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Mail sorting machines removed due to rising package volume

I can understand why the Postal Service would reduce overtime to save money, but why would they get rid of mail sorting machines? Seems like having machines sort the mail would save money.

— Al, Medford

The U.S. Postal Service regularly decommissions mail sorting machines to adjust for changing mail and package volumes. Package volume is up, but regular mail volume is down, the organization said in a statement.

Removing mail sorting machines creates more room for the U.S. Postal Service to handle packages.

The Washington Post looked into the issue and found the USPS planned to decommission 671 delivery bar code sorters this year, a substantial increase from 125 in 2018 and 186 in 2019.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy had instituted what he said were cost-cutting moves for the financially struggling service, including the decommissioning of machines, limits on overtime and the removal of some blue mail drop-off boxes.

Last week he announced he would pull back on the changes after people and politicians complained about late mail.

Critics have accused DeJoy of trying to sabotage vote-by-mail during the November election, when more Americans will rely on post offices to deliver their ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Donald Trump, who appointed DeJoy, claims vote-by-mail will result in fraud, although states such as Oregon have long allowed voters to mail or drop off their ballots without problems.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., is among those decrying DeJoy’s changes that have led to delays in mail delivery.

Merkley recently inspected a mail distribution center in Portland where nine out of 30 sorting machines have been dismantled. He said he was told the remaining machines, at 70% productivity, can continue to run on time through peak load times, according to a press release from his office.

A spokesperson for Merkley said managers at the Portland facility said the dismantled machinery could be used to boost the processing speed of machines that are still operating by about one-third. But union workers said that reassembly project was on hold until after the election.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.