With mail volume declining and the mail mix changing, the U.S. Postal Service is adjusting processing capacity and the size of the network to better match the current workload. But getting to the end game has been painful, with plenty of bumps and bruises. Service, in particular, has taken a hit.

In 2011, the Postal Service began its Network Rationalization Initiative to align its network processing capacity with its declining mail volume through equipment and plant consolidations and operational changes. As part of the plan, the Postal Service revised its First-Class Mail standards in January 2015, effectively eliminating single-piece overnight First-Class Mail service and shifting mail from a 2-day to a 3-day service standard. These changes allowed the Postal Service to process mail on fewer machines and thus reduce the facility space it needed. This change is known as the operational window change (OWC).

But shortly after the service standard changes, mail service deteriorated – in a very public way. Individual customers, commercial mailers, and members of Congress all complained. We were asked to review nationwide delayed mail and analyze mail processing efficiency, as well as service performance for all classes of mail. We also conducted cost analyses of projected savings as a result of service standard revisions, and we reviewed management controls over mail processing operations.

Our report found that, for the period of January through September 2015 (first 9 months after the OWC):

  • Delayed mail processing increased nationwide by 51 percent compared to the same period in 2014;
  • 2-day and 3-day First-Class Mail weekly scores in that period declined by as much as 7 percent and 34 percent, respectively, compared to the same period in 2014 (before the OWC).
  • In addition to the service issues, the Postal Service did not save as much as it expected to from the OWC. Management could demonstrate that it achieved only 10 percent of the projected annual OWC savings of over $805 million. (The USPS has since claimed additional savings, which amounted to $231 million according to our validation.)

Our own independent test identified a few reasons for the increase in delayed mail and decrease in service scores: 1) the significant network and operational changes around the OWC and consolidations; 2) insufficient air transportation capacity; 3) mail arriving late at processing plants; 4) outdated operating plans. Adverse weather was also a factor.

We made a number of recommendations, including that the Postal Service implement a nationwide strategy to improve mail processing productivity before it makes more nationwide operational changes or consolidations. We also think USPS should increase its capacity to move mail by air and create a nationwide system to specifically identify mail that arrives after its critical entry time.

Share your experience. How could the Postal Service improve the process before it makes any further consolidations or network changes?

Comments (6)

  • anon

    Thank you for your comments. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service and many of these issues fall outside of our jurisdiction. However, we do read all blog comments and pass on relevant information to our auditors and investigators. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, 1 (800) 275-8777, or to file an online complaint with Customer Service (and for frequently asked questions), go to the USPS Website and enter "Customer Service Help" in the search function.

    Oct 31, 2016
  • anon

    I had ordered an Item that came from New York, this Item went all the way down to near Miami Florida and arrived there at 4:15 am Wed. Oct 26 2016. It did not leave that facility til 12:05 am Thursday October 27 016. then it made its way back up to Jacksonville Florida. This package that is to arrive to me Friday October 28 2016, Sit in a mail center for 20 hours before leaving for its next stop in Jacksonville. Had this Item went 100's miles out of the way to get to me. If this package had went to the Atlanta center, I would have had it already since it would have only went for a 3 hour trip from there to its final destination. The new routing of how package gets to a place is adding time and gas for it to get where they need to go. it doesn't matter what state an item is sent to via USPS, now it ends up going miles past where it should to only have to retrace its path back to Georgia.

    Oct 28, 2016
  • anon

    Had a envelope mailed by recovery Emporium arrive at USPS Origin (Charleston, WV25350) 10/12/16 at 8:51 pm. Departed Charleston, WV 10/13/16 at 1:55am. ARRIVED USPS facility 10/17/16 at 6:59pm PHOENIX, AX 85043. WHY????? Prior shipments have gotten in West Columbia, SC 29169 in (3) THREE days!!! What a screw up. This is why you are losing business!! I can't wait to hear your excuse!!

    Oct 18, 2016
  • anon

    Eliminate double handling of DSCF mail in the BMEU centers.

    Oct 13, 2016
  • anon

    I still not satisfy; why my certified returned receipt mail 'returned receipt' never receive on some of my mails I've paid lotta money for in the first place? I am hoping, the Postal Services "Post Office" are not hiring incompetent workers to handles Federal Jobs first & foremost. illegal immigrant should not hired for Federal Job position.......Regardless of Obama's bad administration is; should not make changes according to rule & regulation is concerned. Should maintain as always and abide by it legitimately first & foremost. USPS is liable for such negligence service and wrong doing. and among other unscrupulous conduct of delaying mail delivering, etc. Must regulated with a disciplinary action to rule and regulate such wrong doing foremost.

    Oct 03, 2016
  • anon

    The biggest issue I have is with the USPS response to the report. USPS minds are closed to any criticism, and rather than acknowledging the issues, the choice is made to expend resources and energy to dispute that there are any issues in the first place. It is a shame that the OIG and the USPS can't seem to work as partners with the same goals - a viable and robust Postal Service. Many times it seems as if you are all in the same boat, rowing in different directions.

    Oct 03, 2016

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