Delivery is its bread-and-butter. And service is in its name. So, the U.S. Postal Service takes pride in delivering mail to every address in America.

But declining mail volume, changes in the network, a downsizing of its workforce, and evolving customer needs have led to changes in delivery. Further, a wide range of variables, such as weather, employee absences, or new carriers to a route, can affect delivery every day. These changes and variables pose challenges to the Postal Service in meeting its targeted “24-hour clock initiative,” which is to collect, distribute, and deliver mail on time and to have 95 percent of letter carriers off the street by 5 p.m.

In recent years, more carriers have been returning after 5 p.m. That percentage increased nationally from 25 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2011 to 38 percent in FY 2013. Mail delivery after dark raises carrier safety concerns while late mail makes consumers unhappy.

Our recent audit report looked specifically at the Capital District, which experienced a 14 percentage point increase in city carriers returning after 5 p.m. We found the increase was due to (1) delayed delivery of mail from the processing facilities to the delivery units, and (2) supervisors failing to properly supervise city delivery operations. Our recommendations centered on modifying operating plans to get mail to the delivery unit earlier in the day and on adhering to policies and procedures for supervising city delivery operations.

Also, we encouraged management and union officials to work together to address carrier safety. External stakeholders have already offered some ideas worth considering, such as brightly colored, reflective clothing to make carriers more visible, and realigning delivery routes so carriers can start earlier in dangerous areas.

We welcome your suggestions as well. What more could be done to get carriers off the streets by the targeted 5 p.m. return time? Given all the variables that can affect the ability to complete deliveries by 5 p.m., what additional precautions could be taken to enhance carrier safety? 

Comments (160)

  • anon

    Management is not worth a damn from the bottom to top , the Unions prevent getting rid of the problem workers . I would could close 80% of these little town Political Post Offices . Get Politics out .

    Aug 04, 2014
  • anon

    The way they process the mail should have nothing to do with volume. 10-20 yrs ago you would have your mail at your stations and ready to go by 6-6:30. There was no reason to change this and move carrier start times later.

    Aug 04, 2014
  • anon

    Seems like our branch needs an overhaul period! Doesn't make any sense to have mail delivered after 5pm! So many problems with our branch.

    Aug 04, 2014
  • anon

    First change hours at processing plant tours move back 1 hour that would give enough time for mail to be work and delivered to station, carrier's would get there mail out and back before 5pm, set cut off time at processing plant so that the mangers can get the mail out on time without penalty

    Aug 04, 2014
  • anon

    Processing mail earlier would be nice, but some offices have a problem with employee's calling in sick. Yes sick leave is a benefit, but it is to be used when you are sick, not to golf, hunt, see the Super Bowl or to make it to the department stores for Black Friday's super deals. When a unit goes down 5 routes in one day that's a lot of pivoting and extra work on the employees that are maintaining their work schedule. Working past 5 pm is going to happen. Take better care of yourself, eat a balanced healthy diet and exercise. Carrying mail can be difficult if you are out of shape, but it is enjoyable and super easy if you are physically fit. I remember going in at 6 am and being on the street by 7:30....it was great!

    Aug 08, 2014
  • anon

    Processing needs to be changed so that the offices/carriers get their mail earlier. ALSO running certain items through the DPS/FSS that are known for jamming up the machine is not only a time wasting practice but a money wasting practice also. lt makes no sense whatsoever to be casing carrier sequence mail that has been jumbled via the machines. l've been a carrier for almost 27 years, it seems to me that field time is getting more difficult with every new change. Setting up a route to make field time shorter/quicker would save the post office a lot of gas money throughout the year. lf l am allowed to set up my route the way l wanted to and keeping it at or under what my daily DOIS report claims, in my eyes, makes total sense. Downsizing carriers cases, don't even get me started on that for the walking routes. l could go on and on. l'm all about saving money for the USPS. l take pride in doing a great job, making sure my customers are happy and trying to create revenue for the USPS. But at the same time it seems that my job keeps getting harder to do with all the so changes. l would like to see a team take carriers that manage their routes in 8 hours and/or do an above average job given the chance to speak up for the practice of the Post Office. l will not bad mouth anyone that is employed by the USPS but at the same time l question the accountability of some of the decision makers. l pray for the longevity of the USPS.

    Aug 04, 2014
  • anon

    Thank you for your comments and suggestions. We appreciate readers providing specific examples of ways to make the delivery and mail processing functions productive and cost efficient .

    Aug 11, 2014
  • anon

    I have been a letter carrier for 34 years. I agree with what Kelly Martin wrote she is dead on. I would also like to add a few things. As carriers we have been required to deliver all first class mail, and that even if it is in the DPS out of order we are to go back and deliver it, the reason for that is so managers can report no first class mail was delayed. I have county offices that are locked up, and the only way to get in to deliver is they have to bus me in. It takes time. We are told to take everything to the street, do not organize your add papers in the office. So that takes more time trying to get things together in a LLV. The reason for that is need to have less office time, again so the sups can prove all the money they have spent on the machines is working. Does not make sense . If you look how the Rural Routes deliver the mail, they are allowed to put everything up in the office, their routes deliver so much more mail than city routes, and they are done early every day. They do not have a supervisor telling them how to deliver the route everyday. We are being micro managed, every detail. I do know a faster and easier way to deliver the mail, but I am not allowed to do that. I would love to show you the difference, give me 2 days. One deliver the route the way managers tell me, the next day deliver the route the way I thing is best. The ball is in your court.

    Aug 05, 2014
  • anon

    Nancy -My wife is a rural carrier - She is micro managed as bad as you. The problem is that the bosses often have not done the job you all are doing .She has even contemplated quitting. You are not alone - I keep asking her where is the union?

    Jan 05, 2017
  • anon

    well the rural carrier get pay by how much mail they have and run that's why they have more accidents than city carrier always in the rush no breaks and lunch the city get pay hourly fair they work fair day paid have two ten minutes break 30 min lunch comfort stop work 8 hours and pass eight overtime you want to kill your self go head wear uniforms while rural dont wear uniforms they wear anything they want show some pride it not a race who get back early or not that why i see video of rural carrier throwing packages out there vehicle to make more time to get back early always in rush no care about safely and customer complain why carrier throwing mail out of the vehicle the rural use there car wear and tear pay higher insurance for there own car and get pay less for there use of car manager will get more greedy to give you more, more the postal inspector should go out on bad area when it get dark early that when more crime m when it get dark if i was a criminal i wait to get dark so nobody can see me that why postal inspector and postal police should go out follow the carriers on bad area when its dark early so they could catch the crook or go undercover wear carrier uniforms and postal vehicle delivery fake packages and have video on the truck and outside to and if you catch a robber put him or she in jail not let them out show a example if you can do the time dont do the crime

    Aug 06, 2014

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