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Tue May 7 2019 00:15:07

Who Is to Blame for USPS Delivery Delays?

By: Ina Steiner

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If it seems like some people have chronic mail delivery problems while others do not, a new report explains why that may be the case. The US Postal Service Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit of 16 postal delivery units in the Richmond District where customers complained their mail was not delivered, was tampered with, was damaged, or was mis-delivered.

Not surprising, given the complaints, the OIG found poor performance in its audit of the 16 units, which it conducted from August 2018 through April 2019. In the report, the US Postal Service Inspector General attributed some of the problem to the changing mail mix that sees carriers with more packages and fewer letters to more addresses. But that doesn't explain why some units had poor performance compared to other units.

The most glaring problem could be due to the following finding from the report: "None of the 16 units achieved their goal of distributing mail to carrier routes after arrival from the processing center by 8:30 a.m., known as the Distribution-Up-Time (DUT), during September 2018." 

Specifically: "Our analysis identified that the DUT late scan times ranged from 30 minutes up to two hours."

Why was that the case? The OIG continued, "During our observations, we noted that all 16 units received mail from the processing center late, incorrectly prepared, and required additional preparation time by the delivery unit staff."

That might explain another of the OIG's findings: "More than 18 percent of city carriers returned to their units after 7 p.m. and as late as 10 p.m. in fiscal year 2018, well short of the Postal Service's goal of 95 percent of city letter carriers returning from street operations before 5 p.m., and 100 percent by 6:00 p.m."

One of the OIG's three recommendations to the district: "We recommend the Manager, Richmond District, direct supervisors to communicate expectations to carriers and utilize operational and reporting tools to monitor delivery operations."

There are indications in the report that these units are not running a tight ship, but there's not enough information to judge carriers' performance (as opposed to supervisors, for example). The OIG offered no advice on what to do about what seemed to be a primary culprit leading to the late-delivery problems: receiving mail from the processing center late and incorrectly prepared. It would be fascinating to know if the other 58 units in the Richmond District also had problems stemming from the processing centers and, if so, how they dealt with it.

Given the fact that the 16 units under audit had reports of chronic delivery problems, it isn't surprising that the report also found customer complaints were not resolved in a timely fashion (how could they keep up with all the complaints?). The OIG recommended that the Manager of the Richmond District direct supervisors "to follow customer service policies and procedures to maintain a customer complaint log and resolve customer complaints timely and with customer satisfaction."

The OIG highlighted the report and its findings on its blog, and you can review the full report on the USPSOIG.gov website (PDF file), which includes the response from management in Appendix C.

The report gives a taste of some of the delivery problems at some post offices, but it leaves us hungry for more details about the causes - and how other locations handle those challenges more effectively.



Comments (21) | Permalink

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This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Tue May 7 06:27:01 2019

Sounds like the OIG is as stupid as the people "running" my old department.  Don't think about solving the root problem, just make more noise about monitoring and tell people to do more with less.  Because magic!  And be sure to keep collecting those fat management salaries for delivering absolutely no value, that's a real big help.

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by: sasikat9 This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 7 07:33:26 2019

Well guess what? Those employees represent the USPS. If they aren't doing their job then fire them but don't blame anyone or anything for the USPS stupid decisions,

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by: ebizguy This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 7 12:27:04 2019

The blame is on management. They are the ones who are supposed to have adequate numbers of carriers in the office to get the job done in a reasonable time. Getting the mail delivered daily is a big job. Most routes have more mail every day than most people could imagine and anywhere from 600 - 1000 addresses. If the office doesn't have enough "soldiers" to deliver it in 8 hrs, carriers will be required to carry mandatory overtime. Simply put, the majority of us carriers don't want to be out past dark. It's not safe because letter carriers have been robbed, assaulted, and even murdered.

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by: Whatever This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 7 14:49:08 2019

Not sure what your post office is like but mine is understaffed pitifully.  At the counter there are still too many overpaid clerks who refuse to retire. Not sure how to resolve it but the point is they are no more than clerks at a cash register at walmart. They just think their better than those other guys. Many came in at a time when much was promised to them. Their like the DMV people - as for the guys on the street? I think they deserve to be paid well - here they work in the cold and in blistering heat. Sometimes in dangerous conditions as well. Their the real soldiers of the post office. Take into consideration that now many a person is too lazy to go to the post office so that added burden has been reaped on the carriers as well often time with no reduction of their route to compensate for the added task at hand.

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by: mcposty This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 7 16:12:25 2019

Wait, is a post person saying we are too lazy to go to the post office to try and help you? Resident's do not have the job of going to the post office, sorry bub.

With ever increasing fees, we demand better and faster service, with more precision and less claims.

Either do your job or move careers.

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by: Scotty This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 7 17:47:30 2019

Firstly, you cannot fire a USPS employee....to be exact, it is almost impossible.  Example:  when I lived in Chicago, there was a 3 weeks stretch of ZERO mail other than 1 page adverts....it is the only time I actually called the USPS to complain.  Turns out, they were very interested in my complaint as many others on this route had complained as well.  3 weeks later, when watching the evening news, sure enough....Postal carrier arrested for storing mail in his garage and vehicle.  The following Sunday, yes Sunday, my doorbell rang and when I answered, it was a contingent of USPS local and regional management personally hand delivering the backlog of mail from this carrier.
1 year later, the carrier was sentenced to 2 years in prison.  Now here is the real part of this story....when he got out....HE GOT HIS FORMER JOB BACK...!!!  True story....look it up in the Chicago news archives....approx circa 1992-1993.
Fast forward to my former New Jersey USPS....when ebay initiated the scanning rules....my local USPS was dropping the ball.  I met with the Postmaster and Asst. Postmaster at this PO....about 10 minutes into the convo, the Asst. PM screamed at me: ''Who cares....what do you need this for anyway''....then threatened to call the police and stormed off.  Voorhees, NJ USPS....Korean guy was the Asst. PO....what a useless dude.  Good luck fixing the USPS.

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by: ebizguy This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 7 22:58:46 2019

@ mcposty - Again, it's management's fault. Upper management has closed many processing centers and delayed the mail by going from overnight delivery of 1st class mail locally and regionally to 2nd and even 3rd day delivery believing they were going to save billions when all they saved was only 20 percent of what they projected. For us craft employees, it's a federal crime to delay the mail. But, when USPS management delays the mail, they get rewarded with bonuses.

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by: ebizguy This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 7 23:18:11 2019

@ Scotty - Scotty, you need to get out of the past. 1992 was 27 years ago. The USPS does fire employees for theft. I'm a letter carrier at a small post office in the midwest. I've seen employees fired over the years in my office. A clerk was stealing gift cards, a letter carrier was stealing gas on fuel days, they're not here anymore. Most of the people you encountered back then have moved on. We are required to scan all packages with a bar code on them. If we don't the computer system tells the supervisor and we have to explain what happened. You are correct about the scanning problem years ago. USPS scanning was a mess as compared to UPS and FedEx, but today we have just as good tracking as they do. I know because I sell online myself. First-Class packages and flat-rate Priority Mail service can't be beat for items that don't weigh much or heavy items that fit the flat-rate shipping boxes up to 70 lbs.

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This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Tue May 7 23:50:15 2019

Jeez....I dunno.....
Who's buried in Grant's tomb ?

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by: Scotty This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 8 13:18:37 2019

@ebiz guy...point taken....yes it was a while ago, but true none-the-less.
Regarding scanning, everything was fine with the Voorhees, NJ PO until the longtime Postmaster retired....the new person took over and everything when to heck....  I approached them regarding the late scanning issue due to the hyper-sensitive "rules" imposed on sellers regarding scanning.  I was doing everything correctly on my end....this particular PO was dropping the ball in this area.  I asked what the issue was and was basically handed my head by the Asst PO who could have cared less....he told me to take it up with ebay, etc.  Feel free to give him a call...he's still there....see what kind of "customer service" you get from him.  Gladly, I have since moved and have not had any issues with my current PO.

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by: sasikat9 This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 8 14:05:46 2019

@ebizguy.

You might want to reconsider the 600 to 1000 addresses per day. Most routes are between 150 and 200 addresses. Figure it out if it takes 2 minutes to deliver to an address then 150 addresses would take 300 minutes. Not counting the time it takes to move the vehicle to a different location or any breaks. Plus you have 2 to 3 hours in the morning to sort mail and load it. So now its more in the range of about 150 addresses. So don't make it look like they are overworked. Over paid maybe but overworked hardly.

@Scotty. Your fist mistake was to try and solve something with the postmaster. Postmasters are like ebay CS they tell you what you want to hear and they forget ya. Better to file a complaint with headquarters.

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by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 8 16:18:21 2019

It would be interesting to learn the source of Sasikat9's 'facts', because they most certainly do not reflect the reality of any city (urban/suburban) carrier route in the country.  Just look at a map and count the houses.  Rural routes (volume metrics) are different of course, but dispatch and delivery standards are not.

The 600 - 1000 address figure noted previously is much more accurate.  And each route is audited (per management at least once/24 months) to monitor and establish baseline time requirements for typical volume, which varies daily of course.  

A 'typical' relay (walking deliveries per stop) takes 15-20 minutes and contans at least 25 and more often 30 - 50 or more unique address boxes.  Even more for what are known as centralized 'cluster boxes' like in a neighborhood or apartment building.  Effectively that's averaged to about two deliveries/minute.  Anywhere from 12 - 20 relays per route.

Additionally, there is a figure identified as ''% to standard'' that identifies requirements for how long it takes to sort and case (collate in delivery line of travel order) loose mail, negotiated and agreed with by the NALC (carriers union)  to be 15 minutes per foot of mail.  An 'average' day requires about 3' to be cased.  For reference, a foot of magazines and catalogs is about 105 pieces; letters about 235 pieces.  Nobody is standing around coffee klatching.  

An agreed standard for loading parcels and mail into the truck is 15 minutes after casing.  The 'baseline' ''office time'' per route therefore is between 1:00 and 1:15, before carriers are expected to ''depart to route'' and commence delivery, not 2-3 hours.  Take that long, and be prepared to defend that to district management, who hires folks who's sole job is to monitor and tattle that, every day.  

Most routes are 'designed' to average 6:00- 6:30 delivery on the street including all planned travel and an unpaid :30 lunch, and two paid :10 breaks that most carriers do not formally take on most days in order to be back ''as instructed''.  None of this accounts for train, traffic, breakdowns, route or weather delays, as those are not predictable, but must be proven if claimed.  Note those scanners all have GPS, and there are very good APs the PO developed to show and record any 'stationary time', monitored daily.

As has been noted, understaffing is the issue though.  Every route unmanned in a given day, which can increase by leave and illness issues, must be 'split' piecemeal to the remaining station staff present. That's an extra 6 hours or more per route.  Take just one vacancy, one on vacation, and one call in, and that's 18 hours of mail to add to an already full day.  Which also has to be cased and loaded AND parced out. Every day.  And that's just one station.

Most city carriers AVERAGE 10 - 15% OT per week just for that reason, more if volume is heavier than base.

As for the sort center late dispatches, (AND the delivery unit sorting and prep TO each route), that's a factor of short-staffing too, also impacted by volume.  Additionally, any 'impacts' nationwide that delays dispatch processing or travel (weather, fires, power or network outages, etc.) can impact the 'local' dispatch and delivery network just like the airlines experience.  A factor most folks do not consider.

So why doesn't the PO simply hire more folks?  First, they do.  But when the new folks actually get a look at what 'overworked' actually IS, at any level, about 1/4 don't last more than a few months.  And second, the PO is a business.  Not funded by taxes.  At all.  Yet still expected to profit, and would do so, if OUR congress didn't mandate a ridiculously unfair and unreasonable 75 year retirement prefunding requirement.  Want to change that to help instantly remove pressure and increase service efficiency?  YOU have a voice with your vote.

Add in the imperative to be competitive in cost, the pressure to do as much possible with what's in hand explains things like delivery trucks that are bonafide antiques (subject to increased unavailability), and personnel who with salaries and benefits that barely cover standard of living needs even with union protection just plain wear out.

Clearly in ANY organization with over 500,000 employees, one need not look hard to find occasions of substandard performance, but slapping a predetermined label of 'lazy' on all of these by far mostly dedicated, extremely hard working, and unselfishly motivated service performers is just nothing short of undeserved and disrespectful.  

Something else worth 'considering' - every Postal worker is a postal customer too, and not only do their jobs in sub par conditions, but also have to deal with 'management' - who ultimately holds responsibility for these issues, no matter how much they try to 'better monitor and discipline' all that away.


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by: TomH This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 8 16:58:33 2019

@Snapped

Excellent post.

My opinion of part of your post:
''Yet still expected to profit, and would do so, if OUR congress didn't mandate a ridiculously unfair and unreasonable 75 year retirement prefunding requirement.  Want to change that to help instantly remove pressure and increase service efficiency? ''

Congress in it's often stupid decisions created the major root problem that the PO tries to overcome.  I'm surprised that they do as well as they do. And, also, in the so-called ''old days'' they did not deliver to just about every mail box in the country every day with junk mail.

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by: Scotty This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 8 22:55:48 2019

@Sasikat9
Yes...I did file a complaint....and I did get an actual call.  While they were friendly, I was told if it is a criminal infraction, they could assist....if it is related to poor service, they cannot assist.....verbatim.
This is why they continue to act this way....no consequence what-so-ever....and they know it.

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by: BobNJ This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 9 01:36:07 2019

I live on a rural route in NJ and whenever our regular carrier is out the substitute carrier refuses to come to the door with registered mail. They drop a note in the mailbox that no one was home even though they DO NOT get out of the truck. I've complained twice to the local post master and it's getting better.

And by the way, most of my problems with international mail are at the NYC customs office. A  large percentage of my mail disappears there with no explanation, no one to complain to and no help from anyone. Lost mail claims via the USPS website go idle and are never found.  

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by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Thu May 9 02:02:27 2019

I have the best PO and carriers in the USA as far as I am concerned. When I have a problem I call the Post Master and it is taken care of. I did not understand the rant about the old timers clerks that won't leave their jobs. I assume that they were hired to be clerks as our main one that has been at my PO for close to 40 years is a professional. Knows every rule, is not lazy, and he keeps things going. I only have trouble when I have a substitute from the city delivering Amazon Sunday deliveries and I have had mail delivered and left out in the rain two days after it was supposedly delivered.

As to those 16 units being audited. I do recall in former jobs the bosses coming along and thinking if we just had more monitoring and forms to fill out ad nauseum, everything would work out. Nope, it just meant more work and less of the right work being done. I am so glad that I have a PO that I can depend on and keeps my business going.

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by: jewelryqueen521 This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 9 08:28:30 2019

With all the staff cutbacks and sraff shuffling near me, and the addition of who knows how many Amazon packages, it’s a wonder anything gets delivered properly. The postal woman who ran our route got moved to what is called a retirement route, since she wanted to keep working, and the person we have now looks at the mail like it came from outer space. Where I live is even worse. They change the delivery almost monthly, and I am constantly getting other peoples mail. You pay for 2 day priority, it takes 5-7 days. But the rates keep going up. There should be some training done with that money. This is crazy!!!!

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by: epuise This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 9 09:29:22 2019

- AMAZON - Prime... It's overloading the USPS w/o PAYING for it... that... and the Chinese ePacket...  

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by: ebizguy This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 9 15:13:37 2019

@ sasikat9 - Well, it looks like "Snapped" explained it all in detail which I would concur with. Snapped obviously works for the USPS. I work for the USPS as a letter carrier and my route has over 650 addresses. That 150-address estimate of yours? On days when my route is light on mail, I'll get additional territory of anywhere from 50 - 120 extra address to deliver - all in 8 hours with no overtime.

@ TomH - Congress is the "Board of Directors" for the USPS. A lot of the problems the USPS has, Congress either created them or won't let us make changes in delivery. There are a few simple ways Congress could fix some of the major problems.

(1) Repeal the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) of 2006 to cease prefunding for 75 years in advance.
(2) Move to a 5-day Monday-Friday work week for mail delivery, deliver parcels on Saturdays and Sundays with part-time help where feasible. Eliminating just 1 day of operations would save billions.
(3) Eliminate front-door mail delivery. It's too expensive. Curbside and centralized delivery are more efficient and cheaper. Give people the option of a free post office box if they like. It's stupid the USPS still charges for them when they could save a lot of money by letting people use them for free. PO boxes are the least expensive centralized delivery available to the USPS. This keeps the mail in the office and off the streets.
(4) Consolidate management functions. The USPS has too many managers who don't touch the mail. The county where I live has 6 full-time postmasters stationed in their own offices. District offices do pretty much the same, these functions can now be done remotely. Overall, the management structure in the USPS is overly redundant and wasteful.

Congress could easily change the situation. However, as I read someplace, it's ludicrous and insane to assume that a small group of people in Washington, D.C. who are responsible for a national debt of 22 trillion dollars of taxpayer's money are somehow going to "fix" the billions in losses of the USPS, which at the present does not receive any taxpayer money since 1970.

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This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Fri May 10 18:51:51 2019

sasikat bragged about being able to buy a new car in cash with profits last year.  People in that position know all about how "other people" are overpaid.

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