(October 24, 2014) Canada is getting cluster boxes, and lots of them. This week Canada Post rolled out it plan to replace home delivery at the door to centralized delivery at a cluster box down the block. Nearly 100,000 residences, plus over 3,300 businesses, have been converted so far. Over the next five years, Canada Post hopes to switch a total of 5 million addresses from door delivery to what Canadians euphemistically call “community mailboxes” (CMBs). Here in the U.S., they’re just called Cluster Box Units (CBUs).
Canada Post says it will save between $400 and $500 million a year by switching over to cluster boxes. The savings will come from eliminating 6,000 to 8,000 jobs for the postal workers who walk the streets delivering mail to the door.
But Canada Post has a long way to go. The first wave of conversions represents just 2 percent of the goal of 5 million addresses, and there will be little to no savings during the early stages of the program, due to the cost of installing thousands and thousands of cluster box units at an average of $800 each. (Canada Post outsourced the contract for manufacturing the units to a company in Kansas.)
The plan was first announced last December. As discussed in a STPO piece, “Canada gets cluster-boxed: Why it can’t happen here,” it didn’t seem likely then that the USPS would follow Canada Post’s example anytime soon. It still doesn’t seem likely.
There are just too many obstacles in the way of mass conversions, not the least of which is customer opposition. The Postal Service has a policy of not converting customers without their permission, so there are basically three ways to increase centralized delivery: (1) require cluster boxes in new housing developments (customer permission not required); (2) ask for voluntary cooperation from businesses and residents; and (3) determine that the safety of the letter carrier can be ensured only by replacing door or curb delivery with a cluster box.