• Project Title:
  • Accuracy of IOCS Data
  • Start Date:
  • Wednesday, March 1, 2017
  • Estimated Report Release Date:
  • August 2017

The In-Office Cost System (IOCS) is the Postal Service’s primary probability sampling system used to distribute the labor costs of clerks, mail handlers, city carriers, and supervisors related to the handling of mail of all classes and rate categories. The data is used to distribute about $20 billion annually in volume-variable costs to mail products. Approximately 550,000 IOCS samples are taken annually.

IOCS data is collected in one of two ways: in-person or over the telephone. An IOCS in-person reading consists of observing and recording the activity that a selected employee performs at a designated time during a specific workday. In addition, the data collector records the characteristics (e.g. indicia, special services, weight, etc.) of any mail or mail transportation equipment that the sampled employee is handling. 

Telephone readings are conducted when total time to (1) travel to the facility, (2) locate the employee, (3) take the reading, and (4) return to the normal duty station are estimated to be in excess of 60 minutes. 

The Data Collector Technician (DCT) conducts and calls the facility, identifies themselves, and asks the postmaster/station manager/supervisor or person in charge to conduct the IOCS telephone reading. If the primary or backup is not available, the DCT asks the person to recommend someone to help conduct the reading. The DCT conducting the telephone readings follows a specific set of instructions.

As noted within a previous audit, 70 out of 163 (43 percent) of the IOCS telephone readings reviewed were inaccurate. The telephone readings were inaccurate because data collectors and supervisors did not follow policies and procedures, data collectors may have falsified the reading, or respondents may have provided inaccurate information. In addition, an analysis of complete IOCS telephone readings indicates that some data collectors adjust the timing of their morning and afternoon IOCS readings which could alter the accuracy of the results.  

  • How can the Postal Service improve its IOCS telephone readings to obtain the data needed to effectively and efficiently distribute labor costs? 
  • Are there any obstacles in the sampling process that would prevent the collection of accurate and complete data?
  • Can telephone sampling be automated? 



Comments (7)

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  • anon

    Thanks for the feedback. The statistics we cited above are from an audit done a number of years ago. Furthermore, they were more administrative type errors. We will take your comments as we continue our audit work.

    Apr 13, 2017
  • anon

    If 43% of your limited sampling is bogus, then you might consider that the probability of your probability survey is also bogus. The limited amount of explanation of this system seems to cry out that it is a worthless and useless endeavor. Statisticians are probably cracking up reading your post. and a side note: How do you allocate cost/ benefit in a large block of employees not included in this survey? Rural Carriers.

    Mar 20, 2017
  • anon

    As a former DCT for many years, I can say with certainty that 99.9% of the telephone readings I conducted were inaccurate. In all cases, every time I called one of our branches (19612 office), the branch manager or delivery supervisor would tell me the carrier was either on the street or in the bathroom (Break/Personal Needs). They just didn't want to take the time to properly do the survey. The solution would be either to go there in person (MY immediate supervisor wouldn't let me) or have trained personnel in each branch to conduct the test. Otherwise it's a waste of time and all you're getting is bad data.

    Mar 13, 2017
  • anon

    Mr. Ray, We wanted to thank you for responding to our question. The information you provided is exactly the type of information we are looking for to assist us in our audit and we will look into it further.

    Mar 15, 2017
  • anon

    How about responding to my comment above....Would like to hear what you think.

    Apr 08, 2017
  • anon

    Paying Rural Route Carriers a daily rate and they DON'T provide service to all homeowners

    Mar 11, 2017
  • anon

    Why pay Rural Route Carriers a daily rate? Why not provide service to all homeowners? How are homeowners to be selected for non-delivery?

    Mar 13, 2017

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