Current Issue #478

Drawn to the City:
Charles Vince, the postie

Leo Greenfield

It was a love of motorcycles that drew Charles Vince to the world of postal delivery. As we head into the Christmas season, posties like Vince are giving their trusty bikes their most intense workout of the year.

“Sure, you can call me a postie!” says Charles Vince, who works as a postal delivery officer and team leader at the Verdun Delivery Centre of Australian Post. Vince first began working as a postie in Adelaide in 2003 and has since criss-crossed the city delivering our mail. “I have worked in most metropolitan sites from Port Adelaide to Somerton Park and now the Adelaide Hills,” he says.

It is the busiest time of the year for our posties, who have been preparing for the Christmas rush since October. “While my role doesn’t change much, it does get a lot busier,” says Vince.

“My posties are in the office for longer and then out on the road for longer, so I have to find a balance for them so that they don’t get too fatigued. Nationally, we hire extra staff throughout Australia just in time for Christmas, and I have just hired a new part-time postie who will go on his two-day Honda rider training course soon. If he passes, I will have him under my wing.”

Vince originally hails from Portsmouth in the UK, where he worked as a pilot before a move to Australia set him on a new path. “I came out to Australia in 2000 and lived in Manly, Sydney. I moved here when my partner was relocated to Adelaide with her job,” says Vince.

A chance encounter while living in Sydney sparked an idea for Vince and led to his career shift. “My girlfriend got chatting to the postie at our unit block in Manly and he told her that Australia Post was on the hunt for new employees with a full motorcycle licence,’’ remembers Vince.

“Knowing how much I love motorcycles she told me and I applied. I was interviewed by a board of three people and had to undergo testing, then a month later I was on a Honda Australia rider training course with ten other postie hopefuls and I am still here today.”

In a world of emails, Instagram and e-commerce, what we are sending physically in the post has changed a great deal. Vince has observed these cultural shifts first hand, saying that “it’s changing rapidly. Just a few years ago we would deliver heaps of mail and a few parcels each day. Now it’s lots of small parcels and very little mail.

“Since I started in 2002, the role has developed significantly, mostly due to the massive increase in online shopping and

the reduction in letter volumes. Australia Post has introduced new electric delivery vehicles that carry much more mail, although in the Hills we still use the Honda motorcycle to navigate the terrain. The introduction of digital parcel scanners was a major step away from capturing a signature in a book for tracked items. Only seven years ago my posties were delivering only a handful of tracked items a day, and now it can easily be over a hundred weighing up to two kilograms each.”

A typical day for Vince begins nice and early at 4am, when he arrives at the Verdun Delivery Centre where he is in charge of the posties who deliver in the Stirling to Hahndorf area. “Before they sort their letters, my posties sort parcels and mail that goes out to various Post Offices in an area that stretches from Houghton in the north to Clarendon in the south,’’ says Vince.

“After sorting, my contract drivers arrive to take the sorted mail and parcels out to the various Post Offices. I ensure the mail items go out on time and to the right office. We have a daily safety brief before checking the motorcycles as a group prior to going out on the road. We have eleven Honda motorcycles at our site and I am responsible for their maintenance and servicing.”

His biggest postal round covers 85 kilometres in a day, where it’s vital to keep a close eye on the most important tool of his trade, his Honda motorcycle. Tyre wear and tear is a big issue, so he makes sure they are changed every three weeks.

“Our motorcycle is our office,” says Vince who is an avid motorcyclist, a passion that he often shares with his follow posties. “At our facility,” says Vince, “we are all motorcycle posties as the terrain is steep and often wet. It may seem simple, but it takes some coordination to hold a motorcycle on a steep hill at a letterbox with brakes before backing gently out over driveways covered with running water and slippery leaves.”

Outside of work Vince enjoys two motorcycles, a Moto Guzzi in Australia and a Harley Davidson back in the UK that he rides on his yearly return visits. “I am still in the motorcycle club I joined in 1994 in the New Forest in southern England. Last year we rode to Copenhagen and have plans to take our motorcycles to Iceland for three weeks next year.”

Delivering the mail gives the postie a special role in any community, and Vince’s team is greatly appreciated in the Hills, often receiving Christmas gifts in thanks at the end of the year. It’s great to have a cheery conversation with our customers. You really get to know some of them.”

Vince doesn’t get out to deliver the mail as much as he would like. “I have become more office-based these days and deal with customers and paperwork after my posties have left to deliver on their rounds. Being the hub for the Hills area I take calls from other sites, including Mount Barker, Strathalbyn and Murray Bridge. These can range from coordinating staff to dealing with posties injured during their shifts – which is far too often related to dog bites,” says Vince.

On the occasions that he does get to deliver mail, Vinces says it gives him a great sense of achievement to complete his round, especially if he has made someone’s day by delivering their birthday present. “I have even had teenagers in tears of joy after delivering their exam results and seeing that they have passed their courses.”

There are always surprises too, as Vince says; “Only yesterday we pulled out all of the stops to get some live bees out to a customer yes, bees can travel by post.”

Leo Greenfield

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Leo Greenfield is freelance illustrator. His work can be found at leogreenfield.com.

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