Top 10 Postal Stories of 2023
Now that January 2024 is in full swing, it’s a good time for our annual look at the top 10 postal stories of 2023. Check out our countdown and let us know what you think in the comments below.
10. Postal Service finalizes its electric vehicle plans – USPS finished its supplemental environmental review in December and officially decided to purchase a mixed fleet of 106,480 Next Generation and off-the-shelf delivery vehicles through 2028; 62 percent will be battery electric. USPS also made initial orders for charging stations, and we examined how the Postal Service was preparing for this infrastructure in a recent audit.
9. USPS gives the advantage to ground – The Postal Service shifted mail away from air transportation to ground and rolled out its new two- to five-day Ground Advantage product for packages up to 70 pounds in July.
8. Countries rethink their postal obligations – As making money from mail becomes more difficult, universal service obligation (USO) rules have started to ease. Australia moved to every-other-day delivery for most letters, although daily delivery is still available for parcels and letters paying an extra charge. Denmark abolished its USO rules, allowing market forces to decide service levels everywhere except small islands. The European Union also kicked off a new study of the postal sector with a workshop and survey.
7. Amazon edges out UPS and FedEx at the door – Amazon now delivers more parcels to U.S. homes than either carrier according to The Wall Street Journal in November, but the Postal Service still retains the lead. The announcement reflects the changing parcel delivery market as small third-party logistics grow, and e-commerce giants place more local hubs closer to customers to speed delivery.
6. High heat endangers carriers – The death of a Texas postal carrier due to excessive heat led the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to cite and fine the Postal Service. OSHA said the Postal Service failed to protect employees from “the recognized hazard of high outdoor heat.”
5. Marketing Mail misses the market – Volume fell by 11 percent in FY 2023 following two years of modest growth after the pandemic. Is this a one-time change or a new trend? USPS-initiated research by Winterberry, released in September, emphasized the continued value and performance of direct mail but also described some barriers to growth such as a new generation of marketers unaccustomed to using mail and the rising cost of postage and materials lowering return on investment.
4. Staffing shortages spur service woes in some areas – While USPS has increased its career workforce, complaints about poor service due to staffing issues continue to make news in certain parts of the country. Members of Congress have also expressed concern. The OIG responded through our ongoing field reviews and individual audits such as our recent examination of Delivery and Customer Service in Colorado Mountain Towns.
3. The new processing network starts to take shape – The Postal Service made progress in calendar year 2023 towards its network goals under the Delivering for America plan. USPS opened two Regional Processing and Delivery Centers (RPDCs) and around 20 Sorting and Delivery Centers (S&DCs), some of which we audited in September. In addition, USPS insourced several surface transfer centers from contractors to postal workers and also completed nine Mail Processing Facility Reviews in order to move some processing operations.
2. Mail theft takes a dangerous turn – As mail theft problems persist, mail carriers are facing increased assaults and robberies for their arrow keys (universal keys for mailboxes). News reports have encouraged customers to avoid sending checks through the blue collection boxes. To combat the problem, the Postal Service is rolling out new accountability measures and lock technologies. We did a deep dive into mail theft issues in our audit Postal Service’s Response to Mail Theft.
1. USPS loses $6.5 billion – Despite the Delivering for America plan’s stated hope that the Postal Service would break even in 2023 or 2024, USPS lost money last year and forecasts a $6.3 billion loss in FY 2024. These losses are only about half of what the Postal Service projected would happen without the plan.
And finally, while it may not fall in the top 10 postal stories, we have to include a bit of good 2023 news for the OIG. Our new website, which launched at the end of January last year, was listed as a runner up for Website of the Year in the Granicus 13th annual Digital Government Awards.
Today, we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his work to end discrimination and ensure civil rights for all. Learn more about our commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion here.