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POSTAL WORKER - Requirements, Salary, Outlook, Profile, For More Information

mail carriers route routes

Everyone knows their motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” But does everyone understand what it takes to actually live up to those words? Six days a week, mail is delivered to most people in America by thousands of workers.

Some of the country's mail is delivered by postal carriers who travel on foot. But in other areas, mail routes are not possible to walk. Those carriers drive from house to house and building to building. Some carriers drive mail trucks, but in rural areas, some carriers use their own cars. In addition to the carriers who have their own daily route, the U.S. Postal Service needs drivers to truck the mail from city to city.

There is a high demand for positions within the post office, in large part due to job security and terrific benefits. In 1998, there were 332,000 carriers with all but 5 percent being full-time employees. Those not full-time might be considered casual (ninety-day hires for peak periods such as Christmas). Part-timers are called in as needed. Part-timers regularly fill in for sick or vacationing carriers. If you are accepted into the service, you can expect to start in one of these positions.

There is normally a one- to two-year wait for an opening, which means most people take other jobs while waiting for an opportunity. For example, while waiting, you might want to become a local deliveryperson, learning the local area routes, which will give you experience for when the opportunity presents itself.

Once hired, you will be sent to a regional center for training. Currently, this training takes three days and covers the operation of mail trucks, sorting mail, learning the routes, and the safety techniques you must master. After that, you are assigned to a post office where you will continue your training. As new technologies get introduced, such as the recent bar code scanners for Express Mail, additional training will be provided.

After that, you are assigned a route and given your first stack of mail to finish sorting and then deliver. When you hit the streets, you must remember that you are a representative of the postal service. This means putting on a friendly face despite complaints from people about too much mail, too little mail, the wrong mail, misdelivered mail, late mail, and many other problems. Frequently, motorists will stop you to ask for directions. As a representative of the postal service, you must always be polite, friendly, and helpful.

Most carriers start their day early, in some cases before the sun rises. As a postal carrier, you arrive at the post office and complete the sorting of mail for your route. You then load your pouches and vehicle and head out to begin your rounds. Once away from the building, you are pretty much left on your own to complete the route. This gives many mail carriers a sense of independence. Of course, the work is performed no matter how bad the weather may be. You will have rain gear plus hats and mittens for inclement weather.

Once the route is complete, you return to the post office to drop off your gear. You might file reports of problems, such as something hazardous on the route that may need a town's attention, or a note warning potential replacement carriers of a vicious dog on the route.

For those interested, carriers can advance into management roles within the postal system as opportunity and performance warrants. In the meantime, with seniority comes the ability to select preferable routes or hours.

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