, loading and unloading a vehicle, driving and parking a corporate vehicle, it severely reduces any time savings that is anticipated.

It will be interesting to see if all these moves actually save any money, or keeps Canada Post in the same economic situation which in the past decade has just been barely breaking even. Canada Post claims they will not turn any profit until 2017. This time however, with so much money fixed into infrastructure cost, rather than having the flexibility of adding or deleting personnel depending on volumes, it is a precarious time in the history of this corporation.

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2 Responses to Traditional and Modern Canadian Letter Carriers

  1. joe says:

    outstanding! 100% accurate account of a letter carriers’ duty

  2. Marcel says:

    This is the most complete and accurate description of letter carrier duties anywhere! Well done. It seems that the “smart guys” at Canada Post have very little clue as to what the job entails. Thanks. MB

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