Rural Carriers generally start as part-time Rural Carrier Associates (RCAs). In most cases they are required to use their personal vehicles to deliver the mail. An Equipment Maintenance Allowance (EMA) of 93.5 cents per mile is added to their wage. As of Apr 3, 2023, the average weekly pay for a Rural Carrier in the United States was $908 a week. They are paid by the route and mail volume as determined by the Rural Route Evaluated Compensation System (RRECS).
RCA’s receive certain benefits including annual and sick leave but not health care. However, after one year of employment, they are able to purchase health insurance.
When there are regular rural carrier vacancies, RCA’s can apply for the position. Regular Rural Carriers receive health benefits, annual and sick leave, and can contribute to the government’s Thrift Savings Plan. Certain regular rural carriers assigned to a route of 35 hours or more (31 paid miles or more) receive a guaranteed annual wage based on the number of hours, or miles, assigned to their route.
Rural carriers can drive as much as 100 miles per day and must drive on the right hand side of the vehicle. Some offices provide postal vehicles for rural carriers, in most cases you are required to use a personal vehicle. Rural Carriers spend several hours in the mail facility preparing their mail and then deliver it on their designated route.
Rural Route Evaluated Compensation System (RRECS)
The RRECS covers all of the rural carrier work activities on their specified rural route. This new system provides the postal service with a way to stipulate the allotted time for carriers to complete assigned work activities. The RRECS system computes the base hours for a rural route’s pay.
Basis For Pay
According to the National Rural Letter Carriers Association’s (NRLCA) Guide for the RRECS System, “For rural routes, USPS uses standard route time to define the base hours used as the basis for carrier pay. The carrier is responsible for performing all required activities on his/her defined route. When these required activities are completed, the carrier’s workday for USPS is finished regardless of the actual time required to complete the work.”
The RRECS Controversy
The postal service intends to implement modifications to the RRECS effective April 22, 2023 due to lower mail volume. Many rural carrier routes and therefore pay will decrease as a result. The NRLCA along with their legal counsel, are exploring their options to assure the data is correct and transparent to the carriers.
The postal service states, “The compensation system for rural letter carriers is a nationally negotiated pay system codified in the parties’ National Agreement. The current modifications to the compensation system were the result of a previous interest arbitration proceeding and mandated by an interest arbitrator. The parties worked jointly for years to implement these new provisions and will continue to share data and information throughout the implementation process.”
If mail volume continues to drop, route pay will change as a result. Many now pay bills online and most companies are moving to online statements. Yet, as more order online, the USPS will deliver many of those packages potentially offsetting some of the general mail volume decreases. The Postal service has the broadest mail and package delivery system in America.
Route changes are inevitable with declining mail volume and the postal service and union are working to ensure fairness is applied across the board. Unfortunately, many RCAs will experience a pay cut as a result.
With reduced mail volume there is less mail sorting required in the mornings at the central facility before leaving to deliver mail. The RCA’s required activities are reduced and they are free to go home when finished, regardless of the route schedule’s allotted time.
I believe the postal service will consolidate rural routes as carriers retire to restore rural carrier’s pay, for those most impacted, to previous levels or higher. You can review most postal service pay tables online.