on Nov 7th, 2011 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 19 comments
U.S. Postal Service Mail Transport Equipment (MTE) consists of specialized containers such as sacks, pouches, trays, hampers, over-the-road containers and pallets. Although the Postal Service does not maintain a perpetual inventory of its MTE, a 2010 audit indicated approximately 359 million pieces in the system of 400 processing facilities, over 30,000 post offices and thousands of mailers nationwide. Proper MTE management and availability ensure the safe, secure, and timely movement of mail between Postal Service facilities and its customers or contractors MTE may be used only to transport mail, and borrowers of MTE (such as private mailers) are responsible for its proper use and return. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Over the past few years Postal Service has experienced a significant loss of plastic and wooden pallets. Since fiscal year 2005 the Postal Service has spent over $240 million on close to 19 million plastic and wooden pallets, many of which can no longer be accounted for internally or externally. Realizing the significant cost of leakage of MTE from its inventory, the Postal Service has studied both the movement of MTE as well as ways to reduce leakage. As a result of its precarious financial condition and a freeze on all information technology initiatives, two technological initiatives to better track MTE have been shelved. The Postal Inspection Service has been proactive in both reaching out to the public on this issue, and investigating MTE theft and misuse. The Inspection Service has an ongoing national MTE recovery initiative to locate misappropriated and misused MTE, especially pallets. What do you think about the MTE situation? Is there a cost-efficient way to track MTE? What else should the Postal Service do to reduce leakage? What are your experiences using plastic or wooden pallets? Give your comments below. And if you know of any pallets or other MTE being misused or taken from the system, contact the OIG Hotline, which accepts confidential and anonymous complaints. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Transportation Directorate.


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Employees at the Postal Service give them out freely to customers who holds their mail. It was given to my mother.

What is your mother's address so I can include it in the OIG Hotline?

There have been several MTAC groups that have looked at MTE management, perhaps you should reach out to them to get some of their information. Here is a blog post (from 2008!) http://blog.windowbook.com/2008/05/05/mtac-notes-plastic-pallets/ Other groups have met since them, I'm sure they had some worthwhile ideas that probably fell by the wayside. Worth exploring.

This issue was initially addressed in 2007. In fact, while conducting the FY09 Financial /step in its audit program.

Per the Business Mail Acceptance Newsletter, Issue 73, August 23, 2007:

The Postal Service’s MTE group is announcing the kickoff of the Summer 2007 Roundup Program to collect equipment from customers. The program is intended to round up flat tubs, letter trays and sleeves, rolling stock like hampers and cages, pallets and mailbags that are not in use and return them to USPS inventory. We ask all mailers — from households to large mailing companies — to return USPS equipment during this collection effort. Small quantities of MTE can be returned to your local Post Office or nearby processing and distribution facility. For large quantities and equipment such as pallets or hampers, customers should complete a pick-up request at http://fast.usps.com/fast/mtereturns. The Postal Service spends millions of dollars every year on MTE to replenish inventory and make sure our customers and our business can function effectively. With the average cost of sleeves at 55 cents, flat tubs at almost $4 and pallets nearly $20, it quickly adds up. This summer, help USPS reduce MTE costs and encourage customers to return excess equipment.

The top comment was cut off and incomplete. This issue was initially addressed in 2007. In fact, while conducting the FY09 Financial Installation Audits, OIG Field Financial staff addressed this issue in its audit program.

Thank you for your comment. The Postal Service has experienced MTE shortages and leakage, especially during Peak Season, for many years. Postal Service Headquarters and the Inspection Service have undertaken MTE "recovery" efforts for several years. And, the OIG has conducted several comprehensive audits of MTE issues over the past three years. The OIG has made a number of recommendations which will address the MTE inventory and accountability issues, but the Postal Service's financial position and freeze on systems have made taking effective corrective actions difficult. The current financial condition has added pressure to the MTE/pallet situation this year given the amount of money spent on pallets over the past several years and the continued shortage issues.

What about RFID tags on all pallets? Probably already being done.

Could this be another Lean Six Sigma initiative going postal? The pallets might be hiding on the docks behind my confiscated casing equipment.

Barcode them, scan them arrived at unit and scan them out when you ship them back to the plant.

In 2008 there was an OIG report issued by Engineering audit group. See http://www.uspsoig.gov/foia_files/DA-AR-09-002.pdf.We proposed RFID solution for it , not GPS. It was proven that cost of the RFID installed on pallets and Trackers on Doorways would pay for it self over the years.

Thank you for the comment about the OIG's prior audit on RFID for pallets. We noted in the blog that two technological initiatives to better track MTE have been shelved due to the current financial condition. One of those two initiatives is RFID. The other is a MTE accounting and tracking system covering MTE both externally and internally. We appreciate your comment.

Pay a nominal reward for the identification of this equipment which is not, on or in transit to a USPS operation or it's authorized vendors/contractors etc.!

How much simpler could it be 1-800-MY-SKID or something thereafter..

Thank you for taking the time to visit our Pushing The Envelope blog and provide comments. We appreciate your interest in this important MTE/pallet issue. All of the furnished information will be considered as we work with the Postal Service on appropriate corrective action. Once again, thank you for your contributions to this blog.

Why not sell the pallets? I dropship and I get equal quantites that I leave back. If I want to use them for other things I can- the bulk rate USPS is paying is less than what average mailer would pay for high quality platic pallet. I lose them or send them to UPS it is on me. Stop giving them out freely- problem solved.

What about saving costs without having to deal with a "pallet exchange program?"

Require that all palletized loads be shipped on rental pallets (e.g. CHEP, PECO, iGPS), or oneway pallets. Should they choose to utilize a one-way pallet program, please be aware that all one-way pallets must meet XXXX pallet specifications.

If product is delivered on substandard pallets and the product has to be restacked on a good pallet, reserve the right to issue a re-palletizing charge.

fox 25 Boston is about to air stories about the postal service squandering millions of dollars for rents in unoccupied buildings. this is mindbogglingly but minuscule in comparison to the billions of dollars the postal service is spending on on private transportation contracts nationwide.

This program is called a stare route contracting whereas the postal service will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a independent contractors to deliver a couple sacks of mail between local and distant post offices. often, depending on local logistics, the route can be 15 to 50 miles, more or less. the postal service creates the routes depending on needs and the contractors bid on the route via sealed bids every year, low bids receive the contracts. this process affects just about every post office in the country . These contractors are independents and are not postal employees, they do not receive any government benefits. their vehicles range from pickup trucks to tractor trailers

The irony is the postal service and their unions are crying bankruptcy ,layoffs and stopping Saturday deliveries due to the lack of mail volume/revenue. The postal services national fleets of unused trucks and abundance of employees is second to none and could easily absorb the duties of the stare routers, with the minimum of cross training of employees. can you imagine the costs if a police department had a separate fleet of police cars for each shift of employees? well, that red,white and blue delivery truck used by your mailman sits idle during evenings and nights and is only one example of resources within the USPS fleet. A national savings of billions in idle vehicles and employees who are going to be paid either way. congress would Rather subsidize, via our pocketbooks, again.

a minute example of the above can be observed at a local auto garage in whitinsville,mass. their mechanical services costs you 80.00 a hour for a repair to your auto. before and after hours they pickup and deliver mail between several close by post offices . lets say their contract is in 70,000 to 90,000 range.(conservative guess). The postal service observes this as cost savings because it doesn't have to pay for the non postal vehicle,fuel,salary or employee benefits, (medical,vacation,retirement etc.). the truth of the matter is they already have excess employees,and vehicles on hand and are paying that cost in addition to the outside contractors. multiply this by a national factor to get a billion(s) dollar point of view. In this example the unemployed (via closed office's) would have job security and the above mechanic would start charging 90.00 a hr. ( a large proportion of the stare route contractors have several routes and hire drivers to do the work for them)
let me be clear, many of these contractors perform these delivery duties a couple hours a day. a USPS employee working a 8 hr shift could in many cases absorb the duties several routes. the larger interstate contracts via tractor trailers are probably cost effective justified. the smaller routes are a money pit.

it appears the government finds more ways to hold us hostage rather than finding solutions. I find it disturbing the government can not run a post office feels fit to think they can manage my health care!

btw, the next time you mail something, do not go to the post office. instead, drive to your local mall,plaza or business district and put it in a collection box. At this point you will realise there ARE NO mailboxes to be had. they are gone, it saved man hours by pulling them out. wonder why mail volume is down,,duh!!! what did you expect?
another reported reason the post office is going bankrupt is because of the internet, email, e-banking etc. puzzling how the explosion and majority of Internet vendors use higher priced ups or FedEx services rather than USPS. hmmm.

JJ conveniently failed to mention that Congress and then-President Bush manufactured the current USPS crisis in 2006. Thanks to their ingenuity, the USPS is forced to set aside any annual surplus into a pension fund for workers who are not yet born. They must fund the pensions of workers who'll retire in 75 years in 10 years' time! No other government agency or private company is held to the same draconian and unnecessary standard. USPS has been forced to set aside over $300 billion to date and been hamstrung in its ability to manage its cash flow as needed. Were it not for this aberrant regulation, the postal service would be able to manage it's operation without this artificial impediment.

The obvious and only solution is through technology. RFID, bar codes etc. However USPS technology groups have failed to implement programs that can track and fine MTE. The cost argument they use is bogus given the fact that every other industry has implemented. The ROI is obviously there. USPS failed at implementing a rigid tray program which it has "looked at" for almost 20 years while most other large mail services have implemented. USPS HQ has shown how incompetent they are at developing and implementing technology in a timely manner. It's time to make some tough decisions regarding usps technology personnel and leadership.

i have in my companie pallets for returned to post office y need a contact for that. i have 100 pallets more or less