Survival Manual

" 'Don't Panic.' It's the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody's said to me all day." --Arthur Dent

Total GreenHorn? Complete n00b? START HERE

Thinking about, or maybe already applied, for a Rural Carrier Associate (RCA) position at the Post Office?  Not sure what you're getting in to?  Lots of questions but answers hard to come by?  Well, you've come to the right place!

Rural Carriers

Rural carriers are the *Rock Stars* of the PO (not really, but we like to pretend anyway)!  They deliver mail and packages to millions of homes and businesses across the country.

The Bad News:

You must hire in as a rural carrier associate (RCA).  This is a part time gig, and can only go full time based off seniority.  Depending on your office, full time can range from a couple of years to a couple of decades.  You are essentially 'on call' but only guaranteed 1 day per week, at best.  Some offices look out for each other, and work together and help each other.  Other offices... not so much.

The Good News:

This site is here to help!  Check out these links and you'll much better informed than the average recruit.  Plus you'll know what to expect when you show up for training and your first day of work:

Fist Stops

Consider these links for your next stops:
1.  FAQ
2.  USPS Training

The BIG Picture

How does an RCA fit into the Big Picture?


What a rural carrier does (job responsibilities)


What a rural carrier associate (RCA) does


Similar jobs in the other crafts (PSE and CCA)


Frequently asked questions by RCAs:

 Do I have to supply a delivery vehicle?

Yes, even if you are in an all LLV office, it is possible you will have to use your own personal vehicle for delivery.

Will the Post Office give me one of those snappy blue uniforms?

Mmmm... No.  City carriers and some clerks get the uniform.  Rural carriers have to provide their own outfits.  

 Where can I acquire a right hand drive (RHD) vehicle?

There are, again, RHD jeep vehicles being produced.  These, however, are prohibitively expensive for new carriers.  And used RHD's tend to either be worn out or, again, extremely expensive.  As a new RCA, consider trying to just make something work, until you figure out if you enjoy the job.  Keep your eyes on classifieds and a reasonable, reliable RHD will likely come along.

 How many hours will I work in a week?

Unfortunately this can vary wildly from office to office and even from week to week.  Some offices, short on staff, will have their RCAs working 7 days a week, even upwards of 60 hours.  Other RCAs might be in a fully staffed office, and not even have ONE day each week.  Best bet:  ask one of the RCAs or regular carriers in your office.

Application Paperwork

All the documents required to obtain an RCA position


Background Check

You will have to pass a background check to work for the Post Office

I *think* a felony disqualifies you???



USPS Training

What to expect from the USPS training regiment.

USPS Training

Shadow Day

What is a shadow day?  What are the expectations?  When do they happen?


Typically your Shadow Day is chance for a first-hand observation of a regular carrier.  This should happen before you go to Academy, but it doesn't always pan out that way.  

USPS Training


How long is academy.  What material is covered.  What "isn't" covered?

USPS Training

Route Training

What to expect from your Reg.  Kick them in the pants if they try to sabotage you!

The 40 Hour Conundrum

Evaluation time vs actual with overtime

The 40 Hour Conundrum

Evaluated Pay

Typically, rural carriers are paid under an "Evaluated" pay system.  Regardless of the actual time spent delivering the route, the carrier is paid the evaluated time.  This can be a great boon:  a carrier working UNDER evaluation is paid more hours than they actually work.  Or it can be a bust:  A carrier working OVER  evaluation is basically donating their time to the Post Office. There are several general exceptions and special exceptions for RCAs.


  General Exceptions:


RCA Exceptions:


It is this last bullet, the 40 hour in a week, that can be a real kick in the teeth.  Let's say, for instance, an RCA carries a 45H route for six days and it takes them 41 hours:

Hours Worked Evaluated Hours Hours Paid
39 45 45
41 45 40 @ regular pay, 1 at OT rate

So, in the 41 hours worked case, the RCA is paid LESS money than the 39 hours case.  Crazy huh?

The 40 Hour Conundrum

Overtime Pay

RCA Health Insurance

RCAs can now get health insurance

The Matrix

What is the matrix?

Why is it important?

How/when can it be updated?

Where are the references in the contract/m-38?


Probation: The First 90 Days of Employment


Decoder ring for some of the alphabet soup ladled up at the Post Office

DPS --> Delivery Point Sequencing.  Letter mail sorted into delivery order
LLV --> Long Life Vehicle.  The iconic postal mail vehicle



Forming Form Formations

A quick recap of important forms RCAs will encounter

2240 --> Daily Trip Log [[link here to more detailed exp/examples]]


Your First Postal Vehicle

It isn't uncommon to see a new RCA hunting a right hand drive (RHD) vehicle.  This is somewhat unfortunate because:

1) RHD vehicles are hard to find!
2) The ones you can find tend to be very expensive, 
3) and used RHD vehicles have typically had a hard life (mail routes are tough on vehicles).


Please see the Guide for Choosing a POV for a full discussion.  But in general either try to make a vehicle you own work.  Or try to find something cheap, reliable, with good ground clearance.  Used minivans are a favorite recommendation.