More packages and fewer letters is the new normal for the U.S. Postal Service. Now it needs to adapt its delivery operations to this mail mix to protect service. Unfortunately, some customers are already feeling negative effects of this changing mail mix.
In Atlanta, customers complained of mail delivery being inconsistent, sporadic, and extremely late. Our recent audit confirmed that mail was not always delivered in a timely manner in the selected delivery units we reviewed in the Atlanta District.
In the 16 delivery units we selected, package volume increased 32 percent on average over the past four years, a direct result of Sunday delivery and the growth in ecommerce. City carriers and noncareer city carrier assistants (CCA) are feeling the pinch of this added package volume. The district used more workhours than planned in fiscal year (FY) 2017 by over 38,000 hours.
We determined none of the 16 units achieved their goal of distributing mail to carrier routes by 8:30 a.m., often because the mail came late from the processing center. With a late Distribution-Up-Time, as this is called, carriers end up starting their routes later, which can affect delivery performance.
We also found that only 70 percent of letter carriers returned to these units by 7 p.m., with some returning as late as 10 p.m. in FY 2017. This was well off 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. The Postal Service strives to meet this carrier return goal to achieve its 24-hour operational requirement to collect, distribute, and deliver mail on time.
Carriers returning from their routes after 6:00 p.m. remains a nationwide problem for the Postal Service. We also recently released an audit report on carriers in the South Florida District, where only 58 percent of city carriers and CCAs returned by 6 p.m. in FY 2017. Our visits to 15 randomly selected delivery units found a slight improvement, with 61 percent returning by 6 p.m.
We found that some of the reasons for carriers returning after 6 p.m. was due to mail arriving late from the processing center and improper mail mix, as well as inaccurate operating plans. Vehicle breakdowns and availability were also factors.
We recommended the Postal Service improve mail flow within and between the processing centers, as well as improve recording of late mail arrivals and develop a plan to review package data and make route adjustments as needed.