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Page last updated at 08:06 GMT, Thursday, 11 December 2008
Postie's problems

Postmen struggle in heavy snow in Castleside, County Durham
Postmen struggle in the snow in County Durham
The Communication Workers' Union claims postmen and women are being bullied into walking faster.

The union says delivery staff are being told to walk at a set speed of 4mph in order to deliver more mail. Royal Mail denies the claim.

But what is an average walking speed - and what is a reasonable speed to expect?

An appeal on the Today programme has had an extraordinary response from listeners, with e-mails flooding in. Here are some of your comments below.


At the age of 53 I tried being a postman for a period of 6 months. I was too slow and finishing late was common for me. The notion of walking 3 - 4 miles seemed straight forward. It becomes much more difficult when you are carrying heavy bags 7 + on each walk. When you are not sure of the walk and you are constantly looking down to read the address / number.

It becomes worse when the weather is poor. Rain obscures glasses which I needed all the time and ice causes you to loose your footing. Your balance is obviously less secure when you are carrying a heavy load.I fell over three times. I considered myself reasonably fit -it all came as a bit of a shock It is not a stroll and is definitly hard graft. Postman have my respect.
Keith , Barnet

It's not just walking!
You're opening gates, running up steps/in and out of drives, carrying a heavy bag - pushing open those stiff nasty finger pinching/dog eating hairy letter boxes - try doing it for a day! and why can't you give the weather forecast due time, in the same order as the shipping forecast, the weather really matters to some who need to dress accordingly ...........
marianne o'brien, hindhead

I am a sports coach now, having retired some 20 years ago from the Army. The British Army standard quick march is 120 paces a minute. The pace is 30 inches and this gives a normal Quick March of 3.4 mph. The Light Infantry pace is 140 paces a minute, which is very fast and requires special training to maintain, gives 3.97mph, or just under the 4mph required of a Postie. I would suggest thier bosses come out and demonstrate how they envisage the "Standard" postman or woman (standard Army pace of 27 inches, or 10% smaller) should achieve their targets!
David Kirby, Evesham, Worcs

Postman delivering
When my children were small the Postladies visit was the highlight of their day - always a friendly word if not a rubber band or polo mint
Ann, Lincolnshire
Postmen: Have they checked whether the management know the difference between miles and Km?
Elizabeth Mitchell, Camridge UK

I have been an Orienteer for 25yrs and see this as the sport closest to what is expected of a postman. The sport involves running and trying to read a map at the same time. What is not clear from your report is what is being measured. If a postman is expected to cover a 4.5mile linear distance and search through his bag, read off illegible letters and wait for answers at the door and cover 13.5 miles in his shift, it is unreasonable. Even if it is purely the distance walked including walking up stairs and along garden paths it is still unreasonable.
Ian M Whisson, London

Is 4mph the overall average speed or the speed when walking (i.e. between doors/deliveries?) I live in rural area on the side of a steep hill where the PMan uses a van. Our current PM delivers to approx 30 houses in a loop carrying a bag and returns to his van, moving on to the next group. A previous PM delivered to 4 houses running from his van with a handful of letters then moving a few yards down the road. He was doing 4mph when running, but who is more efficient with his time??? And whose van was suffereing the most wear and tear?
D Rayner, Ambergate Derbyshire

The problem for postmen is, predictably, gates and letter boxes. 4mph is entirely feasible for an hour or so for a reasonably fit person but not if he/she has to keep stopping to open gates and letterboxes. An average speed of 2.1 mph would be more reasonable in these circumstances. So is this a case of overzealous office staff misinterpreting a 4 mph requirement? And how long before gates are banned in the interests of efficiency??
margaret Greenwood, Didmarton Glos

I've never been a postie but, as a paper boy many years ago, getting around the route was easy, opening poorly fitted gates, battling dogs, fitting the paper through apalling post boxes (that are invariably too thin!) was the main thing that slowed me down
Spencer, Wales

It is perfectly possible for a healthy adult to walk at 4 mph when walking on on a flat straightforward surface e.g. a pavement. This speed will be reduced on rough or irregular terrain. My guess is that Royal Mail are measuring the route in a linear fashion, and not allowing for the large proportion of time required to walk up to individual homes and front doors to actually deliver the letters. I often deliver leaflets for local community groups, and I am a fit adult ( I row or run 4 times a week), but I reckon it takes me about half an hour to deliver to every terraced house in half a mile of nearby roads. And that is without needing to sort the mail.
Dr Penelope Jarrett, London

Re speed of delivering post: I don't know exactly what speed they are expected walk at but I have heard from the postmen who collect our business post that, after recent changes, dlevery postmen are expected to cover larger rounds in the same time and, particularly older postmen, are unable to go at the necessary speed, and are worried for their jobs.

Those collecting also have to wait for vehicles from the delivery rounds to return before they can go out. One wonders what effect this has on the driving of these vans.
Linda, Cambridge

Postman walking speed. The calculation depends on the number of deliveries per mile walked. The greater the number of deliveries, the more interuptions so the walking speed between deliveries has to increase. There would have to be a customized speed target per round to make this fair. Stop the world - I want to get off!
martin hime, Clevedon North Somerset

As the parent of a son and daughter-in-law both in the postal service may I make the following comment. These people are not taking a stroll or brisk walk along some coastal path. They are carrying extremely heavy baggage and in areas predominant in Wales most walks can be up very steep hills and row after row of houses with 10/20 steps to each front door. Come and try it.
Jeff Williams, Swansea West Glamorgan

the recent frosty weather have made our pavements at any speed what about the social aspects of postman's job? When my children were small the postladies visit was the highlight of their day always a friendly word if not a rubber band or polo mint. She knew all the old people on her round at had a kind caring attititude to them is all human interaction to be taken out of the system - perhaps the recent cases of child abuse could have been prevented if a postman milkman or other adults were regular visitors!
ann daff, lincolnshire

Postman's walking speed rule: 3 miles per hour plus half an hour per thousand feet of ascent plus one minute for each five road crossings half an hour per thousand letters delivered plus one minute per irritating phone call
Vilnis Vesma, Newent UK

The Ramblers -Get Walking, Keep Walking campaign. I am a volunteer for the above campaign and help develop routes to get people walking - mainly in urban areas. Suggested speed for a regualr urban walk would be 2 - 2.5 miles an hour. Hope this helps confuse the discussion!!!!
Lesley Cousins, London

Walking Speeds. As an ex work study engineer, we used 3 mph as normal. The effort involved in this was used as the basis for calculating the work rate for a wide range of activities. When an incentive scheme was installed the related effort of 4 mph resulted in a bonus payment of 33% of the basic rate.
maurice wells, Greenford Middx

Even if they can manage 4 mph, isn't there the small matter of delivering mail? I've never been a postie but, as a paper boy many years ago, getting around the route was easy, opening poorly fitted gates, battling dogs, fitting the paper through apalling post boxes (that are invariably too thin!) was the main thing that slowed me down. I imagine most of the managers couldn't simply walk the route at 4mph WITHOUT delivering let alone going up and down all the paths etc. What a bunch of plonkers the management there are!!!!!
Spencer Stark, Mold, Wales




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