Canada Post investigating rural mailboxes in Harriston area

Is the future of rural mail delivery in jeopardy?

The answer depends on who is talking about it.

At an April 16 council meeting, Minto Deputy-Mayor Judy Dirksen said she had received a letter from Canada Post regarding an investigation of mailboxes in the area.

The letter, Dirksen said, explained that the boxes would be checked for sight lines and overall condition.

“I see it as the beginning of the end of rural mail delivery,” Dirksen said.

She added that she expects residents to be hearing more about the issue, and questioned what will happen if those doing the investigation do not like the condition or location of rural mailboxes.

The following day commu­nications manager Andy Paterson, of the Rural Mail Safety Review, contacted the Wellington Advertiser. He was concerned about the News coverage because of comments made by another media outlet.

Paterson stated “We are currently testing rural mailboxes on Harriston RR1 to 4, approximately 400 rural mailboxes.” He added some speci­fics regarding the issue of rural mail delivery, including:

– 1,600 health and safety com­plaints raised since Jan­uary 2004 by employees;

– Labour Canada has handed down more than 40 rulings on workplace safety cases involving rural mail delivery.

– 1,600 health and safety com­plaints raised since Jan­uary 2004 by employees; and,

– Canada Post is required by federal law to investigate and implement solutions.

The additional information below provided by Andy Paterson, Manager, Communications, Rural Mail Safety Review

How do customers know their rural mailbox is being assessed?

Paterson wrote that Canada Post will contact customers by letter before any assessment is initiated.  Once the assessment has been completed, Canada Post will inform the customer of the findings of the safety assessment.  If a change is required to either the mailbox or the mode of delivery, Canada Post will make every effort to discuss the findings with the customer in person.  If no change is required to either the mailbox or the mode of delivery, the customer will be informed by letter only.

What happens when a rural mailbox is found to pose a risk?

A Canada Post representative will meet the customer to discuss possible solutions. These include moving the mailbox to meet the safety criteria or perhaps using another mode of delivery. Canada Post is committed to maintaining delivery to rural mailboxes. Modifying the mode of delivery is something is considered only as a last resort.

Can I move MY rural mailbox so it meets the safety criteria?

In some cases, rural mailboxes can be moved or clustered in groups to meet established safety criteria. However, mailboxes should only be moved with the guidance of a Canada Post assessor.

What happens if the ground is still frozen and i can’t move my mailbox to make it safer?

Where possible, Canada Post will supply and install a temporary rural mailbox close to a customers’ home. When the ground is no longer frozen and you can move your mailbox to the suggested location, Canada Post will remove the temporary mailbox.

 Will I lose my service if my rural mailbox fails to meet the safety criteria?

No.  Canada Post is committed to maintaining rural delivery service at all times for all customers affected by the assessment.  If your mailbox cannot be moved to meet the safety criteria, service will be provided via one of Canada Post’s proven centralized mail delivery systems, such as a Community Mailbox or a lock box at a local post office (a service provided at no charge).

Will converting customers to centralized delivery save canada post money?

No. Switching customers’ method of delivery is a costly undertaking for Canada Post. The rural mailbox safety assessment initiative is responding to serious questions of safety to which Canada Post is legally obliged to respond.

The changing nature of rural mail delivery

The following is from Canada Post literature:

The nature of many of Canada‘s rural and suburban areas is changing. Population growth and increased traffic are making delivery of mail to many rural mailboxes potentially hazardous for Canada Post mail carriers and other drivers.

Today, there are about 843,000 rural mailboxes which represent about six percent of  Canada Post’s 14 million delivery points. Given the company’s responsibility to provide a safe working  environment, Canada Post has taken steps to increase the visibility of the vehicles driven by its Rural and  Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMC), equipping each with rooftop signs and flashing amber lights. But enhanced  visibility does not address all situations where Canada Post employees, customers and other drivers are at risk.

Canada Post responsibilities and obligations

Canada Post is committed to delivering the highest standards of service possible to all Canadians. However,  as an employer and corporate citizen, Canada Post, like all Canadian companies, is also bound by both the  Criminal Code and the Labour Code to ensure that its operations do not put its employees or members of the  public at undue risk. As a result, Canada Post is obligated to address increasing concerns about the safety of  delivering to rural and suburban mailboxes.

Canada Post engaged the services of an expert panel to develop a tool that would assess the traffic on RSMC  delivery routes.

Developing the criteria

Developing the traffic safety assessment criteria required research and expertise in the areas of traffic safety, road design, driver behaviour and the law. The result of the combined work of the multi-disciplinary team  identified above is a traffic safety assessment tool, or TSAT, that can be applied to individual rural and suburban mail boxes.

The traffic safety assessment criteria are accompanied by documentation that guides an assessor as to the road and traffic parameters which require measurement at a mailbox. The information gathered enables the assessor to make the decision to modify a mailbox or allow it to remain.

The approach adopted was a driver behaviour approach. This approach assesses the driving tasks of a RSMC and their requirements, as well as the driving tasks of other drivers who encounter a stopped or merging mail carrier vehicle in typical traffic and road conditions. The approach determines whether time available for drivers to carry out their driving tasks encompasses the needs of the majority of drivers.

The road conditions considered in the traffic safety assessment tool include two and four-lane roads, with and without shoulder width sufficient for stopping the mail carrier’s vehicle, at the mailbox, whether completely off or partly in the path of another vehicle traveling in the same direction as the mail carrier.

The tool assesses whether there is sufficient “decision sight distance” for other drivers, traveling at typical speeds on the particular road, to respond appropriately to a stopped RSMC vehicle. Drivers need time to perceive the situation ahead, make a decision on how to react to it, and start and complete the action chosen.

The tool also assesses the ability of the mail carrier to merge safely back into traffic. Mail carriers need to see far enough behind so that they can select a reasonable gap between passing vehicles to merge back into traffic.

The assessment also includes the number of vehicles using the road for two- and four-lane roads, when the RSMC vehicle is stopper on or off the road. Research has found that the drivers need to wait for long periods of time due to high volumes to get a gap to merge back into traffic, they tend to accept shorter and less safe gaps.

Traffic volume measurements are taken between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. or as close as possible to actual delivery times an RSMC is usually on the road delivering, which also takes rush hours out of the equation.  In addition, the tool assesses whether the location of the mail box meets the present legal restrictions, such as its distance from an intersection or no stopping zones.

To conclude, the traffic safety assessment tool is applied to an individual rural or suburban mailbox in order to make a legally and scientifically-based decision on whether or not the mail box can remain where it is or needs to be modified. This decision is based a number of factors including:

• an assessment of legal restrictions that apply to the location

• the number of lanes

• the number of vehicles

• the position of the stopped mail carrier’s vehicle

• the presence of double yellow centerline markings

• the sight distances for approaching drivers to the stopped mail carrier’s vehicle

• the sight distances for the mail carrier to merge in traffic

• the waiting time for a safe gap to merge back into traffic