The USPS is removing four types of machines, citing declining mail volume. The most important machine being removed is the Delivery Bar Code Sorter machines (DBCS).
These machines are vital because they do the majority of mail sorting for the entire USPS. They process most of the envelope mail, which includes election ballots heading to voters.
The people who run and maintain — and who were being told to dismantle — these machines tell CNN they can sort roughly 30,000 envelopes an hour.
The reduction in machines appears to have been planned for months, but the internal documents obtained by CNN showed it all started on June 13.
This is what a DBCS machine functioning in the USPS system is supposed to look like. They’re so long that two people are needed to run them.
The long rows of containers are where sorted mail, organized by carrier route and the order in which carriers go house to house, ends up.
But the Postal Service’s own document calls the move a “reduction” of equipment.
A number of postal workers and union officials CNN has spoken with have become alarmed the effect removing these machines could have as many Americans cast their votes by mail in the upcoming 2020 presidential election because of the Covid-19 global pandemic.
But the fear doesn’t subside after the election. For many, they worry whether this will significantly hamper the USPS’ ability to deliver mail on time for months and years to come.
Sorting machines seen outside USPS facilities
Photos obtained by CNN from a USPS mail sorting facility in the Midwest show one of the massive DBCS machines sitting outside.
CNN is not revealing this facility’s location, or the source, because USPS workers are not allowed to take video or photos inside facilities.
The machine takes up so much space that only part of it fits in a dumpster on-site at the USPS facility.
The space seen in the photo below gives an idea of just how much space these machines take up at a facility, and how much empty space is left when they’re removed.
There’s a noticeable mark on the floor where the DBCS machine used to sit, near the remaining containers still in the facility.
One of the first images obtained by CNN, showing a dismantled machine, was taken in Fort Myers, Florida, on July 24.
In the photo, the imaging unit that scans and reads the mail is seen sitting on a forklift, being lifted into a dumpster. American Postal Workers Union Southwest Florida Local President Sam Wood said that the machine is one of five machines the facility has lost during the equipment removal plan.
Outside of a mail sorting facility in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a mail sorting machine has been sitting outside after its dismantling.
Amy Puhalski, president of Western Michigan Area Local, told CNN the machine seen is a flat sequencing sorter and employees had been in the process of dismantling it. This facility, according to Puhalski, had already lost two DBCS machines.
Some machines are still sitting inside USPS facilities
Six DBCS machines normally take up thousands of square feet inside of a USPS facility in Portland, Oregon. The photo below shows what it looks like when six of them are scrapped and removed from operations.
Large portions of the six machines, bound by yellow caution tape, are jumbled together inside the USPS facility.
Although most of the machine is set to be scrapped, according to APWU Portland Local President Joe Cogan, some of the container trays seen here were supposed to be added onto the remaining DBCS machines at the facility.
“The service will not return or restart any machines they have begun to dismantle,” Cogan told CNN, after he spoke with USPS management officials in his district.
Don Cheney with the APWU PSAL 298 tells CNN they had lost five DBCS machines at the USPS Tacoma, Washington, Processing and Distribution Center.
The photos, obtained by CNN from a source at USPS’ Tacoma, Washington, Processing and Delivery Facility, shows one of the DBCS machines being dismantled, which took roughly two weeks.
Thursday, Cheney told CNN that USPS management told him that the machines would be put back into service.
Cheney says two DBCS machines that had been dismantled weren’t able to be reassembled but parts from those machines have been added onto other machines, increasing their processing and sorting capabilities.