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Making Hazmat Shipping Safer

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Executive Vice President, Chief Commerce and Business Solutions Officer

Executive Vice President, Chief Commerce and Business Solutions Officer

Making Hazmat Shipping Safer

New tools, procedures and products are solving a very real problem

The mispackaging or mislabeling of hazardous material — or hazmat — is a constant and growing concern for the Postal Service.

Hazmat places our employees at risk, compromises the sanctity and reliability of our network, and, in extreme cases, can affect our bottom line if we shut down our processing and sorting operations to clean up or repair damages.

But thanks to a collaborative effort that pulled in resources from every part of our organization, we are now better able to identify, process and, if needed, redirect hazmat to make our network safer and more secure for our customers, our employees and the public.

When most of us think of hazmat, our minds turn to obvious things such as ammunition, mercury, gasoline and the like, and yes, these prohibited items are a perpetual problem. But would you guess that our overriding hazmat concern during the past few years is a product you probably have in your hand, pocket or bag right now? That’s right — it’s those lithium batteries that power our cell phones, our laptops and all manner of consumer goods.

Lithium batteries are everywhere, and they are powering a technological change that has transformed how we communicate, travel and even play. But if these batteries are old, damaged or improperly stored, they can quickly turn into a fire hazard that, depending on the type of battery, can be difficult to extinguish.

The problem is very real for us here at USPS.

Postal Inspection Service data and reports from our air carrier partners during the past few years have shown a consistent and alarming rise in incidents involving lithium batteries and other hazmat — including flammable liquids and safety matches — in packages marked for air transportation. The ramifications of this trend are terrifying; all it takes is one item to ignite to take down an aircraft.

This simply could not continue. As the Postal Service’s Chief Logistics Officer and Executive Vice President Kelly Abney and I detail in our recent “Mailin’ It! podcast episode, the entire USPS organization came together to adapt technologies, train our employees, educate our customers and overhaul our practices to identify, track and prevent prohibited hazmat from entering our air network. I am proud of the bold solutions produced by my team and colleagues from across USPS and how they addressed such a nuanced problem.

We could have stopped there, but the changes we are making under our Delivering for America® (DFA) transformation gave us the opportunity to go even further and present our customers with a viable alternative to airfreight, one that is reliable, affordable, quick and — crucially — safe for hazmat eligible for shipping in the USPS network. That product is USPS Ground Advantage™.

I’ve gone into the many benefits of USPS Ground Advantage in my previous Postal Post blog article, Giving Our Customers the Ground Advantage, but drilling down on the hazmat angle, it truly is a solution that meets all our needs. It’s an excellent product for our customers and addresses our air carrier partners’ hazmat concerns. USPS Ground Advantage allows us to move hazardous materials through our network safely and securely with no disruption to the millions of mail pieces and packages we handle every day. It’s a win-win for everyone and was only possible because of the tremendous efforts we are undertaking with DFA.

So, whether you’re a residential customer trading in a cell phone or a retailer shipping your next sale, I urge you to visit our new, simple, easy-to-use online guide and consider the many benefits of USPS Ground Advantage to help you make the right mailing decision. Or visit your local Post Office, where one of our helpful employees will be happy to walk you through the process.


Jacqueline Krage Strako

Executive Vice President, Chief Commerce and Business Solutions Officer