The U.S. Postal Service is inviting public comment on a preliminary proposal to expand the network of providers allowed to transport outbound mail and parcel traffic, an initiative that has been on the table for some time.
The program, which the Postal Service has called the Outbound Commercial Provider Initiative (OCPI), was introduced Monday in the Federal Register, the federal government’s publication of record. The action was classified as an “advance notice of proposed rulemaking,” underscoring the proposal’s preliminary status. Interested parties have 30 days from the Feb. 1 publication date to submit comments, which must be sent in only by email due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In its notice, the Postal Service said the growth of cross-border e-commerce and the increasing demand for shipping solutions has forced it to “identify alternatives for commercial shipments going through its international mail streams.” The quasi-governmental agency relies exclusively on foreign postal operators to deliver outbound shipments worldwide. The lack of commercial alternatives has restricted the Postal Service’s international delivery flexibility, and impedes its ability to be fully competitive in a fast-growing marketplace, it said.
The Postal Service referred to OCPI as a “strategic program” that would allow it to effectively compete with alternative providers. The program would provide a safety valve of interrupted service when issues arise with foreign postal operators, the Postal Service said. It would also enable the agency to develop services that are “currently available through the postal channels,” it said in the notice.
Under the proposal, the Postal Service would only accept shipments tendered through its Priority Mail Express International, Priority Mail International and First Class Package International services. The program is tentatively scheduled to launch on or before March 31, the agency said.
Customers that tender bulk or consolidated shipments to OCPI-designated destinations must tender the shipments separately from other traffic and in individual receptacles by product type and by destination country, according to the notice. In addition, mailers would be required to comply with commercial customs clearance requirements for commercial invoices and customs documentation, and must differentiate OCPI documentation from existing postal forms, the Postal Service said.