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This document provided courtesy of the Advertising Mail Marketing Association (AMMA).

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) on March 12, 1996 published in the Federal Register its final rule on mail classification implementation standards. These regulations are slated to be implemented on July 1, 1996. The USPS previously outlined its proposed implementation standards in two separate Federal Register notices in July and August 1995, and again as a proposed rule published in December 1995. AMMA submitted comments in each instance. (see AMMA Bulletins 33-95, 42-95 and 1-96 for further background).

The following are highlights of the USPS' final ruling on some of the significant mail classification reform mailing standards. A complete version of the revised mailing standards contained in the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) was distributed by the USPS in a March 11, 1996 special Postal Bulletin (PB 21914A). The DMM revisions are also contained in the March 12, 1996 Federal Register, which can be obtained electronically via AMMA's 24-hour computer bulletin board, AmericaPost, at (202) 347-5127 in the MC95-1 file area under the filename FIN_STDS.TXT (for the ASCII text version of the rules), FIN_STDS.PDF (for the Adobe Acrobat version of the rules), NEW_RATE.TXT (for the ASCII text version of the rate schedule changes), and NEW_RATE.PDF (for the Adobe Acrobat version of the rate schedule changes). To obtain a hardcopy version of the Federal Register notice, call AMMA at (202) 347-0055.

Scheme Presorting
In its final rule, the USPS revised its proposed standards, making 3-digit scheme presort for automation letters required, rather than optional as originally proposed by the USPS and supported by AMMA and others. The USPS reiterated in its final rule that 5-digit scheme presort for automation letters will not be available at the time of mail classification reform implementation on July 1, 1996, and rejected AMMA's suggestion that a work group be formed to discuss the obstacles to implementing 5-digit scheme sorts for automation letters. In addition, the USPS indicated that a 5-digit scheme sort for automation flats "is not foreseeable in the near future." The USPS did state, however, that a 3-digit scheme sort for automation flats is feasible and that it has begun work on developing such a sortation scheme, which it stated should be available in 1997.

Mailings of 100 Percent Barcoded Mail
The USPS did not revise its position concerning the requirement for 100 percent barcoded mail for automation mailings in First Class and Standard Class, and extended the requirement to automation (barcoded rate) mailings within the Regular Periodicals subclass.

Changes To The AIS Product Cycle
In its final rule, the USPS retained the standards increasing the frequency at which it updates all of its AIS (Address Information Systems) products to bi-monthly, beginning with the October 15, 1996 product updates. Thereafter products will be released on December 15, February 15, April 15, June 15, and August 15. The USPS also retained the standard requiring mailers to implement all new AIS product releases within 45 days of their release date.

Matching Addresses To Current CRIS File
Within 90 Days Of The Mailing
The USPS also retained the standard requiring that mailers update carrier route information within 90 days of the mailing date for carrier route mail.

150-Piece Minimum Requirement
To Qualify For Automation/Presort Rates
The USPS, after a lengthy discussion of comments received from AMMA and others opposing this standard, maintained its position in defining full trays as a minimum of 150 pieces rather than a physically full tray. Under this required standard, mailers must have a minimum of 150 pieces to a 5-digit ZIP code or 3-digit ZIP Code destination (scheme combination, where required) in order to qualify for the 5-digit or 3-digit automation rates. Mailers also must have a minimum of 150 pieces to a 3-digit area to qualify for the 3/5 nonautomation Regular Standard rates.

The USPS in its final rule stated its belief that applying the 150-piece minimum to an entire 3-digit area to qualify for 3/5 nonautomation Regular Standard rates "will, on average, result in comparable or better rate qualifications when compared to current qualification criteria, even for heavier pieces of mail." According to the USPS' rationale, currently the 125-piece/15-pound sacking rules are applied separately to 5-digit sacks and to 3-digit sacks. If, for example, a mailer had heavier weight pieces currently meeting the 15 pound requirements with 75-80 pieces of mail to an individual 5-digit or 3-digit sack, that mail would still be able to meet the 150-piece requirement per 3-digit area in instances where they had an equivalent number of pieces that are now contained in two 5-digit sacks for the same 3-digit area, or in other combinations of 5-digit and 3-digit sacks for the same 3-digit area.

Line-of-Travel Sequencing
The USPS retained its standard requiring Standard Mail Enhanced Carrier Route basic carrier route mail to be prepared in line-of-travel sequence (or walk-sequence at the mailer's option). Walk-sequencing will be required for Enhanced Carrier Route mail prepared at the High Density and Saturation rate levels. No additional sortation beyond carrier route sort will be required for the Enhanced Carrier Route automation (barcoded) basic letter rate. The USPS also remained steadfast in its position to identify mailers whose mailings are frequently prepared in reverse line-of-travel order (descending vs. ascending) and work with them to ensure mailings are presented in the proper order.

Availability of ECR Basic Automation Rates
In its proposed rule, the Postal Service had included a draft list of approximately 3,935 destinating five-digit ZIP Codes where Enhanced Carrier Route automation basic letter rates will not be available. The USPS made no revisions to this provision in its final rule and rejected recommendations made by AMMA to publish the ineligible ZIP Code list on its computer bulletin board system, RIBBS, or to make available to mailers its automation equipment deployment schedule so that mailers could anticipate and plan for additions to the ineligible 5-digit ZIP Code list. The USPS stated that obtaining information as to which are the permissible ZIP Codes for automation carrier route rates will be done at the same time as addresses are matched to the applicable CRIS, ZIP+4 or other USPS AIS product that contains carrier route codes.

One- and Two-Foot Trays For Letter Preparation
The USPS maintained and clarified its proposed requirement that mailers utilize both one-foot and two-foot trays for letter mail preparation, but revised the standard for preparation of nonautomation mailings. For automation and upgradeable mailings of letter-size (other than card-size) pieces, the USPS would like the fewest number of packages, which are only prepared in less-than-full trays. Accordingly, for these mailings, the USPS will require that "when the mail remaining after filling all possible two-foot trays exceeds the physical capacity of a one-foot tray, but is less than the minimum quantity for a full two-foot tray, mailers must place this mail in two one-foot trays (a full one-foot tray without packaging, and a less-than-full one-foot tray with packaging)."

For nonautomation letter-size mailings and for automation and upgradeable mailings consisting entirely of card-size pieces (which are prepared in banded packages), however, the USPS would like to receive the fewest number of trays. Accordingly, for these mailings, the USPS will require that "when the mail remaining after filling all possible two-foot trays exceeds the physical capacity of a one-foot tray, but is less than the minimum quantity for a full two-foot tray, mailers must place this mail in a single less-than-full two-foot tray."

According to the USPS' final rule, if local shortages of a particular tray size develop, mailers will have to use the size tray available, and working out "individual mailing solutions locally."

Barcoded Sack and Tray Labels
The USPS revised its standard requiring the use of barcoded sack and tray labels for automation First Class and Standard Mail to include a phase in period, and to extend the requirement to include mail prepared at automation Periodicals rates. Effective January 1, 1997 the USPS will require the use of barcoded sack and tray labels. In addition, the final rule makes changes to the barcode tray and sack label specifications and revisions to the Contents Identifier Codes used on the labels, which are included in the DMM revisions section of the final rule (also available in special Postal Bulletin issue 21914A, dated March 11, 1996).

PAVE Software or Standardized Documentation
The USPS revised its final rule to include requirements for "standardized documentation". The final rule requires the use of PAVE-certified software or standardized documentation when preparing mailings under any of the reformed subclasses. DMM Section P012 is revised to include required elements and format for standardized documentation. In addition, the USPS states that PAVE test files will be available to software vendors on March 22 for First Class and Regular Standard letters and flats categories, and on March 29 for Enhanced Carrier Route Standard categories. Test files for Regular Periodicals will not be available until early summer as a result of the significant changes made to the quality and preparation standards in this category from those published in the proposed rule, and, therefore, the standard for use of PAVE software or standardized documentation for Regular Periodicals will not be required until January 1, 1997.

Grouping of Pieces In AADC Trays
The USPS revised its standards requiring mailers to group pieces in mixed-AADC trays in automation and upgradeable letter mailings by AADC, and, within each AADC group, by 3-digit ZIP code. The requirement now states that mail in these mixed-AADC trays will be required to be grouped only by AADC area.

CASS Report Requirements
The USPS added in its final rule a requirement for mailers to submit a Form 3553, CASS Report, with automation carrier route First Class, automation and nonautomation Enhanced Carrier Route Standard Mail, and carrier route Regular Periodicals.

Tray Sleeving/Strapping
The USPS has revised its standards concerning tray sleeving and strapping. In its final rule, the USPS states "there will be no exceptions to sleeving." Exceptions to strapping of local mail have been extended to allow such exceptions for mail entered and delivered within the service area of the SCF serving the entry post office if approved by local USPS management. The DMM palletization standards have been modified to make it clear that only trayed mail on stretchwrapped 5-digit, 3-digit, and SCF pallets are exempt from tray-strapping. All trays in all circumstances will be required to be sleeved. For palletized mailings, sleeving will be required to all trays, but strapping will be required only for trays placed on ADC, ASF, BMC, mixed-ADC, and Mixed-BMC pallets. Sleeving and strapping requirements will take effect July 1, 1996.

Move Updating Requirements for First Class Mail
The USPS revised its standard requiring move update qualifications to begin the qualification process at the time of classification reform implementation, but not to condition the eligibility of First Class and Presorted First Class mailings on complete move update qualification until January 1, 1997. The USPS stated in its final rule that use of move update methods on mailings in other classes would meet the standard for the addresses in the mailing list and qualify them for access to First Class automation or presort rates. Any new addresses added to the mailing list would be "move updated" during the next scheduled processing of the addresses. In addition, the USPS anticipates availability of the Multiline Forwarding System (now renamed "FASTFORWARD ") with certification of MLOCR operating systems to occur in summer 1996. The USPS also revised its standards to allow that, in circumstances where clearly demonstrated legal constraints limit a mailer from using address changes provided by the USPS, an individually approved alternative process (granted by the USPS on a case by case basis with clearly identified legal limitation) will be acceptable to meet the move update standard.

Reply Envelopes Contained within Automation Rate Pieces
The USPS maintained its standard requiring that, effective January 1, 1997, courtesy or business reply envelopes or cards included in pieces mailed at First Class and Standard Mail automation rates must be automation-compatible and bear a facing identification mark and a correct barcode. In addition, the USPS revised its standard to include automation Regular Periodicals mail. Mailers will be required to certify, by checking a box on the "postage statement" (formerly called the "mailing statement") and signing the statement, that enclosed reply pieces are properly prepared when the mailing is presented to the post office. According to the USPS' final rule, "it will be up to mailers to work with their customers and advertisers to ensure that reply pieces provided to mailers comply with the standards for barcoded reply pieces." If mailers cannot certify that this standard has been met, or if noncomplying reply pieces are found within the outgoing mailing, the mailing may not be mailed at the automation rates and must pay the higher nonautomation rates.

In addition, the final rule revises the USPS' position to indicate that ZIP+4 barcodes will be required for business reply mail and that courtesy reply mail must bear the correct delivery point barcode for the delivery address as defined by the Postal Service. Unique 5-digit and ZIP+4 barcodes provided by the USPS for use with courtesy reply mail will be considered valid delivery point barcodes.

Changes to Class/Rate Markings
The USPS revised the standards in its final rule to allow mailers to continue using the current "Presorted First-Class" and "Bulk Rate" or "Blk. Rt." markings for First Class and Standard Mail respectively. The USPS has, however, revised the requirements for class markings, mailing markings and rate markings. In most cases, class markings must appear in the postage area. Where required, rate markings--such as "AUTO", which is required on all pieces in automation First Class, automation Regular Standard, and automation Enhanced Carrier Route Standard mailings--may appear in the postage area, on the top line of the address, or--for MLOCR users--to the left of a barcode in the lower right corner of the mailpiece or to the left of a date applied by the MLOCR in the postage payment area. Other requirements for rate markings are included in the final rule.

Banding Material
The USPS revised its standard prohibiting plastic strapping and string from being used as banding materials on certain mailings. The current options of banding materials for packaging mail will remain in effect, however the USPS stated its intent to require the use of only rubber bands or elastic strapping for automation mailings at a future date, and said that it will work with mailers on the timing of this future standard revision.

Weight Breakpoints
The USPS clarified its position concerning the minimum per piece rate weight breakpoints, and revised its standard for weight breakpoints determining barcode letter rate eligibility. Separate weight breakpoints exist for the Regular, Enhanced Carrier Route, and Nonprofit subclasses in Standard Mail. These breakpoints determine when mailers pay either the minimum piece rate or the pound rates. The USPS has not revised these breakpoints from its proposed rule.

For barcoded letter rate eligibility, however, the USPS sets a maximum weight based on operational and administrative criteria. In its proposed rule, the USPS had set a different barcoded letter rate maximum weight for First Class and for Standard Mail. AMMA stressed that the USPS handles barcoded letter mail in the same operational manner regardless of class, therefore one maximum weight should apply. The USPS has revised its standard to allow First-Class and Periodicals letter mail weighing up to the higher Standard Mail weight breakpoint to be eligible for barcoded letter rates (provided that such mail meets all other standards for that rate) to afford as many mailers as possible the highest weight cut-off for automation letter rates.

Definition of a Mailing
The USPS clarified its standards concerning the definitions of a "mailing" and a "mailing job", as well as the requirements for mailing minimum quantities and preparation of mailing statements. According to the USPS in its final rule, the Domestic Mail Classification Schedule approved by the USPS Board of Governors specifies separate 500-piece minimum quantity standards for the following First Class mailings: (1) Letters and Sealed Parcels Automation, (2) Cards Automation, (3) Letters and Sealed Parcels Presorted, and (4) Cards Presorted.

For Standard Mail, separate minimum quantity standards of 200 pieces or 50 pounds apply to each mailing of Standard Regular and Enhanced Carrier Route rate mail. The USPS further has determined that, due to operational differences in the way mail is handled, automation mail and nonautomation mail must be prepared and presented as separate mailings--with separate minimum quantity standards. So, for Standard Mail, separate minimum quantity standards apply for mailings of (1) automation Enhanced Carrier Route, (2) nonautomation Enhanced Carrier Route, (3) automation Regular, and (4) presorted nonautomation Regular. If, after preparing one or more of the above mailings within a class, mailers are left with a quantity of pieces that do not meet the minimum quantity standards for First Class Presort or Standard Mail Regular, such pieces must be mailed at single-piece rates. The USPS further defined a "mailing" as consisting of a group of mail of the same class and subclass which will be processed in the same manner by the USPS, which is submitted to the USPS for verification at the same time. Separate mailings of the same class of mail and in the same "mailing job" that are presented for verification at the same time may be claimed on a single postage (formerly mailing) statement, but separate documents describing each mailing will be required with some exceptions.

Destination Delivery Unit Discount Revisions
The Postal Service retained its proposed standard requiring mailers to take destination delivery unit (DDU) drop ship carrier route sorted mail to the postal facility where sequencing is performed for the carrier route serving the delivery address on the mailpiece (which could differ from the facility where the carrier is located). This revision applies only to barcoded carrier route letter mail. Mailers of Periodicals and of Standard letters mailed at other than automation Enhanced Carrier Route letter rates will continue to drop ship their mail at the destination where the carrier is located. For automation Enhanced Carrier Route letter mail, however, mailers will be required to drop their mail at the postal facility where the mail is sequenced. According to the USPS, "[m]ailers may contact the appropriate USPS district drop shipment coordinators to determine the sites where this mail should be dropped to obtain DDU discounts." The USPS plans to incorporate this information in its AIS Drop Shipment product in the future.

Palletization of "Fletters" in Packages
In its final rule, the USPS revised its position allowing mailers of "fletters" at the flats automation rates to prepare that mail as packages on pallets. Under the USPS proposed rule, if a portion of the mailing job consisted of "fletters" being mailed at automation flats rates, and was prepared as an automation flats mailing as packages on pallets, the USPS would allow the entire mailing job (which could include Enhanced Carrier Route and nonautomation Regular Standard mail) to be prepared as packages on pallets if no more than 10% of the total number of pieces in the mailing job were claimed at nonautomation Regular rates and provided the pieces claimed at the nonautomation Regular rates were paid at non-letter rates. In its final rule, the USPS revised this standard to be terminated after January 1, 1997.

In response to an appeal from AMMA, however, the USPS has indicated that it will publish a correction in the final rule removing the January 1, 1997 termination provision for this standard, and will continue the standard indefinitely.

Preparation of Entry-SCF Mail
The USPS revised its final rule to require preparation of less-than-full 3-digit trays or sacks only for the 3-digit ZIP codes served by the SCF of the post office where the mail is verified. These trays or sacks would be optional for other entry points. Other revisions in mail for the entry-SCF are included in the final rule.

This information was provided by the AMMA.
They can be reached at (202) 347-0055
FAX (202) 347-0789

1333 F Street NW STE 710
Washington, DC 20004-1108

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This Site Maintained By . . . Doctor Dan, Advanced Technologies