Accessing FAST and Locale Keys
The United States Postal Service® (USPS®) offers extensive information about postal facilities via the Facility Access and Shipment Tracking system (FAST). Mailers who drop ship mail to additional entry points are likely familiar with this web site, but it is also quite valuable for any mailer. The site allows users to look up very detailed information about virtually any postal processing and/or delivery facility. This can be a very helpful resource for mailers to research anything from office hours, holidays, types of mail processed, phone numbers, directions to the facility, and information regarding mail being directed to alternate facilities.
Each postal facility has its own "profile" on the site, which includes virtually every detail about the postal facility that mailers would need to know. The list below shows the level of detail available in these profiles:
- Physical and operating characteristics of facilities
- Hours of Operation
- Facility Contact Information
- Mail Discounts Information
- Facility Constraints (ex. slots and volume for Standard and Package Services mail)
- Facility Address
- Facility Dock Information
- Additional Information
- Default Facility Information
- Non-Default Facility Information
- Critical Entry Times
The USPS provides a user guide to assist users in navigating through the facility profiles portion of the FAST web site.
If you are submitting electronic documentation (eDoc) to PostalOne!, one of the critical pieces of information required to identify postal facilities are the locale keys. Locale keys are unique identification codes that are assigned by the USPS to each postal processing and delivery facility. This allows for very precise identification of the postal facilities that mailers are using for their origin entry and for any additional entry points at which mail is entered. There are a number of fields in the Mail.dat® file where these locale keys may be populated for communication of this information to the USPS and other entities in the mailing process.
Origin Locale Keys
The PostalOne! and the Mail.dat specifications for population of the Origin Locale Key is one of the areas where the two specifications are not in sync. The Mail.dat specification calls for this field (CSM-1167) to be populated with "ORIGIN" for the origin entry point of the mail. The PostalOne! specification, on the other hand, calls for this field to be populated with "LOC" followed by the six-digit locale key for the origin entry point. Because of this disparity in the specifications, this field is often not populated correctly in Mail.dat files, which can lead to validation errors when uploading to PostalOne!
Confusing, right? Well, it doesn't have to be!
Editing Locale Keys in Mail.dat files
As luck would have it, post-presort software, such as Window Book's DAT-MAIL™, allows users to easily edit these locale key fields in the Mail.dat file. DAT-MAIL also allows for users to manage their Origin Locale Keys in a locale key maintenance tool so that repetitive edits are not required. What this means is that the user can set up origin locale keys one time in this maintenance tool, which will then automatically populate these locale key fields correctly in all the Mail.dat files as they are imported.
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