Postal Updates

By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent

USPS Inspector General reports massive increases in delayed mail

September 19, 2016 11:47 AM

  • An early September report from the U.S. Postal Service's Office of Inspector General reveals significant increases in delays associated with first-class mail delivery. The report triggered strong objections from the postal officials in charge of mail processing operations.

By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent

A new internal United States Postal Service report has documented a huge increase in delayed mail resulting from the United States Postal Service’s efforts to cut its costs.

The report by the Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General disclosed that the Jan. 5, 2015, order to eliminate overnight first-class mail service and to lengthen delivery times boosted the amount of “delayed mail” dramatically, reduced mail performance scores, and cut mail processing productivity while increasing transportation costs.

For the nine months following the new standard, the inspector general said delayed mail processing reports soared by 51 percent compared to the same period a year earlier.

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It also reported that delivery scores for two-day and three-day mail in that period declined by as much as 7 percent and 34 percent, respectively, compared to 2014 levels.

While noting that Congress and commercial mailers have urged returning to the old delivery standards, the inspector general recommended that the USPS double down on its mail processing operations and not return to the old delivery timetables.

The inspector general report triggered strong objections from the postal officials in charge of mail processing operations.

They voiced “significant concerns” with the report’s “content, analysis and tone,” saying the inspector general report understated some of the financial gains from the slower delivery times.

Management officials also said the “mail service scores have improved significantly” since the delivery standards were changed, and they strongly stated that they have no intention of returning to the faster delivery times.

“The OIG Report’s use of outdated service performance results, combined with a non-statistically valid mailing test may lead to inaccurate conclusions about performance,” said a USPS statement.

“In fact, since Network Rationalization was implemented, the Postal Service has not only improved mail service across the country, it has achieved record levels of service across the majority of service categories.”

The inspector general report, released in early September, confirmed that the USPS has managed to improve some delivery times in recent months, but noted that the USPS had failed to capture all the $805 million in projected savings from the slowdown.

While national figures have shown improvement, the inspector general stated there “is still a problem for specific processing and distribution centers serving certain urban and rural customers.”

It said that that in the first two quarters of the current fiscal year the top 10 processing plants with delayed mail accounted for “almost 30 percent of all delayed mail nationwide.”

Those plants were said to be in California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.

The inspector general urged the Postal Service to “develop and implement a nationwide strategy to improve mail processing productivity before implementing any additional nationwide operational changes or consolidations.”

It also urged the USPS to “update all operating plans” to reflect its new delivery standards and continue monitoring and “reducing delayed mail processing.”

The order to lengthen mail delivery times has been a cornerstone of Postmaster General Megan Brennan’s efforts to drastically cut the Postal Service’s operating costs as mail volume has continued to drop.

When there was an active Postal Service board of governors, a report such as the one on delivery times could be expected to generate concern and comment by the governors.

However, because Congress has allowed the board to decline to a single governor, the inspector general report is unlikely to generate much discussion in Washington.