Who doesn’t like finding a package they ordered online on their doorstep at an unexpected time, like, say, late in the evening just before you turn out the porch light for the night? 

Consumers have come to expect quick delivery of parcels, often at odd hours of the day. This new paradigm comes at a cost, however. For the U.S. Postal Service, it means their city carriers and non-career city carrier assistants (CCAs) are delivering packages after the targeted return time of 6:00 p.m. Returning late from their routes raises safety concerns — especially when it gets dark earlier —  and overtime costs. 

Few are complaining about the ecommerce explosion, mind you. It’s driving a growth in parcels — even as lettermail volumes decline. This package boom, along with a downsizing of the Postal Service workforce and evolving customer needs, have led to changes in the network and delivery. Furthermore, a wide range of variables, such as weather, employee absences, or new carriers to a route, can affect delivery on a daily basis. 

All of this poses challenges for the Postal Service in meeting its goal of 95 percent of letter carriers being off the street by 5 p.m. and 100 percent by 6 p.m. Our recent audit of the Bay Valley (CA) District — in the heart of the nation’s ecommerce hub — found that carriers and CCAs fell short of the 100 percent goal by 6 p.m. In calendar year 2016, only 75 percent of carriers returned to the office by 6 p.m., our report said.

Bay Valley certainly is seeing the effects of ecommerce activity, as well as Sunday package delivery, and grocery delivery service: The district had a 16 percent growth in package volume in calendar year 2016 over the previous year, topping 101 million packages. In some areas, package deliveries now regularly occur early in the morning and as late as 10 p.m.

We found a mix of underlying reasons for missing the targeted return time: Insufficient staffing, late or improper mail arrival, inaccurate route adjustments, and insufficient supervision. The Postal Service agreed with our recommendations to improve the underlying conditions.

We welcome your suggestions as well. What more could be done to get carriers off the streets on time? Given all the variables that can affect the ability to complete deliveries by the targeted time, what additional precautions could be taken to enhance carrier safety? 

Comments (42)

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  • anon

    In March of 2014 I posted a comment about the carriers out after dark. Obviously our comments are not for the OIG but simply to make us THINK we are being heard. Most of the comments on this subject are real reasons for carriers out past dark but the OIG's first sentence, "Who doesn't like to find something unexpected on their doorstep at night...." is a JOKE. I certainly don't. I retired from a management position after 32 years BECAUSE I could no longer stand the stress of making, yes I considered it making, carriers stay out needlessly after dark. I say needlessly because the parcels were not the reason. Parcels are the topic because they are tracked. The problem is the upper level policies that cause mail processing to add enormous amounts of bulk/standard mail to the dps on Mondays and especially days after holidays, forbidding carriers to curtail other standard or circulars on heavy parcel days, not allowing "parcels over base" to be added to carriers time measurement system for the day's work, and the stupid, stupid, stupid practice of having carriers return to the office to retrieve one or two letters because of the fear that those letters could possibly be part of the district's performance measurement system. I have seen as few as two letters cause up to six man hours to deliver from mail processing center to office to carrier to customer. How many parcels could have been delivered in six hours? Thank you to all who commented and read this but nothing will change as long as carriers and their supervisors are being managed by the district and all management employees are given pay raises in the pay for performance system.

    Oct 18, 2017
  • anon

    My recommendations would be. Pay attention to our distribution needs. Like hiring more clerks and all of our clerks should be schemed trained. In our office, carriers has to come back to our office almost everyday to get the rest of their parcels. Because, we don't have enough clerks to finish the distribution on time. Some carriers were instructed by our Postmaster or OIC to scanned all the undelivered parcels in our office as delivered just to avoid or prevent delivery failures. We have proof from our postal customers who came to the window looking for their lost packages. Customers got notifications that their packages has been delivered to their homes but the items were not at their homes. When we traced the tracking number, google map shows it has been scanned delivered in our office, not in front of our customers houses.

    Oct 08, 2017
  • anon

    This "problem" is an example of what happens when processes change without the correct data to change it for the better. Mail and packages have two different needs in delivery and the foolish idea to combine the responsibility of both onto the carrier is proving that out as inefficient. Separate package delivery from mail, improve customer service by being better than UPS/FedEx by at least trying to contact a recipient to avoid the thefts and bad feelings that happen when my important package has been left on the front step all day because I don't leave or check mail that way (even a press of the doorbell would be better than just leaving it). I would guess that the value add gained by creating package delivery specific carriers would offset any potential labor increase. Especially since youd see labor and OT reduced for the letter delivery side and could meet the goals regarding carrier end time. This isn't rocket science and I'm guessing the front line staff could give you the solution that seems to befuddle management.

    Oct 07, 2017
  • anon

    I have been waiting 3 days for a package to go an hour and fifteen minutes away from. You check the tracking number and all it says is pkg. delayed in transit to area. try to talk to customer service what a laugh wait twice on the phone for 35 min. no one answered it originally said 15 min wait. No wonder they can not make money they are not dependable like days gone by. No one wants to do their job. I tried calling the office in Rancho Cordova 5 times and they would not answer their phone....why? Will not be using usps again will stay with UPS or Fedex they do a much better job. The USPS is terrible to try to talk with anyone also they are all hiding.

    Oct 06, 2017
  • anon

    Lots of growth in our area. Stop making the small mail boxes. Only sell rectangle style, and boxes large enough to fit 8×11. That will cut out some of the get outs.

    Oct 05, 2017
  • anon

    Orland Park il 60467 must have all the above...insufficient staffing, late mail arrival, poor routing and the worst most insufficient supervisors in all of the Chicago suburbs. Call with a complaint and they have the most ignorant attitude. The postal service in my area and several others in this area have become the butt of jokes while people check their mail at 8PM and it still hasn’t arrived. What happen to the days you could count on your mail being delivered at least before noon.

    Oct 03, 2017
  • anon

    I signed up for informed mail a few months ago. Fora a couple of months I was receiving informed mail. Then it stopped for about 3 months. I wrote to complain about it and within 2 days I received only 1 days worth of informed mail and then it stopped again

    Oct 03, 2017
  • anon

    Make sure routes are adjusted to Carrier's Abilities soon and often after a new Route assignment. Routes in our office are in terrible misalignment due to years of neglect and falsification or inadequate data input. Carriers "run" & forfeit their beaks and lunch to get done in 8, that ruins the integrity of the route adjustment process and reverberates problems throughout the whole delivery unit, making some routes undoable for some Carriers. Management spends to much resources trying to push Carrier's instead of just properly inspecting routes and managing daily workload with accurate data. Route adjustment accuracy is the MAJOR problem in the USPS right now.

    Oct 03, 2017
  • anon

    We need a management team than understands that letter carriers have turned into parcel carriers. Carriers are taking longer because we have to go to more and more customer doors, more and more often, to deliver parcels, because the parcels will not fit into a standard letter mail box. Every customer should also have a jumbo parcel mailbox. We need big enough vehicles that you can reach the mailbox, to not only deliver mail but a vehicle that can also handle 100's of parcels. The post office needs parcel routes or work out a deal with UPS and FEDEX to help us with the letters, flats, and circulars so we can handle the parcels!!! See how those guys like working off up to 4 different bundles and delivering parcels too.

    Oct 01, 2017
  • anon

    Staffing is the primary reason for carriers being out past 6 pm on a regular basis. Also, in the Sacramento District there is lack of up to date maps of the routes due postal management conducting so many route inspections in the past few years. And the lack of staffing to re-create routes with an adjoining route map so a delivery point on the route can be matched to the map on the route for any new carrier or carrier assistance on the route (later, being common). Postal management expect and rely on carriers, new and experienced to have their "Personal Phones" at the ready to aid with delivery duties. Postal service is supposed to provide the tools to do the job, efficiently and safely. Another factor, now that the post office has closed several processing facilities even though they had high-efficiency ratings, rely solely on W. Sac. P & DC to process mail for so many stations. This reliance on W. Sac to do all the work has affected many areas of pick-up and delivery. Lastly, fall is coming and we will lose an hour of daylight delivery because Management never adjusts schedules to the yearly time change.

    Sep 30, 2017
  • anon

    We appreciate all the thoughtful comments on this important topic. The OIG does read and chronicle them, as stakeholder feedback is used for analysis to identify system issues for future work.

    Sep 26, 2017
  • anon

    Glad you appreciate comments......But.....I have never seen where you do anything about it......Perhaps if you revisit this audit in 3 months and see if anything has changed would be a big start...And, please, post that you did it and what the outcomes are...Carriers across the US would like to see that your audits DO make a difference. Thank you.

    Oct 07, 2017
  • anon

    I am a carrier at the Lakewood, Co station. I would like to see parcels arrive more frequently and more clerks during the day sorting parcels. We also need more parcel gurnies to relieve the gurnies that are full. We have asked for more and have not received them. When carriers can load their trucks and make a parcel run while waiting on mail to arrive that helps a lot. We could also benefit from team parcel delivery. Having the regular on a high volume route team up with a CCA that can hop out of a van or Promaster with the regular carrier pointing to the place it needs to go such as a tricky apartment complex or business that would usually be confusing.

    Sep 23, 2017
  • anon

    TRAINING ... train the CCA and train the 204B. Currently CCAs in many offices are not trained how carriers were trained years ago, they now receive anywhere from two to a week of training, they go out there not knowing how to deliver, case, deal with customers, and deal with mngt. 204Bs are sometimes one year employees who do not know the job, do not know the contract, and don't know the ELM. They rule on emotion and what they feel is best instead of what is policy. Make employees accountable for their actions, when found curtailing mail and doing the incorrect thing like takimg care of their own business on work hours, write them up and follow up do not let them slip through the cracks. Let the carriers start early, case as much mail as possible, DPS for businesses needs to be cased for faster on street delivery and for less misdeliveries. I worked at an amazing station where we all came back before 5, cased the mail clerks had dropped by our case, cased 3rd bundles and marriage mail when possible, no internal WPV issues, good relations with customers ... then they cut routes adding more stops to routes, added MSP scans that needed to be hit by a certain time (meaning now if I finished early and someone asked to help deliver a couple packages on their now I couldn't), told us we couldn't case mail on return to the route, and we couldn't case 3rd bundles or marriage mail; guess what we started coming back late and I left to anot her area of the PO.

    Sep 23, 2017
  • anon

    each office should have 1 extra truck per 5 routes and more CCAs. the flexible staff (CCA) is not the same % as it was years ago when they were PTFs. PMs should be able to staff properly and not forced to pivot 10 to 20 percent of the routes daily. Surveys, telecoms, reports should be limited so supervisors and PM can manage the mail and staff as needed. PSEs need to increase so the mail can get sorted before the carriers start, lessen wait times in line and keep the proper programs up to day for POBox , holds and COA. If you really want to listen talk to the PMs. This should not be a 24 /7 job on a daily basis for craft or management. You may be sorry you asked as SCS and PMs are getting just as frustrated as carriers, clerks and mail handlers . You can only cut thing so much before there is a breaking point and that has been exceeded years ago. Even cutting 3% per year would bring you to 80% in 7 years and this has been going on for way more years than 7 .

    Sep 22, 2017
  • anon

    Let us start earlier-when I start to work at 745 and the flats are stacked sky high, and I already have a ROLLING DOG CAGE FULL of parcels I can't help but think of what I could have gotten sorted starting at 7 or 7:15. MANAGE the mail! we were told several yrs ago mail was going to be managed so that we don't have 10 trays of DPS on Monday and 2 on Tuesday, it lasted a few weeks. Let Part timers run some pkgs on heavy days.Rural carriers are paid on evaluated time,regardless of when I start or finish Im still paid the same-let us start earlier

    Sep 21, 2017
  • anon

    thanks for asking for our input

    Sep 21, 2017
  • anon

    Route are adjusted to 7:50,,street time don't change since carrier deliver the same way every day.., even with volume increase his leaving ofic tme shol b e same. Now first class mail is on the decline and routs a adjusted on circ day. You get the carrier to the street on time and they return on time...if they leave late they can not make the return time...plus now you use the scanning report as tracking time.

    Sep 21, 2017
  • anon

    OK OIG...You asked.......Just read all of these responses....It seems OIG never consults the workerbees when you do an audit......YOU SHOULD......You'd find out what REALLY is going on.... Now let's see you respond to all of these comments......It is obvious that management across the US isn't listening. Hopefully OIG doesn't have its head in the sand also.

    Sep 21, 2017
  • anon

    Staffing the plant is the key. Getting it to the stations at the earliest time. Staffing the stations. Have enough vehicles. Contract retired Supervision to train supervisors in stations...leave when their qualified

    Sep 21, 2017
  • anon

    Distribution is key in order for us to get to the street sooner, if distribution is not up then we have to wait.... Management must also take into consideration that if we are submitting a 3996 requesting time that there is some legitimatcy to our request, instead of ignoring and denying the request.

    Sep 20, 2017
  • anon

    Have CCA’s report at 8:00 am and deliver only parcels come back to station at 1:00 pm to get late arriving parcels. 4:30 they should have all parcels delivered on routes with close proximity. Cannot bring parcels back.

    Sep 20, 2017
  • anon

    Having our start times pushed back is making letter carriers have to work in the dark and its not save. Especially if you are on a pivot or on a different route. Customers are not expecting someone on their front door after dark. Its hard to see where dogs are steps and other things that could harm us. It also makes family life a bit harder like picking your kids up from the bus, daycare, appointment, and school events.

    Sep 20, 2017
  • anon

    Not insufficient supervision, inadequate. People who are capable of supervising are discouraged from doing so because the environment is SO toxic, and the ones who do are not allowed to actually supervise. "We're not allowed to start anyone early, we're not allowed to bring in ODL carriers on their day off, we're not allowed to...". Seems like they're not allowed to do anything efficiently or at all. You handcuff these people, then tell them to diffuse a bomb. Stop allowing there to be bonuses for anything unless it's operating without costing us thousands in grievance money, because that's all that's happening when they're not allowed to operate within the rules of the contract. If we're going to have one person calling the shots from a downtown office, why bother having supervisors? Just have a big skype session and the one deciding everything for all the supervisors out there can tell us whatever we need to hear instead of wasting our time talking to vessels of the wizard of Oz down in Emerald City.

    Sep 20, 2017
  • anon

    It would be nice to have your carriers, perform professionally. And to see current updated information when tracking mail, or as package. When I track a package, nothing changes, until I already have the package.

    Sep 19, 2017
  • anon

    The first problem with the rural craft is unrealistic standards. The engineering study should help. The second problem is the difference between what happens at mail count and what actually happens the rest of the year. For example supervisors separate all misthrown parcels during count but carriers do it the other fifty weeks. Carriers are not timed to put parcels in delivery order but it must be done especially if the parcels are not marked in the mail as well as many smaller things that add up over time. Carriers are paid two minutes per mile. Who delivers mail at 30 mph? An uneven mail flow is an issue on certain days of the week. Carrier could curtail bulk mail to get back earlier and case bulk mail in the afternoon or evening. This is now more of an issue since facilities have been closed in recent years. One thing is for sure, rural carriers are doing all they can at this point as we took the biggest loss because of the nations economic situation.

    Sep 19, 2017
  • anon

    First p.m. casing to be allowed. Second curtailing of bulk mail on a case-by-case basis. Third proper Staffing of clerk craft to be able to distribute mail and a more timely fashion. 4th would be to expedite newer loves being issued because the problem of breakdowns is adding to the problem of late delivery.

    Sep 19, 2017
  • anon

    Morning mail trucks need an earlier arrival time for clerks to sort mail. Clerks should sort mail first and then packages to get carriers to street as early as possible. Almost every office has too many parcels and need parcel routes. If routes delivered mail and only small parcels that fit in mail box they would be done much faster. Part time workforce needs to be used for what they were intended, eliminating overtime for regulars. The parttime workforce would deliver parcels every day just as they do on Sundays freeing regular routes to deliver letters and flats. Offices with the most serious late deliveries need an intervention team with power to make changes necessary and find best solutions to use in other offices.

    Sep 19, 2017
  • anon

    I'm a city Letter Carrier, LC, w/ 21 years. When I started in 1996 the LCs started @ 5:30am and were off the street by 2pm, even w/ a heavy mail day or absences, the latest was between 4-6 pm. Now the LCs start at 8 am, BC management can't get less mail to the delivery stations as fast as it was done 20 years ago. How does less mail take longer to process? This later delivery times is a creation of management, someone thought "If the LCs start later the LCs will work faster to get done sooner and lower the overtime! No one wants to be delivering mail @ 8pm.", This clearly has NOT worked. Why don't the LCs start @ 6am? Management

    Sep 19, 2017
  • anon

    Great point! How does the decline in 1st class mail and the addition of automation (DPS/FSS) result in later mail?

    Sep 19, 2017
  • anon

    Let the carriers start before 8am Iny district we can't touch the mail until 8am. We used to start at 7am

    Sep 19, 2017
  • anon

    "insufficient staffing, late or improper mail arrival" you need not go any further....EVERY audit you've done on operations across the united states say the same thing.....Carriers (city and rural) are not miracle workers. If plants can't provide product properly, you will see late carriers. It isn't rocket science. Yet we never see OIG sight in on the obvious cause of the problem.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    earlier start times,earlier mail and parcels being ready. also, even distribution of mail instead of 2 days w/hardly any nail and 3 days very heavy mail. also, allow carriers to case bulk in the pm for the next day instead of "everything must go".

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    Mail needs to come to the office early and carrier start times need to be earlier. Staffing needs to increased. Carriers start times are continually moved later and later and the workload this time of year gets heavier and heavier so having the mail available earlier and clerks and carriers starting earlier to get it sorted and cased gets them out of the office early and prevents them from delivering after dark.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    1) properly staff clerks and mail handlers at the plants and stations so that mail and parcels can get to carriers earlier 2) move cut off times for dispatches to stations earlier 3) hold shippers who do drop shipments directly to stations accountable for arriving late. If it's late, it goes the next day. They get a discounted rate, so make them earn it. 4) have enough vehicles for carriers so on heavier days extra CCAs can be scheduled to take some of the load off 5) move all start times to 7am or earlier, work in the office when it's dark and on the street when there is light 6) load level. No reason to run full coverage standard letters or flats on Monday's. Monday's should be 1st and 2nd, parcels and weekend cleanup. Standard can wait until Tuesday.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    Responding to the Delivery after Dark article, the biggest three factors in late delivery return times at our office (Grand River Carrier Annex Grand Rapids MI 49503), in my opinion as a city carrier with 17 years, are: 1) pushing our start times up to an hour later while the clerks maintain the mail dispatch times haven't changed combined with 2) not enough clerks to accomodate the mail to get it sorted on time - even with our later start times and 3) mismanagement of resources, mainly not utilizing available overtime carriers in the most efficient way to minimize travel time and sort times. Thank you.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    Mail trucks are late a lot. Stop changing out start time. When I started in 2003 we started at 6 am now we start at 8 am.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    First of all, you forgot about Rural Carriers and RCAs who work hard daily and can't make the truck because start times have moved back and routes are overburdened with parcels. I'm not looking forward to Christmas. I'm exhausted just thinking of it. Parcels take longer than mail to deliver. They just do! Especially if you curb wheels, turn car off, take keys, set brake, grab scanner, pen, dog spray, walk to porch juggling parcel(s) and then get back in car and restart everything. It's time consuming.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    Recount the routes fairly with the Amazon load included. Change start times as necessary. Cut routes that go over the threshold, distribute the load more evenly.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    I worked as a carrier for 32 years and when i left automatization was in full force and they cut the clerk craft alot from clerks from stations to bulk mail centers as our station complained of short clerk staff was always overlooked late trips come in no clerks to work it and never staffed or window right always had long lines out the door teams would come in and do nothing so not only our front counter customers were not happy niether was the carrier craft waiting on mail and alot of the time city and rural carriers would help get the late mail out so bottom line staff the clerk craft so customers in line at counter are happy and can get the mail and PACKAGES to the carriers

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    Can we just go to a 7 day delivery? The subs would finally have an actual part time job, and most offices are open anyway for Amazon delivery. It would even out the ridiculous Mon nightmare of high volume. And do away with those tiny mailboxes! How money, energy, time wasting to not have sufficient size mailboxes for small parcels and clearly not enough parcel lockers at the cndbus!!!!!!!

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    I've found that the folks delivering the mail, at any time of the day, have been courteous and typically in good spirits. I read that online services with delivery options are still going to grow over the next decade. It stands to reason that the low staffing is going to remain a problem with USPS. Clearly pricing remains key as well as innovative services that create more revenue. Also, improving self-serve kiosks capabilities in suburban areas may serve to shift personnel from counter to delivery.

    Sep 18, 2017

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