Mail carrier

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19th-century English postman NYPL 1814 postman.jpg
19th-century English postman
20th-century mounted postman in Buenos Aires Provincia de Buenos Aires - Cartero en 1920.jpg
20th-century mounted postman in Buenos Aires
21st-century postman in London delivering mail from a modern mail cart Postman on Wandle Rd, SW17 (5479444030).jpg
21st-century postman in London delivering mail from a modern mail cart

A mail carrier, mailman, mailwoman, postal carrier, postman, postwoman, [1] or letter carrier (in American English), sometimes colloquially known as a postie (in Australia, [2] Canada, [3] New Zealand, [4] and the United Kingdom [5] ), is an employee of a post office or postal service, who delivers mail and parcel post to residences and businesses. The term "mail carrier" came to be used as a gender-neutral substitute for "mailman" soon after women began performing the job. In the Royal Mail, the official name changed from "letter carrier" to "postman" in 1883, [6] and "postwoman" has also been used for many years. [7]


United States

In the United States, there are three types of mail carriers: City Letter Carriers, who are represented by the National Association of Letter Carriers; Rural Carriers, who are represented by the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association; and Highway Contract Route carriers, who are independent contractors. While union membership is voluntary, city carriers are organized nearly 70 percent nationally. [8]

Letter carriers are paid hourly with the potential for overtime. Letter carriers are also subject to "pivoting" on a daily basis. When a carrier's assigned route will take less than 8 hours to complete, management may "pivot" the said carrier to work on another route to fill that carrier up to 8 hours. It is a tool that postal management uses to redistribute and eliminate overtime costs, based on consultation with the carrier about his/her estimated workload for the day and mail volume projections from the DOIS (Delivery Operations Information System) computer program. Routes are adjusted and/or eliminated based on information (length, time, and overall workload) also controlled by this program, consultations with the carrier assigned to the route, and a current PS Form 3999 (street observation by a postal supervisor to determine accurate times spent on actual delivery of mail).

Rural carriers are under a form of salary called "evaluated hours", usually with overtime built into their pay. The evaluated hours are created by having all mail counted for a period of two or four weeks, and a formula used to create the set dollar amount they will be paid for each day worked until the next time the route is counted.

Highway Contract Routes are awarded to the lowest bidder, [9] and that person then either carries the route themselves or hires carriers to fulfill their contract to deliver the mail.

Letter carriers typically work urban routes that are high density and low mileage. Such routes are classified as either "mounted" routes (for those that require a vehicle) or "walking" routes (for those that are done on foot). When working a mounted route, letter carriers usually drive distinctive white vans with the logo of the United States Postal Service on the side and deliver to curbside and building affixed mailboxes. Carriers who walk generally also drive postal vehicles to their routes, park at a specified location, and carry one "loop" of mail, up one side of the street and back down the other side, until they are back to their vehicle. This method of delivery is referred to as "park and loop". Letter carriers may also accommodate alternate delivery points if "extreme physical hardship" is confirmed. [10] In cases where mail carriers do not have assigned vehicles, they may also get undelivered mail from relay boxes placed along their routes. [11]

Rural carriers typically work routes that have a lower density and higher mileage than those of letter carriers. [12] They all work mounted routes, leaving their vehicles only to deliver to group mailboxes or to deliver an article that must be taken to a customer's door. However, now that former rural areas are being urbanized, their routes are growing very similar to mounted "city routes." Rural carriers often use their own vehicles and are not required to wear a uniform. Because of urbanization around cities and because rural carriers deliver mail at less cost to the Postal Service, the rural carrier craft is the only craft in the Postal Service that is growing.

Highway Contract Route carriers work routes that were established with a density of less than one customer per mile driven (some later become denser and can then be converted to rural delivery). They are only mounted routes, and all HCR carriers use their own vehicle. These routes are typically found in outlying areas, or around very small communities.

The three types of mail carriers are also hired quite differently. A new letter carrier begins as a City Carrier Assistant (CCA). [13] Rural carriers are hired as Rural Carrier Associate (RCA) carriers, without benefits. There is normally an RCA assigned to each rural route and they usually work less frequently than city CCAs. As a result, there are thousands of RCA positions that go unfilled for a lack of applicants and so are covered by other RCAs until the hiring improves [14] for the hiring process explained). Highway Contract Route carriers are hired by the winning bidder for that route. They are not United States Postal Service employees and normally receive lower pay than carriers on city or rural routes.

Female carriers

Female auxiliary mail carrier collecting mail in Paris during World War I about 1915 Female mail carrier during WWI.jpg
Female auxiliary mail carrier collecting mail in Paris during World War I about 1915

Women have been transporting mail in the United States since the late 1800s. According to the United States Post Office archive, "the first known appointment of a woman to carry mail was on 3 April 1845, when Postmaster General Cave Johnson appointed Sarah Black to carry the mail between Charlestown Md P.O. & the Rail Road "daily or as often as requisite at $48 per annum". For at least two years Black served as a mail messenger, ferrying the mail between Charlestown's train depot and its post office." [15]

At least two women, Susanna A. Brunner in New York and Minnie Westman in Oregon, were known to be mail carriers in the 1880s. Mary Fields, nicknamed "Stagecoach Mary", was the first black woman to work for the USPS, driving a stagecoach in Montana from 1895 until the early 1900s. [16] When aviation introduced airmail, the first woman mail pilot was Katherine Stinson who dropped mailbags from her plane at the Montana State Fair in September 1913. [17]

The first women city carriers were appointed in World War I and by 2007, about 59,700 women served as city carriers and 36,600 as rural carriers representing 40 per cent of the carrier force. [18]

Famous carriers

Postmen homage in Rosario, Argentina; opus by Erminio Blotta, Palace General Post Office Estatua El Cartero.jpg
Postmen homage in Rosario, Argentina; opus by Erminio Blotta, Palace General Post Office

Famous real-life letter carriers include:

Fictional carriers

Mister McFeely delivering a letter. Mr. McFeely heads to post office.jpg
Mister McFeely delivering a letter.

See also

Related Research Articles

United States Postal Service Independent agency of the United States federal government

The United States Postal Service is an independent agency of the executive branch of the United States federal government responsible for providing postal service in the United States, including its insular areas and associated states. It is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution. The USPS, as of 2021, has 516,636 career employees and 136,531 non-career employees.

Canada Post Corporation, trading as Canada Post, is a Crown corporation which functions as the primary postal operator in Canada. Originally known as Royal Mail Canada, rebranding was done to the "Canada Post" name in the late 1960s, even though it had not yet been separated from the government. On October 16, 1981, the Canada Post Corporation Act came into effect. This abolished the Post Office Department and created the present-day Crown corporation which provides postal service. The act aimed to set a new direction for the postal service by ensuring the postal service's financial security and independence.

Grumman LLV American light transport truck model

The Grumman Long Life Vehicle (LLV) is an American light transport truck model, designed as a mail truck for the United States Postal Service, which is its primary user. It is also used by Canada Post.

Local post Mail service operating within a limited geographical area

A local post is a mail service that operates only within a limited geographical area, typically a city or a single transportation route. Historically, some local posts have been operated by governments, while others, known as private local posts have been for-profit companies. Today, many stamp collectors operate hobbyists' local posts, issuing their own postal "stamps" for other collectors but rarely carrying any mail.

Registered mail

Registered mail is a mail service offered by postal services in many countries, which allows the sender proof of mailing via a mailing receipt and, upon request, electronic verification that an article was delivered or that a delivery attempt was made. Depending on the country, additional services may also be available, such as:

A postal worker is one who works for a post office, such as a mail carrier. In the U.S., postal workers are represented by the National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO, National Postal Mail Handlers Union - NPMHU, the National Association of Rural Letter Carriers and the American Postal Workers Union, part of the AFL-CIO. In Canada, they are represented by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and in the United Kingdom by the Communication Workers Union.

Post office box Rented mailbox at a post office

A post office box is a uniquely addressable lockable box located on the premises of a post office station.

Letter box Mailbox where mailmen or other people deposit letters to specific addresses

A letter box, letterbox, letter plate, letter hole, mail slot or mailbox is a receptacle for receiving incoming mail at a private residence or business. Some letter boxes are also capable of holding outgoing mail for the carrier to pick up. Post boxes are often used for depositing outgoing mail for collection. Letterboxes or mailboxes use the following primary designs:

Rural delivery service refers to services for the delivery of mail to rural areas.

National Association of Letter Carriers

The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) is an American labor union, representing non-rural letter carriers employed by the United States Postal Service. It was founded in 1889. The NALC has 2,500 local branches representing letter carriers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam.

Rural Free Delivery American mail delivery program

Rural Free Delivery (RFD) was a program of the United States Postal Service that began in the late 19th century to deliver mail directly to rural destinations. Previously, individuals living in remote homesteads had to pick up mail themselves at sometimes distant post offices or pay private carriers for delivery. RFD became a political football, with politicians promising it to voters, and benefitting themselves to reach voters.

Rural letter carrier Letter carriers in rural areas

Rural letter carriers are United States Postal Service and Canada Post employees who deliver mail in what are traditionally considered rural and suburban areas of the United States and Canada. Before Rural Free Delivery (RFD), rural Americans and Canadians were required to go to a post office to get their mail.

National Rural Letter Carriers Association

The National Rural Letter Carriers' Association (NRLCA) is an American labor union that represents the Rural letter carriers of the United States Postal Service. The purpose of this Association shall be to "improve the methods used by rural letter carriers, to benefit their conditions of labor with the United States Postal Service (USPS), and to promote a fraternal spirit among its members."

Centralized mail delivery is a unique form of mail delivery system where a letter carrier provides delivery and collection services to a number of residences from a centrally located installation – whether in a single-family subdivision or multi-family structure. Business customers also receive delivery services from a convenient central location. Centralized mail delivery equipment can be in the form of any "clustered" type mailbox – including free-standing, pedestal-mounted cluster box unit (CBU), or other cluster mailboxes mounted in a wall, kiosk, or shelter. The U.S. Postal Service prefers centralized mail delivery in all new construction because it is less expensive. The United States Postal Service aims to continue to review and modify its operations to provide universal service as efficiently and cost effectively as possible. Therefore, there is pressure to establish centralized mail delivery, which is required in some communities.

<i>Letter Carriers Monument</i>

The Letter Carriers' Monument is a piece of public art by American artist Elliot Offner, located on a triangular plot formed by North 2nd Street, North Plankinton Avenue and West Wells Street in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the United States. Created in 1989, the monument depicts three letter carriers and was commissioned in celebration of the centennial of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC).

Mail satchel

A mail satchel is a type of mail bag that a letter carrier uses over-the-shoulder for assisting the delivery of personal mail on a designated route.

Vincent Raymond Sombrotto was a letter carrier at Grand Central Station in New York City, and the 16th president of the National Association of Letter Carriers between 1978 and 2002. He was born in Manhattan in 1923 to an Italian father and an Irish mother. Sombrotto became an official member of the National Association of Letter Carriers in 1947 and played a huge part in the U.S. postal strike of 1970. Sombrotto helped to expand the union into more than 100 cities and involved more than 200,000 new members. He retired in 2002 and finished with over 300,000 members and died in 2013 aged 89 at Port Washington, New York.

Jeanette Dwyer

Jeanette P. Dwyer is the former President of the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association. When she was elected President in 2011, she became the first female President of a labor union in the history of the United States Postal Service. She served as NRLCA President until 2018, when she chose not to run for reelection. She was reappointed to the national board to fill the remainder of Executive Committeeman Johnny Miller's unexpired term on November 21, 2020, and will serve until the end of Miller's term, which will be at the National Convention in August 2021.

Jean Cameron, was a World War II Scottish rural postwoman who, at the age of 19, challenged and thus changed the dress-code for postwomen to permit wearing of trousers. The uniform trousers were known as 'Camerons' in her honour. Films were made on her successful action in 1944 and 2021. She is named in the Royal Mail 500 years archive (2017), and in the Kirriemuir town (2021) community art project, Signs of Change.


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