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What's the deal with Mail Routes?

A less than informative research exercise.

By Adam WinegardenPublished 2 years ago 4 min read
What's the deal with Mail Routes?
Photo by Alex Perz on Unsplash

I am waiting on a postal delivery. I rarely use my mailbox. I check it at best once a week. But today, there may be a check arriving and money is always a powerful motivator. However, I have no idea when my mail usually arrives. In the past I would not often be home during the delivery time. In addition my mailbox is across the street and the view is obstructed by trees. So unless I look outside at just the right moment, I am unlikely to see the mail truck drive by. So today's writing exercise will be focused on learning as much as I can about mail routes.

One of my first resources for this expedition is an article from This is the first time I have encountered this website and the article is from 2017 so take this information with a grain of salt. The article, "Delivering the Mail to Your Home Is Way More Complex Than You Might Think" interviewed Brian Renfroe the executive vice president of the National Association of Letter Carriers. The National Association of Letter Carriers, also known as the NALC is the union that supports letter carriers.

When it comes to routes, according to Renfoe, rural and urban routes are two very different animals. This is usually due to the distance between mailboxes in rural areas vs. the density of urban areas. Understandably an urban route with hundreds of high rise apartments will likely function differently than a rural route with mailboxes more spread apart.

The article cites that the USPS uses several computer programs to create routes. Routes are based off not necessarily address but on mailbox location at that address. At my house the mailbox is likely nearly a 100 ft from my front door and as previously mentioned, across a fairly busy suburban street. The carrier can drive right up to my mailbox, saving time versus getting out the vehicle and walking up to my door.

Mail carriers come in a shapes and sizes and those statistics will impact a route as well. Longer legs may make routes shorter in reality. Shorter strides may make for a longer time to complete a walking route. The level of mail to be delivered factors in as well. However, actual route data seems to be impossible to find. This may be due to the fact that routes change during the week based on volume and employer schedules. It may be a safety factor. A list of when and where a federal employee will be could be a potential security risk for that individual.

I did learn of an interesting program that would help me know if my check was actually en route. The United States Postal Service now as a program called Informed Delivery. According to their official website:

"Informed Delivery is a free and optional notification feature that gives residential consumers the ability to digitally preview their letter-sized mail and manage their packages scheduled to arrive soon. Informed Delivery benefits the entire household by allowing users to view what is coming to their mailbox whenever, wherever – even while traveling – on a computer, tablet, or mobile device."

I tried signing up for this service and they couldn't send me a text to verify my identity. So I am waiting on a post card that will seemingly serve to verify that I am living where I say I am and thereby have a right to digital previews of my mail.

But the real question is, why? Would a digital image of this month's utility bill or the latest piece of junk mail actually provide value? Is this simply designed to make me feel more comfortable because I have seen a picture of what it to come? No more dread of the unknown when opening the mail box. In all honesty, the images will likely make me even less likely to make the trip across the street. If I know all that awaits me lurking in the dark cold of the mailbox, I will probably skip the trip until there is something that is worthwhile...or I until I get the feeling that it's so full, I'm going to annoy the mail carrier again.

My investigation did not prove very fruitful but it did kill enough time for the mail to arrive. I didn't see the truck. My pup, who was tasked with keeping a watchful eye, didn't alert me either. The check arrived as expected and I find myself a bit richer in probable useless knowledge about mail routes.


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