Background

North Dakota has experienced the nation’s fastest-growing population, growing 7.6 percent since 2010 compared to 2.4 percent nationally. The state’s jobless rate was the lowest in the nation (2.8 percent) in July 2014. This is due to significant employment opportunities resulting from the oil boom in the Bakken Shale formation in western North Dakota. However, beginning in November 2014, a plunge in oil prices has resulted in the elimination of thousands of oil-related jobs and slowed growth trends previously experienced in North Dakota.

The state’s population growth has created a 14 percent increase in U.S. Postal Service delivery points and a 165 percent increase in package deliveries in the last 4 years. During that same time, delivery points nationally increased 1 percent and packages 21 percent. The state has four mail processing sites that sort and distribute mail for 333 post offices. In FY 2014, these four sites processed 678 million mailpieces.

This audit responds to a request from Senator Heidi Heitkamp to review concerns about mail service. Our objective was to assess selected Postal Service operations in North Dakota.

What The OIG Found

The Postal Service has taken action to improve mail service in North Dakota, such as hiring additional employees, detailing personnel to supplement the workforce, authorizing overtime, and adding retail units. However, more improvements can be made. Specifically, the Postal Service did not always timely process, deliver, and transport the mail in North Dakota. In addition, it lacked sufficient retail windows to meet demand and some box up-times (the posted time mail is available to the customer at their PO Box), were inaccurate.

These conditions occurred because the Postal Service did not have an established contingency plan to address rapid changes in the population growth and staff turnover. We found that North Dakota’s postal facilities lacked adequate mail processing equipment and processing floor space and sufficient delivery staff and retail operations. In addition, Postal Service mail received from FedEx at the Grand Forks, ND airport did not always allow for the timely transport of mail. Additionally, changes in box up-times were not always adequately communicated.

Due to these operational challenges, the Postal Service in North Dakota rarely met national service standards. Furthermore, delivery staff was overworked, with rural carrier overtime increasing by 241 percent between fiscal years (FY) 2011 and 2014. Additionally, carriers returning from their routes after 5 p.m. ranged from a low of 23 percent to a high of 56 percent between FYs 2012 through 2014. Finally, customers experienced excessive wait times at some retail locations.

 What The OIG Recommended

We recommended the district manager, Dakotas District, install additional mail processing equipment, consolidate Fargo operations, develop a contingency plan to address staffing levels during periods of rapid economic growth or retraction and ensure accurate postings of box up-times. We also recommended the vice president, Network Operations, modify the transportation network.

Comments (8)

  • anon

    Who can I talk to in person (without waiting for an hour or more on hold) to find out where a package that was an overnight package is at the moment, specifically. The delivery was supposed to arrive Sat. and still will not come today, Monday. I am a very patient person, but this is becoming a trend I do not like. I had a 6 months supply of medication sent from Express Scripts Pharmacy that "vanished" and was not received or returned earlier this year. I did go to the local post office and they had no idea where it is, when or If it will come and said I could call the 800 number for USPS but most likely will wait a long time and won't find answers. He said he was not sure if they could contact the West Fargo Distribution Center but most likely won't. How do we work together to fix this issue and find out where my package is at now??? ( I write this as I am waiting on the 800 line for approx. 50 minutes, as per recording, for someone to answer...)

    Oct 16, 2017
  • anon

    I sent a package from Idaho Falls Idaho September 23, 2017 to be sent to West Yellowstone Montana, a mere 2 1/2 hours driving time away from here. Why in the world would you send this package to North Dakota to be distributed when it makes more sense to send it to a closer distribution center. It still has not arrived saying it has been delayed and it has been a full week plus some. I will try other avenues the next time I need to send a package.

    Oct 01, 2017
  • anon

    I sent a package from Idaho Falls Idaho September 23, 2017 to be sent to West Yellowstone Montana, a mere 2 1/2 hours driving time away from here. Why in the world would you send this package to North Dakota to be distributed when it makes more sense to send it to a closer distribution center. It still has not arrived saying it has been delayed and it has been a full week plus some. I will try other avenues the next time I need to send a package.

    Oct 01, 2017
  • anon

    West Fargo sorting facility misdirected priority mail twice in two days - same package . Parcel addressed to Frazee MN now somewhere in Delaware. Next time FedEx for me. Thanks for nothing!

    May 24, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Terry, Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (800-275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service.

    May 25, 2017
  • anon

    I have done all of the above and even requested a delivery date since they had update the tracking as no access. It had been shipped to a large business and they have a reception at the entrance of the building. Imagine that. But needless to say after requesting a new delivery date it has been in transit since the 12th. Any ideals.

    Sep 15, 2017
  • anon

    We live in south fargo and haven't been receiving our mail. We dont even get it later on either. I am not receiving bills and my daughters loan paperwork for college and now we will own a $50 late fee now and a late fee on my bills.

    Feb 13, 2017
  • anon

    We have not been receiving our mail at our business. When we do receive it, it is days to weeks late. This has been going on for a month to month and a half now. Sometimes we don't even get our mail and it just sits at the post office unbeknownst to us. How do I get this taken care of? Thank you. Amanda

    Feb 08, 2017