In today’s fast-paced, digital world, it would be easy to overlook the importance of the U.S. Postal Service. However, the service remains an essential part of daily life and the economy, providing a vital service upon which many Americans and businesses rely. 

The path forward at the Postal Service must be centered on two core pillars: delivering mail and packages together and the strength of its final mile network.

The universal service obligation differentiates the Postal Service from all other private carriers by requiring delivery to all Americans at affordable prices. The postal network covers all 41,704 ZIP Codes — from the busiest cities to the most remote towns. The service doesn’t pick and choose its customers. Because of the universal service obligation, the service delivers on its core strengths to bring mail and packages together.

But United Parcel Service (UPS) CEO Carol Tomé has touted the companies’ plans to choose which customers they provide services: “There comes a point where you’ve got to optimize and sweat the assets you have and really think about the economic model differently…if the customer isn’t willing to pay and they elect to leave us, then we wish them all the best.”

Private carriers want to make as few stops as possible and add surcharges, disproportionately hurting rural and remote Americans. Unlike private carriers, the Postal Service doesn’t turn customers away and does not impose a surcharge during this holiday season. When private carriers don’t want to deliver to someone, they turn the package over to the Postal Service for final delivery. Indeed, private carriers use the Postal Service’s final mile to claim, falsely, service to every ZIP Code. The Postal Service is the only delivery service bringing mail and packages together to every address in America.

In 2020, when package volume was booming during the pandemic, the private carriers implemented strict limits on the number of packages from top retailers like Gap, Nike, Macy’s and LL Bean. What happened to the other packages that needed to be delivered? They were left with the Postal Service.

This year, UPS started the “Rural Deferred” plan in which delivery drivers in some regions are limited to 3 dropoffs per week. Postal package delivery is a lifeline for rural Americans living farther away from brick-and-mortar retail options to receive household essentials, prescriptions and anything else they might want.

Likewise, rural-based small business owners rely on the Postal Service to pick up packages and send them to customers. Between private carriers’ remote surcharges and limits on service, the Postal Service is clearly the most affordable, and often only, option for rural Americans.

In 2022, the Postal Service delivered more than 11.7 billion pieces of mail and packages during the holidays. It’s the busiest time of year for all carriers, but the Postal Service delivers more package volume than everyone else. The cornerstone of the entire postal system is the final mile. As the Postal Service continues to chart its way forward, the final mile is the key to its success.