High Gas Prices Hitting Postal Service Hard

SPOKANE — If you think you’re being hit hard by the high cost of gas, imagine what it’s like for the U.S. Postal Service.

Last year, the Postal Service spent $6.5 billion on transportation nationwide. That’s a half billion more than the year before.

Getting 289 delivery vehicles fueled in Spokane is expensive. But try gassing up 200,000 across the country. That’s why the Postal Service is getting creative to try and save gas.

For 15 years, Tom Neese has worked for the Postal Service. He drives to around Northwest Spokane neighborhoods, parking, unloading and walking.

Neese says filling up his van costs about $50 at the pump and it’s adding up.

“Oh everyone,” he says, talking about how it’s affecting people. “I see how much it costs to fill up this truck.”

Every time the price of a gallon of gas goes up by a penny, it costs the Postal Service an additional $8 million a year. And that reality is hitting the spokane office hard.

“Compared to last May at this time, we’ve spent 44 percent more on our fuel costs,” says Spokane Postmaster Karen Fairlee, “and as a nation our fuel costs have increased almost 500 million dollars.”

Fairlee says the Postal Service is getting creative. A new computer system being tested in downtown Spokane is helping reduce left-hand turns and idling time for routes. It even cut out the use of two big carrier trucks in Spokane.

“It’s software that combines mapping and the carriers existing routes and lays out what we call ‘a line of travel’ or how the route it delivered,” Fairlee says.

In some cases, route changes mean a little more walking for postal workers and less driving. That’s something Neese loves to do. But don’t joke about trading in his car for a bike to save gas.

“I like bikes, there’s a place for them,” he says. “But trying to fit all your mail on a bicycle might be kind of tough.”

Other alternatives being looked at nationally by the Postal Service is testing flexible fuel vehicles and packing mail more tightly to eliminated delivery trucks that aren’t essential.