Commonly referred to as "satchels", letter carriers used leather-over-the shoulder type mail bags on their delivery and collection rounds. This form of satchel was most popular in city delivery service and city collection service. It has been used from about the 1860s in the United States and from the late 19th century in other countries worldwide. The city collector's satchels have two handles off the top of the leather bag itself. Formerly made of leather, such satchels were later made in lighter, but less durable, canvas, today a variety of materials may be encountered including hard wearing synthetics.
In August 1971, the United States Postal Service declared that when the existing stock of leather satchels was depleted, they would be replaced with canvas. The cited reason was the high price of "scarce" leather. The new canvas satchels also had a weight advantage, about 2 pounds, compared to the old leather mail bag's 4 pounds. The disadvantage of the new canvas satchels was durability, lasting about eighteen months before they had to be replaced, compared to a six-year lifespan for the old leather satchel.
Beginning in 1978, the new U.S. canvas style satchel mailbag bore an escutcheon on the middle outward facing panel: the U.S. Postal service's left-facing eagle logo starting in 1978. In 1986, the left-facing eagle logo was changed to a right-facing eagle logo. The old style of a left-facing eagle logo was still in use through 1989. In August, 1996, the satchel was again modified: the old style logo of a normal winged eagle was replaced with a futuristic "sonic eagle" logo. Reflective glow in the dark stripes added in December 1996.
In October 1997, a new double satchel was added to the tools used by U.S. letter carriers. Its advantage was that it would more equal weight distribution to prevent shoulder, back and neck strain. Its disadvantage was that it was a hindrance to defense from charging dogs. The preference to many letter carriers is the traditional single satchel where they are free to fend off dogs (e.g. pepper spray usage).
A U.S. "satchel cart" (caddy cart, container cart),[A][B][C] United Kingdom "mail trolley" (postman's cart) or the European / Asian "mail bike" is an accessory tool for letter carriers of cities to assist their normal everyday over-the-shoulder heavy mail satchel. This type of accessory is used to cut down on return trips to the postal vehicle to collect or drop off mail. In Britain, mail trolleys are controversial, and viewed as a threat by some to the viability of bicycles, which use a form of satchel bag.[D] A "mail trolley" is used in the United Kingdom in addition to bikes for the "postmen". [E] It is also an employee safety feature because the cart is carrying the load, which could be up to 70 pounds, where a hand over-the-shoulder mail satchel for letter carriers carries up to 35 pounds of mail.
Postmasters authorize the use of satchel carts on certain the routes that would justify its use. Satchel carts carry two "mail satchels" that each would carry 35 pounds. Postmasters consider the following factors in assigning satchel carts:
The typical "satchel cart" used by United States Postal Service is a four-wheeled cart with its mailbags that has a collapsible handle and front wheel brakes. It was used by the letter carriers in the late twentieth century and into the twenty-first century.
The future for mail carrying in some parts of the world may be represented by the Indian Postal Service's attempt to develop and deploy electric cargo tricycles. It has been suggested as a way to replace bicycles in India with vehicles that will enable carriers to travel farther and carry more at a lower cost. The "Soleckshaw" is "specifically suitable as a light delivery vehicle, for delivery of post, parcels and other postal services both in urban and rural areas".
It has been observed that the general trend in mail deliveries is a decrease in letter volume and an increase in the number and size of packages; bulk and weight increased so mail delivery methods had to be changed as a result. In one intracampus mail system, it was found that the use of Segways decreased emissions. "Increasingly heavier trays were leading to workplace accidents, exhaustion and dissatisfaction." Segway PTs fitted with custom mail bags, a derivative of the over-the-shoulder personal mail satchels, were seen as a cure for the postmen for many of these problems.
Letter carriers in the United Kingdom are instructed to use mail "trolleys" to prevent injuries from heavy shoulder satchels, and to not use bicycles.
Below is a gallery of pictures showing various worldwide mail push carts, mail trolleys, mail bikes, and mail Segways: