[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 51 (Friday, March 14, 2008)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 13812-13813]
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 
Chatfield, 202-268-7278.



    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.

Mailpiece Testing

    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.

Preliminary Data

    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.

[[Page 13813]]

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 

Cover Stock

    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\-
inch-thick mailpieces.

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.

Machinable Letters

    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 

Next Steps

    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,
Attorney, Legislative.
[FR Doc. E8-5094 Filed 3-13-08; 8:45 am]