If the U.S. Postal Service has its way, Saturday mail delivery will be a thing of the past.

The Postal Service Board of Governors on March 24 moved forward a proposal to restrict mail delivery to weekdays only when it approved a request to file for an advisory opinion with the Postal Regulatory Commission on March 30.

On March 2, the Postal Service unveiled the five-day delivery proposal, as well as plans to reduce overtime and cut its work force by about 30,000, measures it said would help trim its large budget shortfalls.

Postal Service officials are calling the five-day delivery proposal “a critical element of a larger plan” that is needed to secure its future viability.

The full plan includes elimination of street delivery and blue box collections on Saturdays, but Postal Service Vice President Sam Pulcrano said Express Mail service would continue seven days a week, post offices currently open on Saturdays would remain open, post office box access would continue, and bulk mail and drop shipments would continue to be accepted at facilities that are currently open.

In making his case to the Postal Service Board of Governors, Pulcrano said he estimated annual savings would be $3.1 billion with implementation of the full plan.

The Postal Service said in a press release that its future success hinges on approval of an action plan that includes giving it the flexibility to make changes to the way it does business in the future, including how it funds retiree health benefits, sets prices and changes and/or determines how often mail is delivered to homes and businesses.

Sen. Susan Collins has been a vocal opponent of the five-day delivery proposal and other cuts. Collins is the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has oversight of the U.S. Postal Service.

Asked for a response to the announcement, Collins said, “I continue to believe that the Postal Service needs to focus first on expanding customer services and developing new revenue streams rather than cutting services in order to reduce its red ink.”

When news of the Postal Service’s plans came to light earlier this month, Collins said she was concerned that cutting delivery days could force businesses to seek alternative means of communication.

“Such a migration of customers will only increase the erosion in the Postal Service’s shrinking mail volume, which will prompt greater postage-rate hikes and renew calls for even more truncated delivery services,” Collins said in a statement March 2. “It is a vicious cycle that will only exacerbate the Postal Service’s dire financial problems.”

She also accused the Postal Service of being slow to take advantage of tools provided in a 2006 reform act to improve its financial situation, and said the service must continue to address its work-force-related costs, “which account for about 80 percent of its total costs.”

“As I always have, I will carefully consider this latest request,” said Collins March 24. “But the Postal Service must present a compelling case that cutting services, such as reducing delivery to five days a week, will not further decrease mail volume, drive more customers away, and set off a death spiral for the Postal Service.”

Bolstering the argument for reducing delivery days, Pulcrano said in the March 24 press release that public input supports the proposal.

“Extensive market research has been conducted and Postal Service findings have been consistent with most national polls that have shown that the American people would approve of a five-day delivery schedule if it would ensure a viable Postal Service well into the future,” Pulcrano said.

The Postal Service pointed to national poll data, which showed an increase in support for reduced delivery if the reduction meant stable stamp prices and a more financially stable Postal Service. According to the press release, 58 percent of people surveyed earlier this month in the 18- to 34-year-old age bracket supported five-day delivery and 73 percent among those 55 years and older supported the reduction. Previous poll numbers showed 69 percent of all Americans were agreeable to the change.

In order to move forward with two of the plan’s key proposals, the Postal Service must win action by Congress, including a restructuring of the payment schedule the Postal Service is required to make to prefund retiree health benefits and the elimination of existing statutory language mandating mail delivery six days a week.

Details of the proposal are available online at usps.com/communications/five-daydelivery/.