The objective of our audit was to determine the cause of mail processing delays reported at the Denver, CO, Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC).

The Postal Service reports mail processing delays when mail is not processed in time to meet its established delivery or when mail is processed but not on the dock in time for scheduled transportation to delivery units.

From October 2017 through June 2018, there were over 106 million mailpieces reported as mail processing delays at the Denver P&DC, a 57 million mailpiece (53 percent) increase from the amount reported in fiscal year (FY) 2017.

Mail processing facilities are required to complete daily mail counts and self-report processing delays and late arriving mail and enter the information into the web Mail Condition Reporting System (MCRS). When mail processing delays occur at a facility, there is an increased risk it won’t be delivered by its established delivery date.

Mail processing facilities use the Run Plan Generator (RPG) to manage mail processing operations. The RPG combines site-specific mail processing machines, sort programs, maintenance requirements, mail volume, and the rate at which machines process mail to project daily machine run plans. This assists management with meeting established clearance times (the latest time mail can complete a mail processing operation) and ensuring transportation trips depart on time.

What the OIG Found

Mail processing delays at the Denver P&DC were due to facility management and employees not using the RPG to manage mail processing operations and meet established mail processing clearance times; not removing incorrect color-code tags and applying the proper color-code tags; not staging mail in proper sequential order; and not having procedures in place to identify and report all late arriving mail in their MCRS reports.

Specifically, in the first three quarters of FY 2018, the facility has only met one of the three weekly mail processing measures seven of 39 times (18 percent) and did not meet the other two weekly mail processing measures any of the possible 39 times. Postal policy requires the development of an RPG to meet the established mail processing clearance times and for management to communicate the RPG to all facility employees. The senior plant manager stated they were working on updating the RPG and using it more frequently among facility management. The district manager stated that they are struggling to use the RPG because the prior year’s mail mix and volume was significantly different than this year’s, which has presented them challenges ensuring the RPG accurately reflects current mail volume and mix.

Of the 57 million mailpiece increase in reported mail processing delays since October 2017, 49 million mailpieces (86 percent) were First-Class delivery point sequence (DPS) letters. The DPS letters did not complete mail processing by its clearance time; however, the Denver P&DC delayed the departure of scheduled transportation trips to delivery units until the mail completed processing. Since the start of FY 2018, the Denver P&DC delayed about 8,500 transportation trips by at least 15 minutes, totaling over 8,000 hours, because of late mail processing, potentially costing the Postal Service $231,575.

While the trips were delayed to accommodate mail processing and transportation to delivery units, we were unable to determine specifically how many of those mailpieces met their established delivery days. We did note that First-Class service scores for the facility were slightly higher in Quarter 3 of FY 2018 compared to the prior year. However, on-time service at the facility was about 90 percent in FY 2018 Quarter 3, almost six percent below the goal of 96 percent.

In addition, Denver P&DC employees did not remove incorrect color-code tags, apply the proper color-code tags, and were not staging mail in proper sequential order. The Postal Service uses a color-coding system to identify when Marketing Mail arrives and when it should be processed. Staging lanes hold mail in sequential order to ensure the mail is worked in the required proper sequence. Denver P&DC managers did not verify that employees removed incorrect color-code tags, applied proper color-code tags, or staged mail in proper sequential order. Improperly color-coded and staged mail can be processed later than intended, which can delay the processing, transportation, and delivery of Marketing Mail.

Further, the Denver P&DC does not have a procedure in place to identify and report all late arriving mail in their MCRS reports. During observations, the Denver P&DC processed more than five million destinating letters; however according to the Mail History Tracking System, the Denver P&DC received over 44,000 late arriving letters from other facilities, none of which were reported in its MCRS reports. According to Postal Service policy, late arriving mail should be identified and counted at the receiving platform. The manager of in-plant support stated the facility does not have a procedure in place to identify late arriving mail but, when they know it is arriving late, the supervisors will report it as late arriving in MCRS. Unidentified late arriving mail increases the risk of mail not meeting its established delivery day.

What the OIG Recommended

We recommended management:

  • Update the RPG for the Denver P&DC to meet established clearance times and scheduled transportation and communicate the plan to employees.
  • Ensure employee compliance with color-coding procedures and staging of mail in proper sequential order.
  • Establish a procedure to identify and report late arriving mail.

Read full report

Comments (9)

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  • anon

    Packages are continuing to be posted as "in transit to the next facility". Estes Park is an hour and a half from Denver. Not 5 days from Denver. The trucks from Denver to Estes park are later and later in the day, therefore, they miss any hope of their deliveries being able to be sorted by our mail carriers and any hope of mail/packages being delivered promptly to our boxes or notices being left for pick-up. Should it take 7 days for Priority mail from Phoenix?

    Dec 17, 2018
  • anon

    I mailed a package to my daughter on 11/24/18 from Sun City Center,FL. I paid $18.00 for two-day delivery to Denver,CO. After five days, I tracked the package and the message said the package was delayed, but it was on its way. The package finally arrived on 12/3/18 and was torn open, contents exposed, dirty (as if it had been run over), and no apology or explanation given. I am looking to be reimbursed the $18.00 shipping fee.

    Dec 14, 2018
  • anon

    Hello, Janice. Thank you for your message. We understand receiving a damage package is disappointing and frustrating. You can file a claim with the Postal Service at www.usps.com/help/welcome.htm

    Dec 17, 2018
  • anon

    Not to mention, the "Late" trips are only part of the problem. Many trips are actually launched empty with no mail on them as to not show up on the reports. More importantly, many Plants launch "extra" trips which are not tracked at all! This is simply a way to circumvent the system and cheat. What is alarming is that it is known and ignored. Plant Managers are rarely held accountable by Area VP's. Sad but true.

    Dec 11, 2018
  • anon

    The write up is just scratching the service. The Denver center is a mess. In conversations with my local post office who have gad the misfortune of visiting Denver confirm the mess. When I track packages that I mail, they normally get delayed in Denver or DO NOT get scanned at all for several days. USPS created these disater center for first class mail but somehow manage to move the 'garbage' mail in timely basis. But, I must say there are otherncenter with the same problem. A current package destined for SW Colorado from Kansas City is in Des Moines!!! Going East, OOOOPS....

    Dec 10, 2018
  • anon

    Better check on the routes from Nashville as well. I have a check that goes away every December from the Brentwood Post Office. This year we were able to track it to the Ohio Mail Processing unit. It has been 2 weeks. This was first class mail certified. So yes there is a tracking number. Employees at the Brentwood Station told me they dont know how mail gets to ohio. There was alos no supervisor available. I was told that there was so much lost mail. This sure makes me wonder about that facility. I sure wish you could help and prevent and stop this problem.

    Dec 10, 2018
  • anon

    Well, I'm in the metro Denver area, and I can say with great certainty the USPS here has a lot more problems than the few you've come to conclude. First class letters are delayed, packages are delivered badly damaged, thefts occur often, carriers are overworked and under trained, threats are made not to deliver mail if the box is full but that one day a week marketing stuff that ends up in the trash 90 percent of the time which completely fills a standard mailbox will always be there without fail. The Amazon contract isn't helping. The USPS certainly did not think their priorities through when they took it on. Less people to carry a doubled/tripled/quadrupled load wasn't smart, just to try and make a lot of money over UPS, FedEx, and DHL. Whatever was in that contract, well, it screwed us, the people who actually use and need the USPS service. I've also seen other reports about the fudging of numbers to meet those carrier deadlines - you know, the ones that say a carrier has to be back by a certain time? Scanning "no access" seems to be a commonplace occurrence to avoid penalties up the line to save time, and the delivery was never even attempted at all. I have to stay at home due to medical and financial reasons, and I am always aware of when I need to have a delivery. I've had more than one instance happen when my delivery was scheduled and didn't arrive due to "no access" or some other excuse like "unable to get a signature" or some other ridiculous excuse when I've been sitting no more than five feet from the door awake and waiting. You want some real suggestions to pass along? * Hire more carriers. * Hire more sorting clerks. * TRAIN them all properly. * Re-evaluate routes. * Have dual routes - one for delivering first class mail, the other strictly for packages. * Pass some of the costs on to the marketers and Amazon contractors, instead of the customers. If USPS couldn't afford the delivery on these items, why did they take on the contracts? * Clean house. Supervisors and managers and district leaders are passing the buck an awful lot. The carriers are worked 10-16 hour days, often for weeks at a time without time off, and the managers are pulling the lax and lazy shenanigans. Try hiring working managers. * Find out why tracking will show packages circling all over the country instead of where they are supposed to be going, and sometimes disappearing from the "system" all together. * Remind the USPS what they are about - delivering mail. USPS was never meant to be a for-profit agency padding officials' pockets, never meant to be a specialized package service like UPS and FedEx. If they can't do the job anymore, maybe it is time to privatize (though I'd rather not see that happen, as rates would skyrocket in a private for-profit business). At one time, the USPS was a respected government agency. It is not anymore. It really is time for the USPS to look closely within and deep to its mission and to get back to its true purpose.

    Dec 07, 2018
  • anon

    While I understand your findings, the problem still exists. I constantly have mail bounce all over the state after it arrives at the denver facility ( I live 1 mile away ). I BELIEVE that there are way too many of your employees are on drugs and you should be testing them more frequently without letting know ahead of time which IS your current standard.

    Dec 01, 2018
  • anon

    Once again boys and girls you dug up some fascinating information. Too bad you don't realize what it is. Golly Gee the plants had problems....But you have facts which show that these problems slide downhill and wreak havoc on the post offices who are the plant's customers. To cite your own report. ....8,500 transports to post offices were delayed by over 15 minute...42% of all transports from the plant were delayed... So product is delayed at post offices and carriers get out late. Dedicated carriers rush to get all the mail delivered and sometimes cut corners. Accidents happen...And carriers do not get back before dispatch and your, ever so important, 24 hour clock is screwed up. Management doesn't want to hear anything but make dispatch. Well you can't get blood from a stone. So how about you immediately follow the chain of this audit and see how the plant's screw up screw the folks down stream... See how much OT city carriers get....See how many rural carriers get into 2080 problems. Correlate accidents at post offices with dates that deliveries were late. In other words you started a job, now finish it. And then you will have a real audit. ..ps... wonder why postal pulse figures are so bad? Folks are tired of situations like this and nothing is ever done to truly correct it.

    Nov 28, 2018