First the dunny man came and went, then the beloved milko, now it looks like the motorbike-riding postie’s days are numbered.
In a move that is expected to anger the 8000 plus motorbike-riding postie’s Australia- wide, plans are afoot to eventually move the iconic postie into a van.
Thanks to the changes in the way we communicate and the growing demands of internet shopping, more packages but less standard mail items are going through the mail than ever before.
Australia Post spokesperson Sarah Gordon said the digital age has seen Australian’s traditional mail delivery drop by 18 per cent since 2008 with “letter volumes falling around 5 per cent a year, while parcel volumes are growing by around 8 to 10 per cent a year driven by online shopping”.
Speculating on how online shopping might impact their changing business Australia Post CEO Ahmed Fahour told a Queensland newspaper last week he was committed to keeping the posties’ jobs alive but could see “in the fullness of time” a slow move away from small Honda motorbikes towards bigger vans with a focus on delivering parcels and other goods.
World communication has changed forever. Tech website Royal Pingdom reports that in 2010, some 107 trillion emails were sent, a quarter of the world is now on email and there are 1.97 billion internet users worldwide. So it’s hardly surprising that an old fashioned letter seems almost completely redundant.
Efforts are now being made by Australia Post and the posties union, the Communications Workers Union (which the union says has a 70 per cent membership rate among postal workers) to cope with these changes by trialling delivery of bigger packages on the bikes themselves (up to 2kg) and using different types of trailers behind the bikes.
“Mail deliveries were flat for a decade before dropping off over the past four years but the communications market has taken off in that time,” Mr Fahour said. “Where we are seeing the biggest shift to our business is in the area of parcels due to the explosion in online shopping and posties are now delivering more parcels than ever before. So our focus is to find ways that we can make it easy for our posties to continue to deliver letters and parcels, whilst ensuring Australians continue to send and receive parcels at a time and a place that suits them,” Mr Fahour said.
Wentworth Falls postie Nathan Taylor is one man that would be affected by the changes.
Mr Taylor, 46, prefers not to talk to the media but shopkeepers around his delivery area of 800 homes said he loves his bike and they couldn’t imagine him taking to a van. He has been delivering mail and small packages for 15 years.
The operations manager at Australia Post’s Nepean headquarters, Jamie Pepper, said there were no active plans to move posties from bikes.
Communications Workers Union spokesperson Joan Doyle said “management is trialing the delivery of parcels by posties. Initially, packets of up to 1kg are streamed to delivery. Management would like to increase this to small parcels of up to 2kgs by changing the mode of delivery. They are looking to attach buggies to the new electric bikes, and trailers to a larger (125cc) motor-bike.”
Ms Doyle said the new digital mail boxes mooted to be released in the next two months would lead to a further decline in mail delivery.
“Places like Denmark have had it for nine years and 80 per cent of their physical mail has gone.”
The digital mail boxes create a secure link via the internet so people can allow approved companies to send them correspondence such as bank statements, telephone bills or council rates notices. You can then be reminded when to pay bills, pay them online and then file them electronically. You can also scan other documents for filing into your MailBox. This can be done from your computer or smart phone, she said.
“Australia Post has changed a lot in the 200 years it has been going and we’ve adapted to the change. Our main goal is to keep a postie in a good full-time job, so they can support a family and have a long career.
“We’ve managed to do that,” Ms Doyle said.
She said posties adapt well to change and on average (and depending on terrain) deliver to 1200 letters boxes a day — with up to 50 small parcels in a day.
“Posties are used to changing. I worked with someone whose auntie delivered mail on a horse. The posties are working very hard. We just like delivering the mail.”
Australia Post has been delivering mail since 1809 and is the oldest continually operating organisation in Australia.