This sounds like a math problem on a standardized test: If the amount of mail processed in fiscal year (FY) 2018 declined by 5 billion pieces and total number of workers used to process mail declined by 5,000 career employees (with workhours also dropping by 4.3 million), how much did overtime costs decrease?

Answer: They didn’t. Overtime costs to process mail increased by $257 million (31 percent) in FY2018 from the previous year. What happened?

Our latest audit report looked at the U.S. Postal Service’s  management of mail processing overtime in FY18 and determined that the USPS did not effectively manage mail processing overtime costs in FY 2018. It planned for total mail processing overtime costs of about $732 million, but actually incurred $1.09 billion, a difference of 49 percent.

USPS uses overtime to give it flexibility in operations. But it must manage overtime efficiently, given its impact on costs. Overtime is paid at 1.5 times an employee’s hourly rate. Another category of overtime – penalty overtime – is paid, under specific conditions, at double the employee’s hourly rate.

The Postal Service planned for about 18.5 million overtime workhours and 767,000 penalty overtime workhours for FY 2018. The actual overtime workhours used were 26.7 million (44 percent over plan), and the actual penalty overtime workhours used were 1.7 million (126 percent over plan). This occurred, in part, due to implementation of an employee scheduling tool at the beginning of FY 2018, which we discovered needed some finetuning.

The Postal Service is currently rolling out an updated version of the scheduling tool that should better set the standards for employee schedules and complement levels.

Our report also cited opportunities to address management oversight to prevent unauthorized overtime, reduce grievances, and increase employee availability.

What thoughts or ideas do you have for helping to rein in overtime costs?

Comments (22)

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  • anon

    As a 14 yr veteran carrier, who also worked as a 204B for 2 1/2 years, and was the head trainer at our station with an 80-90% retention rate, I would say the biggest problem is lack of staff. I am not on any OTDL, and yet get mandated constantly as if I were on a list. We need to seasonally staff up in advance at even $14hr, keep them below 30 or 32 hrs a week so no benefits until chance for conversion, train them to be efficient carriers ( not just 3 days if more is needed), etc... I'm not talking about 5 people at a time. I'm talking more like 10-15 per station. That way hours can be evenly dispersed, 8 and 40s can be covered, overtime pay would be at $21 hr vs say $45 hr because you paid a veteran carrier. You could use 2 different shifts-Regular employees 6-2:30pm, then part-timers 3-7 or something. (Parcel delivery, 3 hrs worth of bumps, etc...) Then, carriers would get their days off, their evenings with their families for the most part, and everybody would be happier, more productive, and fewer accidents because we wouldn't be on constant burnout. Of course, the other biggest issue that causes problems is lack of vehicles. We can't have backup staff without backup vehicles. A $45 tank of gas goes a lot further than a carrier in an hour, and taking the burden of large parcels off of the carriers would safe alot of time and money.

    Nov 16, 2019
  • anon

    I am the senior clerk on the flat sorter, and work overtime a lot. The problem is, other employees who have not been assigned overtime work simply go into the break room or walk around the building getting paid the same wage as me but doing no work. This goes for PSE’s too... and management turns a blind Eye to their friends’ thievery. That’s the ONLY way overtime can be 44% and 126% over allocation.

    Oct 18, 2019
  • anon

    Part of the issue with O/T is that you are bringing in very efficient mail carriers at a later time than needed. When the weather gets colder and the packages increase, it takes longer to deliver mail in the dark. This is a very simple fix but no one seems to be addressing the problem. It would cut down on overtime tremendously.

    Oct 08, 2019
  • anon

    Does this include overtime pay at the end of the quarter because management failed to do ODL tracking? I got 48 hours of overtime pay last winter for doing nothing.

    Sep 02, 2019
  • anon

    i work in a post office , my hour each down is only 4-5 hours. how can you make income with 20 hours, almost passed probation, want to leave here soon, not stable enough

    Aug 18, 2019
  • anon

    It would be helpful if you gave us a breakdown on where the OT existed. city carriers full time, CCA's, rural carriers(if any) RCA's...Clerks full time, clerks part time... Plants (broken down) ,etc. Then you could take a sampling of the different categories and find the stumbling blocks... Betcha that the reduction of plants led to longer distances between operations. Betcha that deliveries between operations had more delays (weather) traffic, breakdowns) which impact overtime at plants... Betcha these delays and reduction of employees at plants led to further delays to post offices. And betcha clerk overtime and carrier overtime at po's has also exploded because on plants not following IOP's.... Curious to see your report when finished...

    Aug 03, 2019
  • anon

    Thank you all for your comments on this blog. The OIG has varioius audit teams that address concerns and issues related to mail processing. The teams will consider your comments and determine whether any future audit work is warranted. If you have encountered any fraud, waste, or misconduct, please file a complaint with our Hotline. You can access the online complaint form by clicking on the red “Report Fraud, Waste, and Abuse” block at the top of this page. This will allow us to look into the matter for you. We review the information received to identify systemic and potential areas for postal-wide reviews.

    Jul 29, 2019
  • anon

    Level 18 offices. Postmasters are to work continuous 15 hour clerk work during the week. No more and preferably no less. Postmasters would prefer to pay clerks to work overtime and/or out of schedule to avoid their working clerk work. Reporting on 1260 is often falsified. Clerks are not going to complain, they are making the overtime. However, if the postmasters in these offices actually worked their 15 hour clerk work each week. The clerks would not be getting the overtime.

    Jul 23, 2019
  • anon

    It doesn't matter how many pieces there are in a year when you are running an every piece, every day business. We allow folks to have discounts with the sole intention of the service being able to delay the delivery of their product and then spend hours of overtime loading machines for it to go out the day it arrives instead of balancing the load over time. Thus penalty one day and trying to find work for regulars the next and making a mockery of all those forms and reports that are supposed to be used to spread out the load

    Jul 14, 2019
  • anon

    I feel Saturday mail deliveries to offices should stop. Most of the time no one is here to accept the mail. It takes the carriers time to shove the mail under each door if there is not a mail slot available. This may help cut down on hours and overtime.

    Jul 11, 2019
  • anon

    Make use of overtime desired employees. Fully staff facilities. I understand (as a former Union President) that it’s cheaper for management to pay overtime than additional employee benefits, but in the long run, it makes for a much more efficient organization. Also, you mention decline in mail volume, but not the increase in parcel volume, which I can tell you was quite a lot the last several years. I was proud to have worked as a mail carrier and blessed to be able to retire under CRS. The constant erosion of craft employee benefits will have a negative effect, but perhaps that’s what higher ups with an interest in privatizing the USPS want?

    Jul 11, 2019
  • anon

    Postal Service also cut 10,000 jobs which seems penny wise and pound foolish and did not account for the overwhelming increase in parcels, only looking at the decrease in First Class Mail. Mail, no matter the type, still needs to be processed. So why is anyone surprised the OT and Penalty went well over estimates? It would make more sense and save tons of cents to pay straight time to a larger workforce then OT and Penalty to a smaller one. Raising the standard of hiring beyond a pulse and a negative urine test would help as well. Hire everyone as FTR’s from the start and get a more engaged workforce. Management keeps cutting off the legs of the table WE all sit at including them; pretty soon there won’t be a table for any of us.

    Jul 03, 2019
  • anon

    If workers were treated better they could possibly be able to hire more people. Split shifts with hours in between. Split shifts driving miles to get to your second location, 12 hours a day to get paid for 8 hours (if your lucky).

    Jul 03, 2019
  • anon

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    Jun 28, 2019
  • anon

    The USPS has been a horrible failure at enforcing leaving times for carriers. Cronyism is God, King and Queen in most large districts. How hard is it to walk up to a carrier, tap them on the shoulder, and make them tie down whatever their little time wasting game allowed them to throw into a route they have been casing for years, sometimes decades? DPS offenders should begin their walking paperwork after their third offence. What is the point of casing thousands of pre-sequenced pieces of mail (which cost a small fortune to sort) with the half dozen pieces of mail per block that came in with the residual? I can understand slow knees, bad backs, shoulders after some time in service, but the games in the office are just that multi-million dollar OT burning games.

    Jun 27, 2019
  • anon

    Wow you’re a real genius. Managers like you are the problem. Former entry level employees who get in postal management jobs without any experience and then try to run an organization this size.

    Sep 02, 2019
  • anon

    John Stewart, I doubt that you’ve carried mail. I had a negotiated dispensation to case my DPS for multiple medical reasons. My times on the street more than made up for time spent in the office casing DPS, especially while the whole office would be on waiting time for parcels or accountable mail. The difference between office and street time do relate. If you save office time with DPS, it most certainly will increase street time, especially as DPS is rarely, if ever perfect. 2+6=8 and so does 3+5=8. It took about 3 years of my 37 year career to realize that anything that can be be done in the office to decrease street time is ultimately more efficient.

    Jul 11, 2019
  • anon

    improper staffing ;Processing the proper mail on the correct machines,utilizing the barcode,. Flats, small china mail pieces, bundles,oversize mail pieces don't belong in mechanized equipment for sorting. A cutt off time should be in place so mail can make proper dispatch times, anything after that time is already late.

    Jun 25, 2019
  • anon

    overtime usage is high because management thinks they are saving money by we not having enough Drivers to handle all the runs so runs have to be broken up between other runs resulting in overtime then there are supervisors and employees who turn in 1260 after only working 8 hour for a 30 minute paid lunch. What is that fraud?

    Jun 24, 2019
  • anon

    There's so much overtime in our processing plant because of understaffing. There are supposed to be 2 clerks per machine to get the mail processed. Most of the time there's only 1 clerk per machine, taking double the time to process the mail.

    Jun 24, 2019
  • anon

    This would explain the roll down effect as to why trucks are late getting the mail to stations. All this wait time that is rolled down should be included. What is their problem solving with this issue later start times? and they wonder why carriers are delivering mail at 9 pm.

    Jun 28, 2019
  • anon

    The postal system regarding employees has gotten back, its sad how employees are treated and I mean the ones in the trenches. I think you need to get rid of the higher ups with the higher salaries and benefits. There you will save a lot more.

    Jun 24, 2019

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