Neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night will stop a mail carrier, but postal employees say the high price of gas is driving some of their co-workers away.
With gasoline well over $3 a gallon - more in many places - some rural mail carriers say they are having a rough time.
Unlike city letter carriers, rural mail carriers must provide their own transportation. In addition, they must also incur the maintenance expense and fuel costs.
David Piercefield is a rural letter carrier for the Miami Post Office. His nine- to 12-hour days, depending on the mail load, takes him on a 100-mile route every day.
“I use between seven and eight gallons of gas a day,” Piercefield said. “My car gets pretty good gas mileage, but I still spend about $24 a day on gas.”
Currently, the U.S. Postal Service pays approximately 49 cents per mile for maintenance and fuel expenses. However, the reimbursement doesn't always cover the actual cost of delivering the mail every day.
“The gas increase has doubled our costs to deliver the mail,” Piercefield said. “And I only get paid for 74 miles of the driving I do because I'm not paid for driving to and from work or the detours I have to take in the day.”
According to Piercefield, adjustments to the mileage reimbursement are only made every three months, and a lot can happen to the prices in that time period.
“If it stays up, we get an increase in reimbursement,” Piercefield said. “But, if it goes up and down, the reimbursement doesn't change.”
Another problem that arises is the shortage of rural letter carriers, especially when the gas price climbs. Most people don't want topay $500 a month on fuel and maintenance.
“We've been through several,” Piercefield said.