Postal Shipping Update
As many of you well know, there has been basically a total melt-down of service of air mail shipments of birds resulting in serious economic problems for shippers of poultry and their customers. Some operations have, in fact, had to cease business as they could no longer make business commitments for timely shipments as well as shipments being delayed causing death prior to delivery or irreversible health problems to the birds even if they arrived alive. Below are some of the problems that cumulatively have resulted in the nationwide problems.
*Delta Airlines unilaterally announced to the USPS that it would not longer take transfers of lives. You could ship from A to B but not A to B to C. Although the USPS is looking at the matter as being in conflict with its contract with Delta to take air mail, as a practical matter such service no longer exists from Delta as it has dismantled its hubs. To “fill the gap,” USPS contracted with Airborne to take “lives.” Airborne, in turn, subcontracted with Northwest Airlines (NW) to carry lives from various cities throughout the country. [NW already had a separate contract with USPS to carry lives from Minneapolis-St. Paul and Detroit under a surcharge arrangement. NW dropped its previous airmail contract since its share of the airmail market went from 12% to 2% under a bid contract policy that replaced negotiated contracts]. Somehow the negotiations for that service did not materialize and NW is not carrying lives for Airborne, although negotiations are still “in the works.”
*U.S. Airways and American Airlines had their respective air mail contracts temporarily suspended due to poor service. A test period was imposed to seek improvement of service. Although the service has improved, the full service from these air lines in still not in place.
*Recently, USPS issued a directive for Express Mail stating that shippers of lives had to go to certain cities to send their shipments rather than just going to their local post office. BSA is pleased to report that as of June 24th, this policy has been terminated due to the extreme hardship imposed on shippers.
*As in the past, airlines have notified the USPS that they will not carry lives when the temperature reaches 85 degrees F. Although the industry and the Department of Agriculture have informed the airlines and the USPS that that standard should not apply to day old chicks, USPS and the airlines ignore the science based conclusions.
*Insurance of shipments is not consistent. Shippers have had claims denied because the birds arrived late but alive but subsequently died. Shippers have been denied insurance at one post office but were able to obtain it at another.
*Shippers cannot guarantee that they will be able to ship to certain zip codes as it changes from week to week. The “reason” is that the USPS is notified by the airlines the equipment available on given routes at given times. Some of the smaller aircraft will not accommodate lives.
*One of the biggest problems involves Federal Express (FedEx) that took over the Eagle Service previously run by the USPS. FedEx took the legal position that it was not covered by the statute that states, inter alia, that “the Postal Service may require any air carrier to accept as mail shipments of day-old poultry and such other live animals as postal regulations allow to be transmitted as mail matter. The authority of the Postal Service under this subparagraph shall not apply in the case of any air carrier who commonly and regularly refuses to accept any live animals as cargo. [Emphasis added]. 39 USC § 5402(d)(2)(A). FedEx maintains that it “commonly and regularly” refuses “accept any live animals as cargo.” Id. Factually, this is not true as FedEx does carry all types of animals except dogs and cats. In fact, if one goes to the FedEx website, there is a number for the Live Animal Desk! The USPS, however, did, in fact, contractually exempt FedEx from the statutory provision.
Where do we go from here?
BSA has made contact with Members of the Congress looking toward assistance in resolving these problems either administratively or legislatively. In addition, meetings will be held with industry representatives, the USPS and Congressional representatives. We are looking for more that a “band aid” fix; rather, a permanent solution so 2005 shipping season will not be repeated.
The U. S. Constitution and the statutes enacted by the Congress mandate and guarantee that postal patrons receive “prompt, reliable and efficient” postal service “to all communities.” The is not the case in the current situation as it relates to the postal patrons within the poultry and game bird industry throughout the country but BSA will make every effort to “make it so.”
Stephen Boynton, Lobbyist
Postal Shipping Update