Our objective was to assess the Postal Service Workload and Workforce Performance Indicators for Customer Service, City Delivery, and Vehicle Operations for fiscal years (FY) 2014 to 2018.
In FY 2018, the Postal Service delivered more than 140 billion letters and flats and 6 billion packages to more than 158 million delivery points. It made these deliveries on over 231,000 routes using more than 208,000 postal-owned delivery vehicles; however, letter and flat mail volume is declining even as package volume continues to grow due to the surge in ecommerce.
This changing mail mix, along with increases in some workload factors, has impacted Postal Service Customer Service, Delivery, and Vehicle Operations. Another issue impacting both Customer Service and Delivery Operations at the delivery unit level is the rise in drop shipments. More commercial mailers are taking advantage of worksharing, which allows for mail and packages to be taken directly to delivery units for sorting and delivery. In FY 2018, commercial mailers dropped off 45 percent of the total package volume directly to delivery units. While worksharing can ease the burden on mail processing operations, it does not reduce workload or the cost of delivery operations.
Customer Service, Delivery, and Vehicle Operations all play critical roles in the Postal Service’s commitment to deliver mail to its customers. There are more than 29,000 delivery units that operate six days a week to ensure mail is delivered.
Customer Service Operations supports delivery services by receiving, sorting, and distributing mail. More than 50,000 Customer Service clerks and about 13,000 non-career Postal Support Employees receive and sort mail from both mail processing facilities and external mailers. Clerks manually sort and distribute non-route sequenced letter and flat mail to carriers.
In Delivery Operations, the Postal Service uses over 168,000 city letter carriers and over 70,000 rural carriers to deliver mail. These carriers are assisted by more than 42,000 City Carrier Assistants and over 53,000 Rural Carrier Assistants. Carriers case non-route sequenced mail, retrieve route sequenced letters and flats, collect packages from staging areas, and load their vehicles for delivery. These carriers then deliver the mail daily to the nearly 158 million delivery points. This report does not address rural delivery operations.
More than 5,200 vehicle maintenance employees work in fleet management, performing maintenance and repairing postal-owned vehicles at over 300 vehicle maintenance facilities in 32 geographical territories nationwide.
What the OIG Found
Overall the amount of mail delivered by the Postal Service has declined by more than 9 billion pieces, from 155.5 billion pieces in FY 2014 to 146.4 billion pieces in FY 2018 (5.87 percent). Although total mail volume has decreased, package volume, city delivery routes, city delivery points, and vehicles in service have increased during the same period.
Correspondingly, while overall workhours increased during this period, overtime (OT) in Customer Service, City Delivery, and Vehicle Operations showed notable increases between FY 2014 and FY 2018 with total OT increasing by 20 percent during this period. Furthermore, actual OT exceeded planned OT by more than 31 million hours for this five-year period. In addition, OT and penalty overtime (POT) workhours were 12 percent of total workhours in FY 2014 and 13 percent in FY 2018.
Analysis of key indicators over the five-year period showed:
- Workhours in Customer Service operations increased by 23.6 million hours (17.4 percent). Customer Service workhours have generally increased along with workload between FY 2014 and FY 2018. Although all workhours increased, straight time increased by only 16.1 percent while OT and POT increased by 26.5 percent and 102 percent, respectively.
- City Delivery Operations workhours increased by 34.3 million hours (8.6 percent). Although all workhours increased, straight time increased by 7.4 percent while OT and POT increased by 13.5 percent and 70.4 percent, respectively.
- Productivity declined in two functional areas. The number of Customer Service mailpieces processed per hour declined from 1,141 pieces per workhour in FY 2014 to 915 in FY 2018, while City Delivery Operations mailpieces delivered fell from 391 to 339 per hour during the same five-year period.
OIG analysis of OT workhours in the 67 districts for the period reviewed showed 56 districts with an increase in OT in Customer Service Operations and 48 districts with an increase in OT in City Delivery Operations. Our analysis showed that some districts were more successful in managing workhours to the change in workload. For example:
- The top 10 districts with the highest Customer Service package volume growth – ranging between 15 to 25 percent – had corresponding Customer Service OT usage ranging from 5 to 14 percent, with seven of the 10 districts experiencing double digit OT growth.
- The top 10 districts with the highest City Delivery package volume growth - ranging from 15 to 27 percent – had OT usage ranging from 9 to 17 percent and 9 of the 10 districts experienced City Delivery OT usage in excess of 10 percent.
However, our analysis showed that other districts increased workhours despite a more stable or declining workload.
- Eight of the top 10 districts with minimal increases in or declining Customer Service package volumes between FY 2017 and FY 2018, still experienced OT usage ranging from 7 to 14 percent and all 10 districts used POT in FY 2018.
- Ten districts experienced City Delivery package volume loss between FY 2017 and FY 2018. Of these, only four reduced workhours, but this reduction was less than the rate of volume loss. All 10 districts had OT usage of 10 percent or more and all used POT.
Management officials indicated that Customer Service and City Delivery workhours increased for a variety of reasons including:
- Volume fluctuations from external mailers
- Mail delays from mail processing centers
- Delayed carrier start times
- Employee availability (absences)
- Extended routes due to delayed route adjustments
- Significant delivery point growth in some districts
- Significant weather events that impacted some districts
The workload for vehicle operations also increased from FY 2014 to FY 2018. Our analysis indicated that while total workhours grew only slightly, vehicle maintenance experienced an increase in both OT and POT from FY 2014 to FY 2018. Total vehicle maintenance service workhours increased by 1 percent, between FY 2014 and FY 2018 while OT hours increased by 36 percent and POT increased by 21 percent.
VMF officials indicated workhours increased due to:
- Lack of technicians
- Inability to contract work out to local garages when needed
- Additional work performed for delinquent scheduled maintenance
- Additional shuttling and towing
- More total direct labor maintenance on older model vehicles
Moving forward, the Postal Service must have a continued focus to better manage workhours to workload to improve the operational efficiency of Customer Service, City Delivery, and Vehicle Operations.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended the Vice President, Delivery Operations:
- Develop a detailed action plan, including measurable targets, to better manage OT and POT workhours in Customer Service, City Delivery, and Vehicle Operations.