Postal Updates

By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent

U.S. Postal Service inspector general reports first-class mail slowdown

August 14, 2015 05:32 PM

By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent

If you haven’t noticed, your mail likely is moving more slowly these days.

A new report by the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General confirms that a lot of first-class mail is taking more time than expected to reach its destination.

“Mail was not being processed timely throughout the country,” says the Aug. 13 management alert from the inspector general.

“We found in the first 6 months of 2015 delayed processing increased by about 494 million mail pieces (a 45 percent increase) as compared to the same period last year.”

The alert blames two factors for the problem: winter storms in January through March, and changes in the way the USPS mail-processing network operates.

Some of the changes from the planned plant closings were expected, but others were unexpected, impacting mail deliveries far more than management had expected.

These changes, which the report says “have been considerable,” were prompted by cost-cutting efforts directed at lowering the Postal Service’s deficits.

Postal Service management has slowed its plans for additional plant consolidations in the face of the falling delivery rates.

“There is no longer overnight service for single piece First-Class Mail,” the alert notes.

Rates for promised two-day service declined “by as much as 6.71 percent,” compared to rates the previous year, it said.

Three-day promised service dropped by “as much as 38.60 percent compared to the previous year.”

The inspector general said in the alert that he believes that no further “significant national network or operational changes should take place prior to establishing criteria and stabilizing the network.”

The alert said that the operational changes, which were taken by former postmaster general Patrick Donahoe, were “the largest change that has ever been made to the nationwide network of mail processing and transportation operations.”

The inspector general promised to continue to monitor the mail flow, describing the issue as critical for the USPS.

A management response dated Aug. 11 said the Postal Service had begun to address the issues raised by the report before it was released.

Delayed mail volumes have been decreased by 86 percent from January to June, the response said.

“Tiger teams” were formed to address mail-flow issues in 20 areas, and other steps were taken to address the problem, it said.

Even so, the inspector general said it could not state whether or not postal management agreed with all its findings.