It’s not only travelers that have to deal with delays at the airport. Seems inbound international mail does, too.

But the U.S. Postal Service isn’t necessarily at fault when inbound international mail is delayed. While on a plane and even after it’s unloaded but not yet tendered to the Postal Service, inbound international mail is the responsibility of the foreign postal operators and their agreements with air carriers or ground handlers.

However, in our recent audit on this topic, we noted some ways the Postal Service could improve its monitoring of inbound international mail.

The Universal Postal Union (UPU) guidelines say mail should be tendered at a USPS International Service Center (ISC) within one to two hours maximum after landing. Our audit report found significant delays in the Postal Service’s receipt of inbound international mail at the ISCs.

Our analysis of 5.4 million receptacles received at ISCs between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017, and flight log data, showed:

  • About 4.3 million receptacles, or roughly 80 percent, of mail tendered to the Postal Service exceeded the two-hour UPU guidance.
  • About 63 percent of receptacles were tendered between two and 12 hours; 20 percent took 12 to 24 hours; and about 17 percent took longer than 24 hours.
  • Delays were more prevalent during the end-of-year peak mailing season.

Postal employees have no authority to manage ground handlers, but they do assess and record the status of receptacles in what are called ramp reports. We recommended ramp reports be completed consistently across all ISCs. In addition, USPS should incorporate more available data into its reports — such as the date and time the mail arrives at the airport to better indicate how long a receptacle has been in the United States.

We noted the Postal Service is already coordinating with foreign posts, ground handlers, and others on notification about delays and on developing fixes.

Comments (4)

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  • anon

    Anytime you involve a third party into a process like this you're going to have delays. The reality is that the ramp employees have different priorities and answer to a different set of criteria. The best systems will always struggle in this exchange. However, this delay is minute compared to much more systemic and controllable inefficiency once it's at the ISC. I recently had two packages (letter size) come through the ISC-LA both destined for my home in Yakima, WA, from different cities in China. Package A arrived 5:48 am Sept.29 and departed the LA-IDC by 8:26 the same day. Oct. 4th it arrived at the NDC in Dallas TX around 5pm, departed next day at 1am, arrived 6 hrs later at the Coppel, TX RDC and departed Oct. 5 at 10PM., it arrived early this morning at the Spokane, WA Regional facility and departed a couple hours later on its final trip to Yakima and I expect I'll get delivery by Monday. It took longer to get from ISC to here then it took from China to the ISC by a third. Now, package B arrived Oct. 2 around 9 am same path as A and departed the IDC -LA around 6pm that evening, it arrived to the Spokane, WA RDC yesterday, Oct. 6th at 1:45am, departed and couple hours later and aftER going to the Yakima, WA DC arrive at the unit for delivery at 3:45am this morning. The obvious issues with logistics, system design and the sorting methodology are pretty obvious. A elementary student could see how inefficient and inconsistent the system must be for two radically different paths for mail that will be similar in characteristics. I'm guessing this happens often enough that is represents thousands of dollars in labor, fuel and equipment that is 100% unnecessary and avoidable. Solve the REAL issues internally before dealing with systems that work even with small delays.

    Oct 07, 2017
  • anon

    Interesting to read through this post. But it's kind of funny that I have had complaints about missing business mail, both outgoing and incoming for he past 5 YEARS with no response from any post office or any inspection response team....for 5 years missing mail on the daily!!!! Not only does it make our business look bad but it affects our credit! No help no answers, no it's not ever storm related it's mail just outright missing, never reaches us or gets back to our customers, the same when we mail out items, we never get them back or they never reach our intended destination. Why can't someone ACTUALLY assist us in figuring this out??!! Why do I have to write it in a blog post.....probably because it's gotten to a point of desperation for us!!

    Oct 03, 2017
  • anon

    whats tjis mean for me? Why i have this email?do i have a parcel to claim at USPS ?IF SO...WHATS THE INFORMATION? Or this is a scammers!!!!

    Sep 25, 2017
  • anon

    Improved and consistent manual ramp reports are a good first step. But why isn't USPS willing to integrate the flight arrival data into an efficient electronic notification system? The Postal Service already collects this data. Delayed inbound mail should trigger automatic verification notes on its internal document portal system. This would not require designing a brand new system from scratch - as already existing processes can be incorporated to effectively monitor the millions of delayed containers.

    Sep 25, 2017

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