Background

About 621 million pieces of international mail entered the U.S. from foreign countries in fiscal year (FY) 2016. More than 95 percent of this mail was accepted by the U.S. Postal Service at one of its five International Service Centers (ISC) in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago. The remaining segment was mostly accepted at either the Honolulu Processing and Distribution Center or the New Jersey International Network Distribution Center.

When inbound international mail arrives at airports via inbound commercial carrier flights, ground handlers (which can either be employees of the respective airlines or contracted employees of the airlines) unload the receptacles of mail from the airplane and tender them to the ISC. These initial operations mainly fall under the responsibility of the foreign postal operators and their agreements with the air carriers or ground handlers.

Postal Service employees monitor the airfield to assess the status of inbound international mail receptacles and manually document their assessments by completing reports known as ramp reports. Employees use these reports to document key mailing information including the airline, the country of origin, the foreign dispatch date (the date when the mail is scanned and assigned to a flight in the foreign country), and the number of receptacles waiting to be brought to the ISC.

The Universal Postal Union (UPU) Letter Post Manual states that mail should be tendered at the ISC within one to two hours maximum after the airplane’s arrival. Our objective was to evaluate the timeliness of mail arrival at the Postal Service’s ISCs.

What the OIG Found

We found significant delays in the Postal Service’s receipt of inbound international mail at the ISCs. Our analysis of all 5.4 million receptacles received at the ISCs between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017, with flight log data, showed the following:

  • About 4.3 million receptacles, or about 80 percent of the mail tendered to the Postal Service, exceeded the 2-hour UPU guidance.
  • Of these 4.3 million receptacles, about 63 percent arrived between 2 and 12 hours; about 20 percent took between 12 and 24 hours, and about 17 percent took longer than 24 hours.
  • Delays were more prevalent during the end-of-year peak mailing season.

These delays occurred because airport ground handlers did not transport the mail to the ISCs in a timely manner after the flights arrived. While the Postal Service does not have the authority to manage the ground handlers, it has opportunities to improve its monitoring of the delays. Specifically, the Postal Service’s ramp reports are not being completed consistently across all ISCs. In addition, available data — such as the actual flight arrival date and time the mail arrives at the airport to better indicate how long a receptacle has been in the U.S. — is not incorporated into its inbound mail monitoring and reporting processes.

The Postal Service is coordinating with the foreign postal operators, ground handlers, and others on notifying the respective parties of the delays and developing corrective actions. These actions should help improve the identification and movement of delayed mail by increasing the visibility and awareness of the issue. As such, we are not making a recommendation to increase coordination.

Continued inbound international mail delays present service and public safety and security concerns, both of which could reflect poorly on the Postal Service’s brand and image. For example, we found instances where the delayed mail at one ISC resulted in rain-damaged and unsecured mail. In addition, Postal Service acceptance operations are structured to more efficiently handle timely, steady streams of incoming mail; delayed and clustered mailings tend to produce more inefficient inbound mail operations.

What the OIG Recommended

We recommended management develop a consistent ramp reporting process across all ISCs and a mechanism for incorporating available data into its inbound mail monitoring and reporting processes.

Read full report

Comments (40)

  • anon

    Over 80% of all mail? That is a 20% success rate. That is absolutely terrible and something obviously needs to be addressed because it's not working, whatever it is that you're doing. Also for that matter, out of all the packages that I've ever recieved internationally, they have NEVER made it through this facility in less than 5 days. That's a terrible turn around time for things that are mailed "expedited", and you should be ashamed that it takes so long. Absolutely unacceptable. I currently have a package that this office recieved on August 31st. It's still there!!! It's a full week later and there is no change to it. Why are packages sitting in limbo for so long? Lack of staff? Incompetence? Too much mail? The solution is to hire more staff, or hire competant people, and expand the facilities to handle more mail. I paid for fast shipping once again, and the seller held up their end of the deal, only to be let down, once again by USPS. This is a week longer than it should have taken and now I will get the package late, and have no use for it. That's why i ordered it 2 weeks earlier, because I thought it would be enough time. The sad thing is that I'll get my package, weeks later than i was supposed to, and you'll pat yourselves on the back for a job well done instead of the fact that you did a terrible job and the package is very late. Nothing will change.

    Sep 06, 2018
  • anon

    I have a package that was processed through the Chicago IL USPS on July 20, 2018 and it is now Sept 1 Have. It heard one word about it. It was an affordable robot vacuum for when I had surgery and couldn’t do any cleaning for a while!

    Sep 01, 2018
  • anon

    Same thing happened to me I ordered on June 26, 2018 and still haven't received or heard anything yet

    Sep 04, 2018
  • anon

    The post office and customs is too busy and too undestaffed going after all the millions of parcels flooding in from overseas pharmacies! Together with the FDA once again our government agencies are working against the interestes of the American people. Yes folks millons have turned to online pharmacies to acquire Rx medication they can’t otherwise afford or get due to our ridiculous drug laws. The FDA is basically acting like a branch of the FDA. Seizing literally tons of pharmaceuticals. The thingis despite what this disgusting agency and other law enfircement agencies tell us, most of these seized Rx meds are not counterfeit and they are not keeping us safe. The opioid crisis and heroin elidemic is coming from the USPS!! Heroin and fentanyl is flowing in from our southern border. These FDA, customs officers, and postal inspectors waste a lot of time an money going after regular law abiding Americans instead of focusing on the big fish. Even the OIG admits there entire warehouses at the ISC housing tons of seized pharmaceuticals. Medication Americans should be able to import for personal use!!!

    Aug 30, 2018
  • anon

    You’re “not making a recommendation to increase coordination.” That’s a crock if I ever heard one. You admittedly found significant - absurd, even - delays in the processing of your sort facility and you’re blaming the airport ground handlers. My package was processed through the ISC New York sort facility 25 days ago and has sat there ever since. Your salaries are paid by the American public, yet you can’t be bothered to do the simple task for which you’re paid. This is insulting in addition to an utter inconvenience. I tried to call the USPS to have them look into it...it was 3:00 pm on a Tuesday and the automated recording informed me that it would be “over an hour wait.” You should be ashamed of yourselves. It’s disgusting that thousands of furious customers are mad enough to send complaints to begin with.

    Aug 21, 2018
  • anon

    From this message basically all I'm gathering: we're lazy government employees who enjoy the luxuries of no accountability. Congratulations on your success of listing another customer; as I've previously read, i too will no longer pay you inefficient, unaccountable, irresponsible, and completely and thoroughly disrespectful thieves for a service you can't even render. If you weren't a federal CHARTER (you're not even federal government, you're a useless and half assed charter that enjoys the immunities of being a federal agency) ther whole of the country could have your ass in federal court with a class action suit for violating UCC. I will not pay you inbred half assed "feds" for anything ever again. I don't care if UPS and FedEx cost more, they at least have a concern for customer satisfaction. But of course they do, they're corporations thst ARE accountable. Thanks for nothing, thanks for robbing the country. Enjoy your cushy government scaled pay job cuz you're fast losing your customer base.

    Aug 21, 2018
  • anon

    I ordered a cap/hat from Japan and it was "Processed Through Facility on Wednesday, Aug 1, 2018 1:24 PM ISC NEW YORK NY(USPS)" and it is now the ninth?? There hasn't been any more updates to the tracking.

    Aug 09, 2018
  • anon

    Did your stuff ever come i have a package in Chicago isc just been there for 5 days now

    Aug 29, 2018
  • anon

    Hello, Harvey. Thanks for your message. We are an independent agency of the Postal Service and unfortunately can't help with delayed mail or packages. Please file a complaint directly with the Postal Service at emailus.usps.com/emailUs/iq/usps/request.do?forward=emailUs. Just choose the tab marked "Where is My Package" or "Where is My Mail."

    Aug 09, 2018
  • anon

    Released and Oubound from Customs but not in the USPS manifesto I sent 3 boxes from the Netherlands back in July 5th and the tracking shows; Your item cleared United States Customs at 7:24 pm on July 12, 2018. Nobody knows why it is not scan in the USPS manifesto. My local post office knows the same info that I get from the tracking #. Released and Oubound from Customs. I sent 3 boxes together and received 2, but no sings of the 3rd one. Thanks in advance for your help.

    Aug 07, 2018
  • anon

    Thanks for your message. We are an independent agency of the Postal Service and unfortunately can't help with delayed mail or packages. Please file a complaint directly with the Postal Service at emailus.usps.com/emailUs/iq/usps/request.do?forward=emailUs. Just choose the tab marked "Where is My Package" or "Where is My Mail."

    Aug 07, 2018
  • anon

    I am waiting on a robot vacuum cleaner it has been processed thru the Chicago USPS on June 20,2018 why has it still not arrived to me?

    Aug 07, 2018
  • anon

    Hello, Donna. Thanks for your message. We are an independent agency of the Postal Service and unfortunately can't help with delayed mail or packages. Please file a complaint directly with the Postal Service at emailus.usps.com/emailUs/iq/usps/request.do?forward=emailUs. Just choose the tab marked "Where is My Package" or "Where is My Mail."

    Aug 07, 2018
  • anon

    Today is 07/27/2018. My package has been at ISC NY since July 8, 2018. Contacted the local post office, but to no avail. Could not find a number for ISC NY. Filed a complaint online and received a call, given a case number, and haven’t heard anything since. I was told the package was pending release by customs. Well, I take it that Customs must still have it.

    Jul 27, 2018
  • anon

    I am waiting for a b parcel and the IMHU kerps,charging me,storage charges,abd,then I pat and,the reject the payment

    Jul 26, 2018
  • anon

    Hello, Sharon. Thanks for your message. We are an independent agency of the Postal Service and unfortunately can't help with delayed mail or payment issues. Please file a complaint directly with the Postal Service at emailus.usps.com/emailUs/iq/usps/request.do?forward=emailUs.

    Jul 27, 2018
  • anon

    I have a package that has been in Chicago International since July 20 (5:22AM), coming in from Canada. Hockey sticks for my son. Next time, I'll demand UPS, not USPS. Does it actually take 5 business days to clear customs - very hard to believe it would.

    Jul 26, 2018
  • anon

    Hello, Rick. Thanks for your message. We are an independent agency of the Postal Service and unfortunately can't help with delayed mail or packages. Please file a complaint directly with the Postal Service at emailus.usps.com/emailUs/iq/usps/request.do?forward=emailUs. Just choose the tab marked "Where is My Package" or "Where is My Mail."

    Jul 26, 2018
  • anon

    My simple package has been in ISC NY since 2130 hours on July 8, 2018. It is now July 22, 2018. It is lost? Is there a backlog? Is there a strike? What?

    Jul 22, 2018
  • anon

    I have a package that is stuck in isc supposed to be a wedding gift for my best friend on July 14th i am having to travel out of town for her wedding so if it comes the week of the wedding I will not be able to get it in time , why do we pay extra shipping if you are going to hold it the mail system has let me down again I need to be a manager at a postal center

    Jul 02, 2018
  • anon

    I have a small package from Hong Kong that's supposed to be a toy Transformer sitting in ISC Chicago since May 12, 2018. It's supposed to be for a 4 year old's birthday party coming up on July 9. The other 3 packages arrived within 2 weeks but the last one hasn't moved at all. What's up with that?

    Jul 01, 2018
  • anon

    25 days in ISC chciago anyone know what action to take Here???

    Jun 24, 2018
  • anon

    Usps ‘notorious delay’ !!!!! I am having the same issue. Have been expecting a package more than 25 days after it arrived Jamaica NY international distribution center arrived at usps regional facility. If no one takes responsibility to timely deliver the customers package , why US government running this organisation. Better to close down the usps department.

    Jun 22, 2018
  • anon

    You note this is not the place to make complaint, but when a person has NO ONE to contact when it regards International mail floating around at the CHICAGO IL INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION CENTER for over a week, with tracking info saying it arrived there , then processed , then it some how arrive there again??? Or the standard "on route to next facility", when in fact that is an automated response when no one has handled the piece for serveral days. Your link to contact someone send people to the Usps sight which they will tell us they have nothing to do with CHICAGO IL INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION CENTER which is customs I believe? MY point again is there is NO ONE to get assistance with these packages???????? I have had 3 packages now that will not get processed on a timely matter when a month ago it took a couple days now its 7-14 days?? This is not acceptable!

    Jun 17, 2018
  • anon

    I’m on the same boat. My package has been there since the 14th and it still says it was processed there. I don’t know who to contact or if I should worry. This is so frustrating.

    Jun 20, 2018
  • anon

    I am having same issue.Have been expecting a package for more then 25days after it arrived at CHICAGO IL INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION CENTER since then all it keep saying is The item is currently in transit to the next facility.And anytime i call i will be told untraceable.Can someone tell me what is wrong.

    Jun 20, 2018
  • anon

    Not a big deal but a good story. I ordered through eBay watch batteries from China. That was 11-22-17. They never arrived. ----- But they did on 5-18-18 !!! From Laos. Why? Who knows.

    May 22, 2018
  • anon

    Packages from China via Wish.com always get through. Other packages sit for months. Have a package from Jan 21st still sitting in ISC NY 3 months later and one package was sent to ISC on April 21st and was returned to origin country and arrived on April 22nd. there is no rhyme or reason why some packages arrive at their destination and some do not.

    May 01, 2018
  • anon

    It would be interesting if the IG could also review how queries for delayed processing are handled. I am waiting for delivery of a package with a status of "Processed Through Facility ISC NEW YORK NY(USPS)" for over a week, but advised by USPS Customer Service Center that they have no process to follow-up with the ISC. Also that "Processed" only means the cargo unit the package was supposed to be in has landed - it doesn't mean the package itself was in the cargo unit, nor that it has been seen in the ISC". The lack of even a basic capability for USPS Customer Service, who are the only route open for the recipient other than going back to the original sender, is shocking in what it conveys in any belief the USPS sees itself as having a duty of care.

    Apr 25, 2018
  • anon

    I am starting to think all of the packages from China are being delayed ON PURPOSE, as part of the Trade War. If they can't stop us from buying products from China through the mail, all they can do is slow it down to a crawl & loose packages until people are discouraged from buying anything else. I don't know about you but I seriously HATE people screwing with my mail!

    Apr 24, 2018
  • anon

    I have read MANY threads online about Packages being stuck & or lost in USPS FACILITY CHICAGO IL INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION CENTER. I have a Package that arrived there the 15th & I keep getting tracking updates telling me it has arrived at Chicago ISC again. So where is my package & why is it being delayed? It is an airfilter for a Chainsaw

    Apr 24, 2018
  • anon

    My package is now 14 days since processed through ISC Chicago. I believe something bad has happened. Other packages always came through New York ISC and would be scanned again within 6 days. It is a bad feeling to be wondering if your package will ever arrive. My mom and dad both worked for USP for over 20 years. Very disheartening.

    Feb 28, 2018
  • anon

    A package we are currently expecting left Frankfurt, Germany by aircraft on January 6 and it is at this time not even showing up as having reached the United States. The problem is clearly far bigger than outlined above. In the other direction, parcels sent using a similar service speed usually arrive at their destination within 10-12 days.

    Jan 23, 2018
  • anon

    I'm having a similar issue - bought something from Ireland. Said it was dispatched on May 10th from London, but USPS still hasn't received it. I'm afraid it's lost at sea somewhere... Any advice?

    May 18, 2018
  • anon

    My mail from South Africa arrived in United States of America on 10/31/2017 @ 21:49 haven't arrived on the destination any information I have to submit to get the parcel.

    Dec 08, 2017
  • anon

    Did you ever get this package. I am asking as I am really concern about how long my packing is taking as well.

    Jan 16, 2018
  • anon

    Hello, I have ordered small car part & its delivered through EMS mail since 13 August 2017 & until now its in same process when do track for it (your item has been processed through our facility in ISC New York NY USPS at 3:28pm on August 13,2017) & I send them I want refund they call me & said it may take from 30-45 days to be delivered!! note that its was delivered through EMS fast mail. So what is the issue with NY ISC? why is that all time delay for packages? Can you help please? thank you very much.

    Sep 14, 2017
  • anon

    This audit is a good spotlight on the gray areas between airlines/ground-handlers and receiving ISCs. Thank you for clarifying the issue of responsibility, especially since the UPU language on the subject is a little vague. A transport delivered event code (when the airline reports the arrival/unloading of the mail cargo) is defined by the IATA/UPU as “carrier surrenders control /custody to consignee or agent”. The clarification on this subject is important since – technically - USPS is the designated operator for other foreign posts. It follows that when an air carrier lands on U.S. soil, the Postal Service should be technically capable of monitoring the proper “tendering” of mail cargo – regardless of whose responsibility is the “root cause”. I can’t quite grasp why management disagrees with the second recommendation. Identifying the problems and pointing fingers is not the pro-active approach expected considering the whopping amount of delayed inbound mail. Management is basically saying ‘We know it’s the ground-handlers obligation, which is really the airlines' responsibility which is the originating post’s problem to begin (and end) with.’ Not recognizing the advantage of integrating the flight arrival data with its internal monitoring systems shows lack of concern and narrow focus in its overall role as a world-class designated operator and partner postal administration. With this information being transmitted through the EDI RESDIT channel, USPS can incorporate this data into a monitoring system which would automatically red-flag dispatches that are delayed by the ground-handlers. Even further, when a critical point is reached (such as 24-hour delay for example) a document file should be automatically generated and made available on USPS’s document portal system. This document should be formatted in accordance with UPU’s verification note standards and identify the “missing dispatch” in the form of a CP78/CN43 in PDF format. As a matter of fact, one of the irregularities listed on the VN summary codes is … Missing Dispatch. This solution would not only pro-actively identify late dispatches, but it will help USPS meet its own responsibility of providing verification notes to the originating posts. This requirement is also in the Letter Post Manual and should be immediately reconsidered by USPS management – and keeping in compliance with UPU regulations. I suggest starting slow – maybe begin with a pilot program integrating the transport arrival data and creating an efficient notification system for the Kahala Posts Group members. A pay-for-performance system would not work in this area since it may incentivize the receiving post to not cooperate with its foreign partner. So why wouldn’t postal management take a fresher look at Recommendation #2?

    Sep 14, 2017
  • anon

    If the problem is as described...lack of countrol of ground handler movement, while improved standard ramp reporting would help, that will only allow more accurate reporting, not correction of the problem.

    Sep 13, 2017
  • anon

    My complaint and concern is the consistent lost of mail to my home address whenever I make use of the "hold mail service. I have not made any complaint in writing but had made the supposedly "supervisor" in the USPS office aware, who only, always apologizes only. Important mails lost were bills and insurance renewal which had cost me time and money. I recommend a complaint system be in place where names of persons who had filed complaints are strictly kept confidential to avoid retaliation/retribution.

    Sep 13, 2017