Who doesn’t like finding a package they ordered online on their doorstep at an unexpected time, like, say, late in the evening just before you turn out the porch light for the night? 

Consumers have come to expect quick delivery of parcels, often at odd hours of the day. This new paradigm comes at a cost, however. For the U.S. Postal Service, it means their city carriers and non-career city carrier assistants (CCAs) are delivering packages after the targeted return time of 6:00 p.m. Returning late from their routes raises safety concerns — especially when it gets dark earlier —  and overtime costs. 

Few are complaining about the ecommerce explosion, mind you. It’s driving a growth in parcels — even as lettermail volumes decline. This package boom, along with a downsizing of the Postal Service workforce and evolving customer needs, have led to changes in the network and delivery. Furthermore, a wide range of variables, such as weather, employee absences, or new carriers to a route, can affect delivery on a daily basis. 

All of this poses challenges for the Postal Service in meeting its goal of 95 percent of letter carriers being off the street by 5 p.m. and 100 percent by 6 p.m. Our recent audit of the Bay Valley (CA) District — in the heart of the nation’s ecommerce hub — found that carriers and CCAs fell short of the 100 percent goal by 6 p.m. In calendar year 2016, only 75 percent of carriers returned to the office by 6 p.m., our report said.

Bay Valley certainly is seeing the effects of ecommerce activity, as well as Sunday package delivery, and grocery delivery service: The district had a 16 percent growth in package volume in calendar year 2016 over the previous year, topping 101 million packages. In some areas, package deliveries now regularly occur early in the morning and as late as 10 p.m.

We found a mix of underlying reasons for missing the targeted return time: Insufficient staffing, late or improper mail arrival, inaccurate route adjustments, and insufficient supervision. The Postal Service agreed with our recommendations to improve the underlying conditions.

We welcome your suggestions as well. What more could be done to get carriers off the streets on time? Given all the variables that can affect the ability to complete deliveries by the targeted time, what additional precautions could be taken to enhance carrier safety? 

Comments (209)

  • anon

    Mail needs to come to the office early and carrier start times need to be earlier. Staffing needs to increased. Carriers start times are continually moved later and later and the workload this time of year gets heavier and heavier so having the mail available earlier and clerks and carriers starting earlier to get it sorted and cased gets them out of the office early and prevents them from delivering after dark.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    1) properly staff clerks and mail handlers at the plants and stations so that mail and parcels can get to carriers earlier 2) move cut off times for dispatches to stations earlier 3) hold shippers who do drop shipments directly to stations accountable for arriving late. If it's late, it goes the next day. They get a discounted rate, so make them earn it. 4) have enough vehicles for carriers so on heavier days extra CCAs can be scheduled to take some of the load off 5) move all start times to 7am or earlier, work in the office when it's dark and on the street when there is light 6) load level. No reason to run full coverage standard letters or flats on Monday's. Monday's should be 1st and 2nd, parcels and weekend cleanup. Standard can wait until Tuesday.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    Responding to the Delivery after Dark article, the biggest three factors in late delivery return times at our office (Grand River Carrier Annex Grand Rapids MI 49503), in my opinion as a city carrier with 17 years, are: 1) pushing our start times up to an hour later while the clerks maintain the mail dispatch times haven't changed combined with 2) not enough clerks to accomodate the mail to get it sorted on time - even with our later start times and 3) mismanagement of resources, mainly not utilizing available overtime carriers in the most efficient way to minimize travel time and sort times. Thank you.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    Mail trucks are late a lot. Stop changing out start time. When I started in 2003 we started at 6 am now we start at 8 am.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    First of all, you forgot about Rural Carriers and RCAs who work hard daily and can't make the truck because start times have moved back and routes are overburdened with parcels. I'm not looking forward to Christmas. I'm exhausted just thinking of it. Parcels take longer than mail to deliver. They just do! Especially if you curb wheels, turn car off, take keys, set brake, grab scanner, pen, dog spray, walk to porch juggling parcel(s) and then get back in car and restart everything. It's time consuming.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    Recount the routes fairly with the Amazon load included. Change start times as necessary. Cut routes that go over the threshold, distribute the load more evenly.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    I worked as a carrier for 32 years and when i left automatization was in full force and they cut the clerk craft alot from clerks from stations to bulk mail centers as our station complained of short clerk staff was always overlooked late trips come in no clerks to work it and never staffed or window right always had long lines out the door teams would come in and do nothing so not only our front counter customers were not happy niether was the carrier craft waiting on mail and alot of the time city and rural carriers would help get the late mail out so bottom line staff the clerk craft so customers in line at counter are happy and can get the mail and PACKAGES to the carriers

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    Can we just go to a 7 day delivery? The subs would finally have an actual part time job, and most offices are open anyway for Amazon delivery. It would even out the ridiculous Mon nightmare of high volume. And do away with those tiny mailboxes! How money, energy, time wasting to not have sufficient size mailboxes for small parcels and clearly not enough parcel lockers at the cndbus!!!!!!!

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    I've found that the folks delivering the mail, at any time of the day, have been courteous and typically in good spirits. I read that online services with delivery options are still going to grow over the next decade. It stands to reason that the low staffing is going to remain a problem with USPS. Clearly pricing remains key as well as innovative services that create more revenue. Also, improving self-serve kiosks capabilities in suburban areas may serve to shift personnel from counter to delivery.

    Sep 18, 2017

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