Technology plays a huge role in the fast-moving package delivery market. Package delivery companies that skimp on innovation investments do so at their own risk.

As part of its effort to be the “shipper of choice” for customers, the U.S. Postal Service has invested millions of dollars in Mobile Delivery Devices (MDD), handheld scanners that allow letter carriers to track package delivery in real time via Global Positioning System. Tracking capability, known as package visibility, is essential for USPS to meet market demands.

MDDs have replaced what carriers previously used — older Intelligent Mail Devices and clamshell cell phones that only tracked packages in “near real time.” As a single device, the MDD is more convenient and can also support multiple requirements, such as Sunday package delivery, dynamic routing (sorting packages in the most efficient, logical order for delivering), speedier reporting of scan data, and future software enhancements.

The Postal Service has deployed 262,800 MDDs, software releases, and related accessories. To date, the Mobile Delivery Device program has improved package visibility and achieved a key metric of reducing repair costs and help desk costs that were associated with the Intelligent Mail Devices.

However, our recent audit report found opportunities for the Postal Service to improve the MDD program and bring it closer to achieving all of the metrics set forth in its business case for investing in the devices. We noted the Postal Service fell short in meeting its timeliness goal for posting delivery scan data to the tracking system and its percentage-of-scans goal.

Some factors hurt the program’s ability to achieve its goals, notably issues around system network connectivity and the conditions of the MDDs, including frozen screens and laser beam readers malfunctioning. The MDD batteries also were sometimes problematic, which forced letter carriers to use ineffective and inefficient workarounds. 

We recommended management communicate with the vendor to resolve the battery life issues. We also recommended management update weekly status reports with all known issues related to MDD network connectivity and functionality.

Tell us your experience. If you are a carrier, how do the MDDs work for you? What improvements would you like to see? As a customer, how important is real-time tracking of your packages?

Comments (38)

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  • anon

    How can you possibly blame Hurricane Jose and Hurricane Maria for mail delays when neither one of them even impacted the Continental United States?

    Sep 21, 2017
  • anon

    RE: Cluster mailboxes in our HOA. We live in a 55+ community in Pennsylvania. Many residents have a hard time walking. Our mail comes a different times from day to day. It would be wonderful if the carrier could notify a resident in the community who in turn could send out emails or text messages to residents. Thank you for your time. Kathy Melcher

    Sep 15, 2017
  • anon

    It doesn't matter if I can track my package if the delivery driver is too lazy to carry my package to the door like they are being paid to do. Once again, I spent my afternoon waiting for a delivery just so my habitually lazy driver can lie about needing a key to get up the stairs to my apartment. Whether it's laziness or having a delivery person steal my mail, it's a problem that cannot be reported. I've been trying to call my local post office in Detroit for a week now and nobody ever answers the phone. I can't wait until these lazy deadbeats are closed down and have to go to work for a real company that doesn't protect the stupid and lazy scumbags like the USPS does.

    Sep 09, 2017
  • anon

    We received an attempted delivery today when zero attempt was made. The postmaster said the carrier had too many packages and they would bring it tomorrow but scanned it as attempted delivery. Hubby called back and was told same thing . Zero attempt at delivery but was scanned as attempted. False reporting to Amazon Prime and to postal records

    Sep 05, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Susan, and thank you for reaching out to the USPS Office of Inspector General. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service which deals with internal fraud, waste, and abuse; and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (800-275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service.

    Sep 06, 2017
  • anon

    I would like to see an alert on the scanner about frequent misdeliveries to particular addresses. Addresses with the same house number, different streets seem to be problematic for some carriers in my office. A simple alert to double-check the mail before placing in the box could help.

    Aug 31, 2017
  • anon

    Your employees abuse their authority, you don't investigate properly, mail isn't delivered, the model is broken. Without reliable mail delivery, or proper attention to legitimate complaints, the monopoly is the only thing keeping you in business. Any questions?

    Aug 21, 2017
  • anon

    The USPS has gotten worst this year. I have had to pay out claims to buyers as the packages aren't scanned or they bounce around from post office to post office. I am a small time eBay seller and I am shocked at how bad it has become to get any real answers from the USPS. I have repeatedly called this month alone on 2 packages from MA to CT. These packages should have been delivered in 2 , max 3 days. They bounced around from one main PO in MA to all over MA to CT over and over again before being delivered. Sent the same items to this woman and it happened over and over again. The people in charge at the 800 number do not know what to tell you and then tell you that you will hear from someone in 3 business days. What a joke! As far as lost packages, wonder where these go when you call a PO only to be told "that package is lost, Ma'am". Seriously they don't even bother to look anymore. The postal service is only getting worst while they raise the prices for shipping.

    Aug 20, 2017
  • anon

    Real time tracking is absolutely necessary. It would bring the USPS up to speed with literally every other shipping service. Additionally, it would help reduce the reports of packages being delivered when they haven't. This is a very common problem which has made me request Amazon and other suppliers to stop using USPS.

    Aug 20, 2017
  • anon

    Too heavy. Outdated software. Screen is too small. Short battery life. Poor imagery. Terrible holster.

    Aug 20, 2017
  • anon

    I am a letter carrier and have issues on a daily bases with my mdd. It freezes up 3 or 4 a day. I have to take out the battery or do a cold reboot on it ever time. Then it will randomly roll thru screens and change my setting. I have to go in to profile to change it back. This is also causing a shorter time on the battery as it never goes to sleep to conserve the battery. The on screen capture does not work at all it will not pick up images and if it does work will often cause it to freeze up. So I have been using 3849 for 3 months for signatures. The supervisor called IT and they did a software push up which fixed it for about 3 hours. She called back and they told her if cold reboot works that they will not replace it as they $1500. I also tried a brand new battery no help. I am in an office that is part of the rural study and I am concerned about how accurate the data that is being collected is. Some of the routes that are supposed to be part of the study do have the rsd installed on them.

    Aug 19, 2017
  • anon

    Online order of wedding invitations were returned despite having correct name/address sent to small local post office. Arbitrary decision of manager. Thought all efforts were made to deliver in timely fashion but apparently that is no longer the philosophy of the postal service.

    Aug 18, 2017
  • anon

    Rural carrier here.These scanners waste our time with a bunch of warnings about safety ... which i think a buzzing beeping device actually distracts the driver. SPM scans consume alot of time and are not included in the evaluation of our day.bogging carriers down with more need to hold the scanner and click accept etcetera . Carriers also receive limited options to actually tell the customer what is happening with thier package.

    Aug 17, 2017
  • anon

    Carrier in 10007 for 30+ years. 1. The scanner can be better improved to utilize the real time and on line capabilities to save money via fraudulent customer generated bar codes and weights stated by the customer. 2. On delivery and pick up, it would benefit us if the scanner would relay information about the piece that is in the system to better allow us, the carrier to tailor the delivery/pick up to the customer's needs such as UPS does. 3. The excessive use of bandwidth diminishes the capability of the scanner's battery when we are given incessant instruction for meaningless mail scans and MSP which are also out dated. 4. Allow real time communication with the supervisor while in the field rather than rely on telephones in emergencies.

    Aug 17, 2017
  • anon

    My postal delivery person is always on his phone. I work from home, and have meetings in my front room often. He will come to the porch talking loudly, and it is obviously not work related. It's hard to believe he can be fully engaged in his job when he is on the phone the entire time. Is this addressed in job protocol?

    Aug 17, 2017
  • anon

    Battery is horrible!! On all of ours! They turn off in the middle of a scan, restart, how embarrassing in front of a customer! To busy trying to pin point our every move instead of focusing on what the scanner is actually intended for! Scanning packages!

    Aug 16, 2017
  • anon

    Yes the batteries are horrible. Im just Soo disappointed that our Union choose these heavy Scanners. But,the Postal Service is trying to over load it. Please spend our money wisely on a Scanner that is lite weight & has a LLB, Long Live Battery.

    Aug 19, 2017
  • anon

    There is no way to contact the usps on iPhone as the bottom of the "review" page is obscured by the footer. No way to continue. Could you please forward this message. I'm so sorry to intrude but every contact link has proved fruitless, including the phone number that has disconnected me twice.

    Aug 16, 2017
  • anon

    Also send out mailers during the holidays reminding residents of tips (and important phone numbers) to help reduce package theft. For instance rent a PO box for the holidays if you won't be home.

    Aug 16, 2017
  • anon

    How can you be anyone's "shipper of choice" when you can't even get the post office to pick up a package? I just checked our shipping software, and so far this year we have spent a little over $12,200 on postage, and I will be switching to FedEx tomorrow because of the poor customer service. I've tried to complain to my local post office, but they have yet to return a phone call in the year I have been at this location. If I call the 800 number I can expect a 30 to 45 minute hold to even speak to anyone. If you want more business, earn it with better service.

    Aug 15, 2017
  • anon

    When you a victims of identity theft here in the united state and back home Philippines. When your owned government failed to correct the error.

    Aug 15, 2017
  • anon

    1. USPS tracking has come a long way in the past 10 years - but is nowhere near as good as FedEx or UPS. 2. Credit card processors and Marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Walmart etc. rely on tracking before determine a case of Item Not Received by buyers. Incorrect scan records hurt both, recipients and shippers. 3. With a spotty record of providing updates to display Delivery Confirmation and/ or Signature Confirmation, USPS causes anxiety and losses for both buyers and seller. 4. As LetherNick, Lisa, and Linda (posters) point out, USPS carriers knowingly or unknowingly game the system. When the recipient or shipper contact USPS to get the correct information, USPS Customer Support is extremely unhelpful - partly because the flawed system cannot be updated and partly because of poorly trained staff. 5. When cases are opened for missing packages, USPS staff promptly close these without any resolution and send a canned nonsensical e-mail - see example below: "I regret learning of the inconvenience you have experienced. The Postal Service is aware of the frustration and disappointment caused when we do not live up to our commitment of safe and reliable mail service. We are working on trying to retrieve it, but if we are unable to retrieve it we do apologize for the inconvenience there is nothing further we can do. An apology is no substitute for good service, but I want to offer one on behalf of the Postal Service. We appreciate your reporting this matter to us. It helps to know the kinds of difficulties our customers have so we can work toward improvements. The information you have provided will be shared with management as they continue their efforts to improve service performance in your area. Thank you for the opportunity to address this matter with you. Please accept our sincere apology for any inconvenience this matter may have caused you." SUMMARY: In 2017, it is unacceptable to be able to provide this level of poor service and get away with it without any consequences!

    Aug 15, 2017
  • anon

    "Delivered", "No Access", "Receptacle Blocked", "No Authorized Recipient Available" and such scans should give a recognizable warning if it's out-of-range from the delivery point. If a package is scanned Delivered, for example, and that particular scan is a mile away from the geolocation of the delivery address - an alert should pop on the screen. The delivery courier should accept such action by clicking "OK" or something similar. Any irregular out-of-range scan data should be instantly filtered. With over 1.5 billion scans in a quarter, some mistakes will undoubtedly occur. Mistakes are fine - as long as they can be eventually addressed and resolved. Today's postal customer is expecting instant package visibility on top of relevant and accurate scan events. On a positive note, USPS scanning has definitely improved and should soon eliminate the gap with other shipping companies.

    Aug 14, 2017
  • anon

    I am a rural carrier , as a carrier I think the mdd is very bulky as in having to carry to the door for delivery with our keys for llv and a lot of my packages are large , bulky or multiple packages , in my opinion I wish we could possibly get the finger scanner that the clerks used and possibly have it paired via Bluetooth with the mdd in the llv , or something similar . It is a juggling act and accident waiting to happen in my opinion some of my packages are over 15 lbs (i.e. Dog food, cat litter ,laundry soap ) . The plus sides of the mdd are the scanning , they are much faster than the previous one . As a customer of Amazon also I love the real time scanning !

    Aug 14, 2017
  • anon

    For on street function why can't letter carriers scan certified letters, etc as a forward. It's time wasting practice to have to find a clerk to scan it as a forward when we can do it on the street and put that mail where it belongs when we get back to the office

    Aug 14, 2017
  • anon

    As a mail carrier I understand the importance of all scans we do. However, the way management is using these little monsters! They track our every move to harass us, just simply doing our jobs. I keep my scanner with me always for the study. It would be EXTREMELY nice to have these in a smaller package. If these things track everything we do it would be great to put them in our pocket. When you have 4 ginormous packages going to a customers door the last thing we wanna do is juggle these packages plus the scanner. It used to be easier to scan in vehicle then take packages. You can't tell me the technology isn't there. Look what a iPhone can do!

    Aug 14, 2017
  • anon

    I would like to see a feature that allows the carrier to change the status of delivery. For instance, in mailbox, oops, didn't fit as I thought, or oops, mailbox just fell down, etc. There is no way to change the delivery of in mailbox after you have scanned it as such. I have tried to review entry then delete, too late.

    Aug 14, 2017
  • anon

    As a carrier, the freeze ups seem to be happening much more, requiring a complete re-boot ( very time consuming and especially irritating to customers when I can't give them their item while waiting for it to cycle through ). Additionally, in the rural carrier mode, we do not have an item Forwarded option. Prepaid Item Pickup continues to get booted further back into the menu and requires too many steps for as often as that scan is needed Lastly, the carrier mode lacks any way to notify that a scan ( parcel or ? ) wasn't left because it was a postage due.

    Aug 14, 2017
  • anon

    I'm a rural carrier and, personally, I'm a big fan of technology that will improve the visibility of customers mailings. However, that being said, the training for the scanners, the supervisor's knowledge of the scanners and the improvements that have been made to the scanners since deployment has been extremely spotty/non-existent. Anytime there are updates to the functions of the scanner or something new that is deployed, NO ONE IN MANAGEMENT seems to know what those changes are AND we get no stand-ups or new training on those changes. Then we get yelled at and/or disciplined for not knowing. We all need the same training and same stand-ups for these devices. It's very hard to know whats going on if they don't tell us (which frequently happens). In regards to the scanners however, the training and updates need to happen when they are deployed and not months after the fact

    Aug 14, 2017
  • anon

    I ship daily via USPS and UPS so I can speak to the performance gaps between the two. The USPS has great pick up and delivery options and they're the cheapest option. Unfortunately, there are issues with transportation of dangerous goods and tracking is, currently, abysmal. UPS, on the other hand, charges more but they're tracking service is impeccable. They have lots of options for tracking notification by both the customer and the shipper. They have wonderful systems in place for dealing with dangerous goods. They ship internationally, including dangerous goods. About 1 in 20 of my USPS packages is delayed. Why is that? Often packages are sent via ground instead of priority mail and often packages are simply shelved for an indefinite amount of time. I believe both of these are caused by the fact that I ship a dangerous good and the USPS Staff it's not appropriately trained or aligned on how to handle these items.

    Aug 14, 2017
  • anon

    It would be nice if that were all the scanners were for, but now you have supervisors sitting in the office all day long, monitoring every move the carrier makes via GPS and using that information to harass them for not moving fast enough.

    Aug 14, 2017
  • anon

    I think the carriers that delivers in our town do a excellent job getting packages to our office. They are worth they weight in gold.

    Aug 14, 2017
  • anon

    That's great for you but the USPS won't deliver to my address 3 blocks from the actual office in town. Residential neighborhood 25 mph. Nothing but a social function till 4pm quit time. Wrong address, etc. Work is a four letter word to the staff. As a combat troop that can't get mail delivered to the only home I'll ever own, I find it disgusting.

    Aug 21, 2017
  • anon

    Thanks Annette. There is a little saying which goes around carriers. "We don't have any customers, but we do have a lot of friends we bring the mail to." Thanks for being a friend.

    Aug 14, 2017
  • anon

    Can you get one of your friends to bring me my mail please?

    Sep 13, 2017
  • anon

    As a customer I appreciate when the items are scanned, but only when the scan is an honest one. When an item is scanned dishonestly only so the carrier can achieve a scan score and the carrier scans the item is delivered when the item is no where near my home I do not appreciate this at all!! It would be extremely appreciative if the carriers would just be honest and scan the truth! The item either was delivered or not! Customers understand weather conditions, illnesses and vehicle breakdowns! Customers understand that there will not always be 100% delivery on time! There is no need to falsify a scan and state an item was delivered when the package is at the post office and there is no intention of this item being delivered until the following day for a unit score!

    Aug 14, 2017
  • anon

    I agree with Lisa. This is an ongoing issue for me -- carriers frequently scan packages as "attempted delivery" or "delivered" on days when I was home waiting for the package and no one rang or knocked so I know for certain no attempt or delivery was made on that day. When Amazon promises a two-day delivery and the carrier will not make the deadline for whatever reason, instead of an honest notification of a delay, it appears the carrier wants credit for a delivery being on time, when, in fact, it will be a day or two late -- which is not a problem for me. At first, I would search the outside vestibule and lobby around my apartment building and even check with neighbors before I realized what was going on. This false scanning is dishonest and frustrating! If the honor system is not working then a GPS system should be used to verify that the carrier is at the location they claim they are attempting to deliver or have just delivered a package.

    Aug 15, 2017
  • anon

    Most of these incorrect scans are not done by the carrier. They are done by management. If a package gets sorted to the wrong route or if the carrier overlooks the package out on the route (we are human and not perfect) management will "fake" a stop-the-clock scan to keep their numbers up.

    Aug 31, 2017

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