Rural letter carrier

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A rural letter carrier from Fort Myers, Florida

Rural letter carriers are United States Postal Service and Canada Post employees who deliver mail in what are traditionally considered rural areas of the United States and Canada. Before Rural Free Delivery, rural citizens of the US and Canada had to go to the post office in the cities to get their mail. Rural Free Delivery was introduced nationwide in 1897,[1] with the first small-scale experiments in limited communities having been approved in 1890.[2]

Types of carriers[edit]

The rural carrier work force is divided into the following categories of employees:[3]

Regular carriers[edit]

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[edit]

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)

Substitutes, associates and reliefs[edit]

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[edit]

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

Temporary relief carriers[edit]

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)

Labor union[edit]

The National Rural Letter Carriers' Association[4] was formed in 1903 at a cost of fifty cents per year in dues to its members. Since its inception, it has 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 have 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. Temporary relief carriers, under guidelines covered by article 7 of the NRLCA/USPS contract, are excluded from membership. 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.


Rural carriers wear civilian clothes, not uniforms, while they deliver the mail. A minimal dress code is enforced, requiring 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 during official duty hours.


Dodge Caravan used for rural delivery in Omaha, Nebraska.

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.[5]

For each day servicing a route using a privately owned vehicle, the USPS pays an "Equipment Maintenance Allowance" (EMA) in accordance with the applicable schedule. 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 Canada, Canada Post has designated that rural mail routes with more than 330 rural mailboxes (RMB's) are designated right hand drive (RHD) routes. RHD vehicles used by Canada Post employees can be purchased with the help of a vehicle allowance from Canada Post or provided by Canada Post directly. Vehicle maintenance allowances are similar to those offered in the United States.[7]


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 compensated for 24 minutes per week (4 minutes per day) along with associated time values for mail that is delivered or picked up, and mileage driven. The yearly salary range for most regular Rural Carriers on will vary between $40,000 and $65,000 depending on the route evaluation and longevity. Rural carriers cannot earn overtime pay except for short period during the Christmas season.

There are Cost of living adjustments and salary increases that are negotiated in each four year contract. There are 15 step increases in a Rural Carrier pay scale. It takes about 12 years for a Rural Carrier to max out at the top of the pay scale.[8]

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.


External links[edit]