[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 51 (Friday, March 14, 2008)]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-5094]
39 CFR Part 111
Letter-Size Booklets and Folded Self-Mailers
AGENCY: Postal Service.
ACTION: Advance notice of proposed rulemaking.
SUMMARY: The Postal Service is developing new mailing standards for
folded self-mailers, booklets, and folded booklets mailed at automation
and machinable letter prices. This notice provides advance information
about the mail preparation changes to help mailers plan for future
DATES: We must receive your comments on or before April 14, 2008.
ADDRESSES: Mail or deliver written comments to the Manager, Mailing
Standards, U.S. Postal Service, 475 L'Enfant Plaza, SW., Room 3436,
Washington, DC 20260-3436. You may inspect and photocopy all written
comments at USPS Headquarters Library, 475 L'Enfant Plaza, SW., 11th
Floor N, Washington, DC between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Barry Walsh, 202-268-7595, or Bill
Due to the price increases associated with mailing flat-size
catalogs last year, letter-size catalogs have become more popular.
These types of letter-size booklets and folded self-mailers are often
called ``slim jims.'' Unfortunately, many slim jims will jam letter
automation equipment or become significantly damaged during processing.
To avoid these problems, slim jims often are run on flat-sorting
equipment, where they process without significant problems, but at
significantly greater cost. To rectify this situation, the Postal
Service is developing new automation mail preparation standards for
letter-size booklets and folded self-mailers that more accurately
characterize which pieces can be run on our primary letter-sorting
In addition, we have observed an increase in untabbed booklets that
are entered at machinable (nonautomation) prices. Many of these
booklets cannot run on our primary letter-sorting equipment, even if
tabbed. Our new mail preparation standards will better align the
machinable and automation requirements and outline new tabbing
requirements for efficient letter mail processing.
Letters processed on our primary letter-sorting equipment travel
around turns and through gates at the rate of 10 letters per second. In
this environment, the physical behavior of booklets and folded self-
mailers differs significantly from enveloped pieces due to a number of
physical characteristics. We consulted widely with mailers, printers,
manufacturers, and USPS field processing operations to determine the
physical characteristics that were most likely to be both important in
processing and compatible with industry practices. The characteristics
chosen for testing were: Size, thickness, cover stock, tab style, tab
strength, tab location, and binding (either stapled on a single fold;
stapled and folded twice; or folded twice and unstapled--a folded self-
The USPS Engineering department designed testing in two phases,
with the first phase intended to determine the characteristics of a
mailpiece that are most important for efficient processing. In this
first phase, test pieces were intermixed with enveloped letters to
replicate normal postal processing. Damaged pieces were removed between
runs, and we compiled statistics on jams and damage. A second phase
will determine and verify the specific limits on each characteristic
for automation-compatible booklets and folded self-mailers. In this
notice, we report the results of the first phase to provide mailers
with the earliest possible test results and opportunity to comment.
The first phase of testing revealed that the most important
characteristics by far are thickness and tab integrity, and that each
of these characteristics is independently important. The next most
significant characteristic is the cover stock.
We tested two mailpiece thicknesses: \1/16\ inch and \1/8\ inch. As
long as the tabs remained in place and did not break, the \1/16\-inch-
thick pieces ran with jam and damage rates somewhat higher than the
rates anticipated for similar enveloped letters. The \1/8\-inch-thick
pieces sustained unacceptable rates of jams and damage throughout the
range of all characteristics tested.
We tested 1-inch paper tabs, both perforated and nonperforated,
with three paper strengths--28/30, 42/45, and 56/60 (inline/cross
directions). The perforated tabs were 2.5/2.5/3.9 (2.5 mm perforation/
alternating with 2.5 mm of uncut material/with a perforation starting
3.9 mm from each edge). We also tested 1-inch plastic tabs with two
levels of perforation--2/1/1 and 2.5/3/3. The weaker variety (2/1/1) of
plastic tab broke readily in processing, yielding unacceptable levels
of jams and damage.
All of the other tabs that we tested performed reasonably well when fed
with tabs on the top, or on the left and the right edges of the
mailpiece. When fed with tabs on the bottom, performance was
We tested 20- and 28-pound bond cover stock. The heavier cover
stock performed better.
Other Characteristics Tested
Variations of size (5 x 8\3/8\ and
6 x 10\7/8\), tab location (top and ends as
specified in the Domestic Mail Manual, section 201.3.0), and binding
did not have a significant effect on the test results for the \1/16\-
Additional Mailpiece Characteristics
Other characteristics are known to be important. These
characteristics include surface friction, static attraction, and tear
strength on the cover; tab adhesives; tab application; and
compatibility with current letter trays (slim jims are more sensitive
to damage than regular enveloped letters). We will provide new
standards for these characteristics in a future proposed rule.
Once we complete the new standards for booklets and folded self-
mailers, we plan to extend those standards to all machinable letters.
Booklets are mailable at automation prices when barcoded and tabbed or
sealed. However, booklets with the spine on the bottom edge but without
tabs are currently allowed as machinable letters when they are not
barcoded. In the future, we plan to allow nonbarcoded booklets and
folded self-mailers to be mailed as machinable letters only if they
meet all of the mail preparation requirements for automation letters.
This change will ensure efficient mail processing for all letter-size
booklets and folded self-mailers.
Comments and Suggestions
We encourage mailers to send their comments and suggestions on the
information provided in this notice. We are especially asking mailers
to suggest any new or alternative booklet construction techniques that
will improve machine performance on \1/8\-inch and \1/16\-inch
booklets. Suggestions on tab adhesive are also appreciated.
We will continue to consult with the mailing industry to develop
and test the mailing standards. For example, we intend to investigate
to what extent pieces between \1/16\-inch and \1/8\-inch-thick will
process acceptably, whether there is a (not-yet-tested) variety of
closure or configuration that will make \1/8\-inch-thick pieces
acceptable, and the impact of lightweight pages or having the spine on
the short edge (i.e., the leading edge).
In addition, since it may be difficult for mailers to identify tabs
with appropriate materials, size, perforations, and adhesives, we will
investigate a means to certify and mark acceptable tabs. Perforation
makes it difficult to inspect tab strength. Perforated plastic tabs are
especially problematic, as they raise additional issues with adhesive
bonding and leakage. We would appreciate comments on the impact of
prohibiting perforated tabs until certification procedures are
Once our testing is completed and the results are validated, we
will publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register, with a request
for comments on the revised mailing standards. The revised standards
will not change the preparation criteria for enveloped letters. Fully
enveloped pieces up to \1/4\-inch thick that meet automation standards
will continue to be accepted at automation prices.
Authority: 5 U.S.C. 552(a); 39 U.S.C. 101, 401, 403, 404, 414,
416, 3001-3011, 3201-3219, 3403-3406, 3626, 3632, 3633, 5001.
Neva R. Watson,
[FR Doc. E8-5094 Filed 3-13-08; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7710-12-P