Rural free delivery: Wikis


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A Rural Letter Carrier from Fort Myers, Florida

Rural letter carriers are United States Postal Service employees who deliver mail in what are traditionally considered rural areas of the United States. Before Rural Free Delivery, rural citizens of the US had to go to the post office in the cities to get their mail. This changed with the Rural Free Delivery in 1891.


Work categories

The rural carrier work force is divided into the following categories of employees:


Regular carriers

For administrative and reporting purposes, regular rural carriers who serve on an established rural route on the basis of triweekly, five, five-and-a-half, or six days in a service week, are considered full-time employees. (Designation Code 71)

Part-time flexible rural carriers

Part-time flexible rural carriers (PTFs) are those substitutes or rural carrier associates appointed following an assignment posting. These employees provide service on regular and auxiliary routes as directed by management. (Designation Code 76)

Substitute rural carriers, rural carrier associates & rural carrier reliefs

The following employees provide service on established regular and auxiliary rural routes in the absence of regular or auxiliary rural carriers. This service may be as leave replacement and/or covering vacant regular routes pending the selection of regular rural carriers, as an auxiliary assistant or as an auxiliary route carrier:

  • Substitute rural carriers (Designation Code 72) appointed via Form 50 to serve full time on a vacant regular route or in the absence of a regular carrier for more than 90 calendar days.
  • Substitute rural carriers (Designation Code 73) are those employees hired prior to July 21, 1981, with an appointment without time limitation.
  • Rural carrier associates (RCAs) (Designation Code 74) appointed via Form 50 to serve full time on a vacant route or in the absence of the regular carrier for more than 90 calendar days.
  • Rural carrier reliefs (Designation Code 75) are those employees hired between July 21, 1981 and November 12, 1986, without time limitation.
  • Rural carrier associates (Designation Code 78) are those employees hired from a register or reassigned from rural carrier relief or auxiliary carrier positions, on or after April 11, 1987, without time limitation.
  • Rural Carrier associates (Designation Code 79) appointed via Form 50 after being assigned to the auxiliary route for more than 90 calendar days.

Auxiliary rural carriers

Persons hired prior to 1981 to serve an auxiliary rural route without time limitation. (Designation Code 77)

Temporary relief carriers

Temporary relief carriers (TRCs) are limited term, non-bargaining unit employees who provide service as a leave replacement or auxiliary assistant or provide coverage on auxiliary routes or vacant regular routes. The number of TRCs that may be hired within an area is limited to 15% of the total number of regular routes in that area. (Designation Code 70)


Early Rural Free Delivery vehicle circa Sept. 1905

Much support for the introduction of a nationwide rural mail delivery service came from the The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, the nation's oldest agricultural organization. Formerly, residents of rural areas had to either travel to a distant Post office to pick up their mail, or else pay for delivery by a private carrier. Postmaster General John Wanamaker was ardently in favor of Rural Free Delivery[1] (RFD), as it was originally called, along with many thousands of Americans living in rural communities who longed for the ability to send and receive mail inexpensively. However, the adoption of a nationwide RFD system had many opponents. Some were simply opposed to the cost of the service. Private express carriers thought inexpensive rural mail delivery would eliminate their business, and many town merchants worried the service would reduce farm families' weekly visits to town to obtain goods and merchandise.[2]

The Post Office Department first experimented with the idea of rural mail delivery on October 1, 1891 to determine the viability of RFD. They began with five routes covering ten miles, 33 years after free delivery in cities had begun. The first routes to receive RFD during its experimental phase were in Jefferson County, West Virginia, near Charles Town, Halltown, and Uvilla.

After five years of controversy, RFD finally became an official service in 1896 under President Grover Cleveland. That year, 82 rural routes were put into operation. A massive undertaking, nationwide RFD service took several years to implement, and remains the single costliest extension of services ever instituted by the U.S. postal service (and one of the most popular).[3]

The service has grown steadily. By 1901, the mileage had increased to over 100,000; the cost was $1,750,321 and over 37,000 carriers were employed. In 1910 the mileage was 993,068; cost $36,915,000; carriers 40,997. In 1913 came the introduction of parcel post delivery, which caused another boom in rural deliveries. Parcel post service allowed the distribution of national newspapers and magazines, and was responsible for millions of dollars of sales in mail-order merchandise to customers in rural areas. In 1930 there were 43,278 rural routes serving about 6,875,321 families—that is about 25,471,735 persons. The cost was $106,338,341.[4] In 1916, the Good Roads Bill authorized federal funds for highway construction, which opened up roads in rural America to allow passage of mail.

Today, as in years past, the rural delivery service uses a network of rural routes traveled by carriers to deliver and pick up mail to and from roadside mailboxes. Formerly, an address for mail to a rural delivery address included both the rural route number and the box number, for example "RR 5, Box 10." With the creation of the 911 emergency system, it became necessary to discontinue the old rural route numbers in favor of house numbers and street names as used on city routes. This change enabled emergency services to more quickly locate a rural residence.

Canada Post uses a similar structure for rural mail delivery. A rural route address in Canada may or may not include a box number, depending on the community.

Seal of the NRLCA

Labor union

The National Rural Letter Carriers' Association[5] was formed in 1903 at a cost of fifty cents per year in dues to its members. Since its inception, it's had an effective legislative program in the United States Congress to promote and protect the interests of rural carriers. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed executive order 10988 establishing employee-management cooperation in the federal service. Rural carriers selected the NRLCA as their agent, and they've held exclusive recognition to represent the rural carrier craft within the United States Postal Service ever since. The NRLCA negotiates all Labor Agreements for the rural carrier craft with the USPS, including salaries. Rural letter carriers are considered bargaining unit employees in the United States Postal Service. This means that there is a contract between the Postal Service and the NRLCA. Only NRLCA can represent members of the rural carrier craft in the grievance procedure, including providing protection in disciplinary actions.

To be able to join the NRLCA, one must first be employed by the USPS and work in the rural carrier craft as a rural carrier associate, substitute rural carrier, rural carrier relief, part-time flexible or regular carrier. Though temporary relief carriers are excluded from membership, article 7 of the contract between the NRLCA and USPS provide guidelines for the implementation of TRC's. Upon completion and processing of NRLCA form 1187, an official membership card is mailed, and the benefits of membership begin. NRLCA provides information and fellowship for its members at County, District, State and National meetings where all members may participate in a democratic process of developing Association policy. The NRLCA provides a monthly publication, The National Rural Letter Carrier, to keep its members informed on postal and legislative matters of vital interest.

Dodge Caravan used for rural delivery in Omaha, Nebraska

Vehicle & uniform

Rural carriers wear civilian clothes, not uniforms, while they deliver the mail; however, a minimal dress code is enforced. The dress code requires cleanliness and a manner of dress that reflects a positive image of the Postal Service. Suggestive dress is prohibited. Proper footwear is required (no open toes or heels).

With national attention focusing on heightening security, rural carriers wear and display identification badges. ID badges are issued for security control of access to postal premises and operations and to identify individuals as USPS employees. An ID badge is provided to each rural carrier to be displayed on the outer garment over the left breast during official duty hours. When this is not practical, the badge is worn in plain view on the belt or as prescribed by the installation head.

Rural carriers are responsible for furnishing all vehicle equipment necessary for safe and prompt handling of the mail, unless a USPS-owned/leased vehicle is assigned to the route. (If a USPS-owned/leased vehicle is assigned to the route, relief carriers may be requested, but not required, to furnish a vehicle during emergency situations). The vehicle is required to be large enough to accommodate the normal mail volume and constructed to protect the mail from loss or damage.

For each day servicing a route using a privately owned vehicle, the USPS pays the EMA (Equipment Maintenance Allowance) in accordance with the applicable schedule. In addition, when acts of God prevent a carrier from performing his assigned duties, the postmaster may authorize administrative leave. The carrier receives EMA for each service day he reports to the Post Office, and is scheduled to perform delivery.

Advertisements of any kind and offensive slogans are prohibited from appearing on the vehicle and attire of the rural carrier.[6]


In 1962, the NRLCA and Post Office negotiated their first contract under Executive Order 10988, and within it, the Heavy Duty Agreement, or Evaluated Pay System was instituted. Rural Carriers are paid a salary based on an evaluation of the route they deliver. Credit is given for all a carrier's duties and compensated accordingly. Adjustments to the annual salary may be made periodically as route situations change, such as the addition or deletion of territory or mileage. As an example, for every 12 houses with curbside service the route would be increased one hour per week. Carrier pay is shown on a variety of websites. The average after 12 years of service on a K44 (44 hours a week worked with a "K" day, meaning one day off in addition to Sunday) would be about $55,000 there are 2 COLA adjustments per year and step increases.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that actual hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a week are overtime hours and will be paid at time and a half. When working under 40 hours per week, the relief carrier (PTFs, RCAs, RCRs and TRCs) will be paid by the evaluated daily time of the route. When the relief carrier works over 40 hours per week, the carrier is paid by the actual hours worked times hourly wage and time and a half for hours over 40. All work hours must be authorized. Working "off the clock" is not allowed.

Relief carriers can be required to be trained on up to three routes. A relief carrier may be required to carry a route other than the primary route. The time would then be recorded on the PS Form 4240 for that route. PS Form 1234 Utility Card (commonly called green card) is used to record work hours when the carrier is doing miscellaneous duties or when attending training. Carriers will use more than one utility card if they work in more than one station. All times are compiled by the timekeeper and submitted for pay.

Vonzell Solomon

Perhaps the most famous rural carrier is American Idol finalist, Vonzell Solomon. Prior to auditioning for American Idol, "Baby V" worked as a rural carrier and sang with local bands in Southwest Florida.

Vonzell auditioned for the fourth season of Idol in Orlando, Florida and placed third behind runner-up Bo Bice and winner Carrie Underwood. This was Vonzell's second audition for the show, as she had originally auditioned during the second season, but was cut by the producers. Upon her making the top 12 on February 28, 2005, American Idol producers aired a bio they'd filmed of Vonzell delivering the mail and singing as she drove along from box to box.

See also


  1. ^ "Rural Free Delivery". Retrieved 2008-11-07.  
  2. ^ Clark, Mary, Dane County Historical Society Newsletter, Rural Free Delivery, Spring 2007, Vol. 26, No. 1,
  3. ^ North Carolina Collection, This Month In North Carolina History, October 1896-Rural Free Delivery
  4. ^ Parcel Post: Delivery of Dreams
  5. ^ "National Rural Letter Carriers' Association". Retrieved 2008-11-07.  
  6. ^ "PO-603 Rural Carrier Duties & Responsibilities" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-11-10.  

External links


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