on Oct 24th, 2008 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 10 comments
 
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USPS Mail Transport Equipment (MTE) consists of specialized containers such as sacks, pouches, trays, hampers, over-the-road containers and pallets. The Postal Service has more than 1.1 billion pieces of MTE, which is used at close to 400 processing facilities, over 33,000 post offices and hundreds of major mailers nationwide to help achieve the safe, secure and timely movement of mail between Postal Service facilities and its customers or contractors.

MTE is a valuable and essential Postal Service asset, and it is imperative that facilities or customers do not overstock (hoard) MTE.  MTE may be used only to transport mail, and borrowers of MTE (such as private mailers) are responsible for its proper use and return.

A key type of MTE is the plastic pallet, a rigid platform on which mail is stacked for movement as a single unit.  The plastic pallet is orange and black with Postal markings.  The Postal Service adopted plastic pallets more than 20 years ago since they are lighter, more durable, longer-lasting, and easier to store than wooden ones.

Unfortunately, the Postal Service has been experiencing a significant loss of plastic pallets over the last couple of years – up to 1.8 million pallets worth millions of dollars cannot be accounted for.  Realizing the significant cost of leakage of MTE from its inventory, the Postal Service has numerous efforts to both investigate MTE inventory leakage and better track and understand the movement of their MTE inventory.  The Postal Inspection Service has been proactive in both reaching out to the public on this issue, and investigating MTE theft and misuse.  In addition, the Postal Service has piloted the use of small GPS tracking devices in plastic pallets. The pilot resulted in the location of pallets used for non-Postal purposes. However, applying that particular tracking mechanism to all Postal Service pallets is not cost effective.  The Postal Service has asked the OIG for assistance.

We would like to solicit the knowledge and opinions of Postal Service employees and the mailing community regarding:

  • Purchasing and inventory management strategies that minimize the total cost of ownership of MTE, particularly pallets.
  • MTE logistics – how can we get the right equipment to the right place at the right time?
  • Suggestions to improve Postal Service outreach to the public and to customers about the impact of MTE misuse and assistance in returning it to the Postal Service inventory.
  • Reporting any instances of MTE being stored in excess within the Postal Service network, or misused outside of the Postal Service network.

If you know of MTE being used for non-postal purposes or being stored in excess, please report the misused or stolen equipment – it would have a positive financial impact on Postal Service operations nationwide.  If you see MTE such as pallets, flat tubs, trays or hampers that are outside the postal network, send an e-mail to hqmte[at]usps[dot]gov with the location, type and quantities of equipment to be retrieved and placed back into postal inventory.

10 Comments

In a 2007 presentation, the head of the Canadian Pallet Council, Belinda Junkin, noted that the Postal Service — unlike some shipping groups — never put a plan in place to control its pallet inventory.

Pallet leakage cost the USPS more than $100 million over the previous five years.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has long been the single largest purchaser of plastic pallets in the country, possibly even the world.
By Rick LeBlanc
Date Posted: 8/4/2008

In fiscal year 2004, USPS (www.usps.com) purchased 2,244,672 pallets for $25,506,006. As it turns out, those were bargain-priced pallets at $11.36 each. In 2005 it purchased another 670,000 pallets for a bit less than $10 million, or $14.23 each. This year, through March, it purchased an additional 299,700 pallets for $6,818,175, or $22.75 a piece, "Normally in March most of the pallets [used during heavy mailing periods] have returned to our warehouses and we assess what our needs for the coming fall mailing season will be," says Vogel. "Our national 'comfort level' is around 500,000 to 700,000 pallets."

Things are not comfortable at USPS headquarters these days. In March the national reserve inventory was hovering at around 100,000 pallets, with 60,000 typical on any day. To plug the gap, late in March Vogel allocated $30 million for an emergency purchase of more pallets. He also initiated a national pallet roundup program.
August 2006
Written by: Clyde E Witt

“We plan to expand the use of GPS tracking of pallets in an effort to crack down on pallet misuse and theft,” said Mail Transport Equipment Manager Jim Hardie. “Pallets cost the Postal Service $40 million a year.”
Normally USPS has between 500,000 and 700,000 pallets in use.
By John Geis, Contributing Expert -- Graphic Arts Online, 5/1/2008

Last year, the Postal Service recovered some 25, 000 pallets worth nearly $ 500, 000, Obando said. So far this year, individual seizures have yielded several trailer loads worth $ 20, 000 to $ 25, 000 each, he said.
Inspectors also need more postal workers and citizens to serve as “eyes and ears,” Obando said.

“Obviously we’re not going to get everything. There’s warehouses in places people can’t see them and that’s unfortunate,” he said. “But by raising awareness... I think we’re definitely a little ahead than we were before.”

BY BILL W. HORNADAY
Arkansas Democrat Gazette

so here is where I will be ^%^%%$ if I don't say something... so to recap.. "the postal service has long been the single largest purchaser of plastic pallets in the country, possibly even the world." and yet.. NO ONE is responsible for keeping up with them ? Isn't it Managements JOB to Manage things ?????
someone in management was able to spend ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS without question... just because he "lost the last ones". we can't even get a pair of gloves without having old ones to turn in. and we have to get a supervisor to do that for us... so for those that aren't aware, the postal service is doing EVERYthing it can to fire and / or eliminate tens of thousands of postal workers as you read this...i have read dozens of audit reports from OIG that give recommendations to management to "reduce overtime" "cut labor costs", and not ONE that even SUGGESTS that corporate management should be held responsible for the complete disaster that they have created...and that "before any further damage is done to one of the Greatest American Institutions ever created, we should examine the business practices and qualifications of all those that have contributed to the current state of the U.S.P.S. starting from the top ,, down....." the post office didn't get into the mess it's in now just because we were asked to work overtime... it got into this mess through YEARS of mis-management. it got into this mess because , despite our best efforts to explain that;because i do this job every day, i am the MOST qualified individual in this corporation to ask when you would like to know if there is a better, faster, more efficient way of moving the mail... and yet,,, no one asks.. and when i speak up and say " hey,, three of us got together.. and agree that if we were allowed to do it this way.. ... only to be told that we need to stop causing trouble.. and to do it "the way it's always been done",,, because THAT ...... is what management is comfortable with, it's what they are able to control,,, it's the only way they know.. and... "it's worked for the 30 years i've been here.. and i don't see any reason to change now... "... 4 hours for the overtime desired list..and they called.. "first off day"... and i'm downright frustrated.... angry... and the next one to receive a letter that says "you will report to your new job assignment starting tomorrow...it's location is approximately 500 miles north...starting time is 2:30 am" "failure to be on time will result in your immediate dismissal"...so what happened to paul vogel... the guy that "lost" 1.8 million pallets ?????

Paul Vogel, former USPS VP network operations (he now is in charge of global operations)

it's as it has always been.. and i can't help but wish that just once... someone would have said... hey.. you've been doing this for 15 years.. what do you think ?

The United States Postal Service reaches out and touches every american, where they live, where they work, or where they are stationed,,, fighting for the rights of all of us,,,, six days a week, 52 weeks a year, and we were doing it even before your grandmother and grandfather were born... there will never be another company that is willing ,, or able,,, to do that.. for less than 50 cents..

I realize that it takes the coordination of a lot of different company's to create a mailing, but the bottom line is : the company that owns the permit, or pays the postage, is our customer. they are the ones that pay us money. so it only makes sense that these are the company's that we release the pallets and mte to. i am not saying that they have to pick the mte up themselves.. they can have their printer, shipper, etc. pick it up.. but when a mailer needs mte, they should be required to contact us ahead of time,(even if this is just a couple of hours), and provide quantity needed, who will be picking it up.. etc...all of this put on a form, which will then have to signed by the "agent" picking up the order.( i would even go as far as requiring drivers license to be shown, and dl number recorded on form). the form would then go to the person that inputs the information for mailings..with a new code to indicates a withdrawal of mte. and a payment of 0$. this way we could use the software that is already in place. and when we needed a report , we could create one by code , or by payment of 0$. (of course i'm assuming that we don't have any mailings coming through with a payment of 0$), i guess we will have to start charging those that do, 1 cent, so that only mte is 0$. i would also limit the places that mte is allowed to be picked up from.. i understand that this would be an "inconvenience" to some.. but i am sure that through coordination with the mailers, we would be able to agree on locations.. etc.. this process would apply to any quantity above ______ . obviously i don't know where the breaking point should be , but i'm sure somebody has a good idea. and of course i haven't forgot about the small mailings.. these are equally as important to us as the big mailings.. so for small quantities that are already being picked up at the local post office, we should at least start requiring a drivers license, name and signature. we would then be able to track number of mte per station.. etc..
of course i don't actually know what is involved with the distribution of mte, so this solution may just be laughed at by some.. but we need to keep in mind that the company's and individuals that pay the postage are our customers, and as "paying" customers we provide them with mte as a convenience and to help ensure uniformity in mailings. any business that is not directly putting mail into the system, isn't a customer, and therefore should not be provided with our equipment. ( i have already mentioned that printers, etc. that are hired by the mailers would be entitled , but only when the mailer has made such arrangements..)

so it would be interesting to know just what measures are in place today to keep the above article from repeating ....

It seems to sound like a logical solution, but we are not sure that the solution can be attained without the inconvenience & cost going up. But if the cost is much lower then purchasing more pallets because of theft loss then it should be explored!!!!!!!

I hope that there will be a real change in the postal management real soon because now the management is treating the employees really bad. They think that the employees causing them to loose money but actually they are the ones. Poor management, unfair practice, and money wasting practices are causing the usps alot of money. I am praying everyday that God will help to overhaul the entire system because there is unfair practice happening everyday. There are people walking around during work hour and no one says anything. And there are the ones that always do their jobs and get harrassed. GOD BLESS THE USPS.

Just bumped into this thread and wanted to add a little. I'm a mailhandler for 23 yrs,who worked empty equipment 9 years for 50 AOs. I've noticed a recent change over, back to fiber pallets during this 09 summer for the usps.

Heard of this problem last year(missing plastic pallets).As a small time stock investor, ive followed small companies,some of which were claiming to converting plastic back to oil,as plastic is an oil product.

I've no specific information, but this is just another avenue to look at,as it was my first thought back when i first heard of the problem and oil was $140 bbl.

Being the plastic pallet is 20 yrs old to the USPS and we didn't realize a problem till last year or so.Perhaps this offers another avenue for investigation. Maybe the amount of plastic pallet losses can be tracked side by side with the price of oil.

Just a thought!!

Theft loss of palets is always a bad thing. However, i think that increased security does not cover the expenses of theft in this case. It is worth researching tough, so you set an example that theft is not tolerated

Great information. Thanx a lot!

do you care that the san diego county regster of voters is using thousands of pices of postal equipment for inside processing of mail???

I appreciate your post and you explain each and every point very well.Thanks for the information.

Missing plastic pallets are only part of the MTE problem.

The USPS provided pallets, sacks, letter and flats trays, as well as APCs/GPS and OTRs to mailers for the transportation of their product to Post Offices and P&DCs.

But all to often those mailers use *our* equipement for *their own internal purposes.

*I'm not talking about a few trays (tubs) used for office storage. *I'm talking about our plastic and canvas hampers used by their employees to sort their product before it ever gets to us.
*I'm talking about using our trays, hampers, OTRs and GPCs to transport their *customers'* product to their facility for sorting.

This equipment *never* gets back to the USPS. It stays in facilities like UPS for their own use, saving them millions nationwide while we subsidize that cost.

Even if some gets back to us, mailers obsorb more.

The OIG need to pay visits to big and little mail consolidators to get our gear back. That cost alone should save the jobs of more than a few clerks and carriers.

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