Who doesn’t like finding a package they ordered online on their doorstep at an unexpected time, like, say, late in the evening just before you turn out the porch light for the night? 

Consumers have come to expect quick delivery of parcels, often at odd hours of the day. This new paradigm comes at a cost, however. For the U.S. Postal Service, it means their city carriers and non-career city carrier assistants (CCAs) are delivering packages after the targeted return time of 6:00 p.m. Returning late from their routes raises safety concerns — especially when it gets dark earlier —  and overtime costs. 

Few are complaining about the ecommerce explosion, mind you. It’s driving a growth in parcels — even as lettermail volumes decline. This package boom, along with a downsizing of the Postal Service workforce and evolving customer needs, have led to changes in the network and delivery. Furthermore, a wide range of variables, such as weather, employee absences, or new carriers to a route, can affect delivery on a daily basis. 

All of this poses challenges for the Postal Service in meeting its goal of 95 percent of letter carriers being off the street by 5 p.m. and 100 percent by 6 p.m. Our recent audit of the Bay Valley (CA) District — in the heart of the nation’s ecommerce hub — found that carriers and CCAs fell short of the 100 percent goal by 6 p.m. In calendar year 2016, only 75 percent of carriers returned to the office by 6 p.m., our report said.

Bay Valley certainly is seeing the effects of ecommerce activity, as well as Sunday package delivery, and grocery delivery service: The district had a 16 percent growth in package volume in calendar year 2016 over the previous year, topping 101 million packages. In some areas, package deliveries now regularly occur early in the morning and as late as 10 p.m.

We found a mix of underlying reasons for missing the targeted return time: Insufficient staffing, late or improper mail arrival, inaccurate route adjustments, and insufficient supervision. The Postal Service agreed with our recommendations to improve the underlying conditions.

We welcome your suggestions as well. What more could be done to get carriers off the streets on time? Given all the variables that can affect the ability to complete deliveries by the targeted time, what additional precautions could be taken to enhance carrier safety? 

Comments (180)

We welcome your comments related to the topic on this page. Complaints about the Postal Service, including lost, stolen or mishandled mail, that are unrelated to the content on this page, will not be posted. Please visit the Contact Us page for information on where to file formal complaints with our agency or the Postal Service.

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  • anon

    Thank you for your comments. Carriers After 1800 is one of many Delivery Performance Indicators that we monitor. We use this indicator as well as many others to identify systemic issues in planning our future audits.

    Jan 29, 2018
  • anon

    except now its at the cost of more delayed deliveries. EVERY single package I’ve ordered since November has been delayed by a few days. EACH ONE. I was understanding in Nov/Dec because of the holidays but now we’re going into February and still EACH SINGLE anticipated delivery has been late.

    Jan 26, 2018
  • anon

    Same here. I get two packages a week. One from the east coast and one from the west coast (I'm in the middle). Every single package in the last 3 weeks has been 2 days late. All six packages. Last year, I could count on the 2-day delivery. Recently, I can count on a 4-day delivery, every time.

    Feb 02, 2018
  • anon

    I have had several pieces of mail that have had date stamps 3 weeks or more out from the time of delivery. This sptarted happening in December and is still happening. Just thought you should be aware. Zip Code 89117

    Jan 26, 2018
  • anon

    Why are my packages being delayed?? With no tracking updates or any info ? Last package delayed for two weeks. Paid 75.00 for shipping on package that was supposed to be delivered yesterday. No updates no nothing. Very unprofessional. If you cant do your job close shop and we'll use fedx and ups.

    Jan 26, 2018
  • anon

    My package was supposed to be here on the 23rd....it still isn’t here and everytime I go look at the tracking, they’ll update the delivery to the current day...so going on day 3 now

    Jan 25, 2018
  • anon

    I ordered a package and I never received it I have a tracking number

    Jan 25, 2018
  • anon

    Live in the town of Hudson WI and we are lucky if we get are mail by 8 in the evening. Very upset when we have to walk down are long driveway in the dark to see if are mail has arrived. I get notices in the morning so I know what I am getting that day. Day after a holiday they do not show up, and I am to old to see in the dark. Please tell me how to get my mail earlier. I can’t afford a P.O box and it is to far for me to drive. Thanks!

    Jan 24, 2018
  • anon

    Oh my gosh the same thing happened to me three twice. My packages were supposed to be delivered by 8, they weren’t and I also was told a notice was left but I didn’t even receive one. I also was told one of my packages they could not find. Now here I am again waiting for them to be here by 8... let’s aee what happens.

    Jan 22, 2018
  • anon

    My home mail delivery is almost always late.It is usually close to 6pm when I get delivery.I have been told my address is on the 3rd level of the case.It is probably useless to complain.If I get a chance to use another carrier I will probably use them.

    Jan 22, 2018
  • anon

    MAIL IS LATE EVERYDAY ALWAYS AFTER 4;00 IN THE 49507 AREA CODE THE BOSTON AND KALAMAZOO AREA WHY/???? THE POSTAL WORKER ALWAYS PARK EATING LUNCH.

    Jan 22, 2018
  • anon

    Maybe it would help if tracking times reflected these goals? I'm currently tracking a package I ordered early this week that is scheduled to arrive today at approximately 8pm. That is far later than I would expect any of the carriers to be in the road. It's dangerous. I realize that times are approximations and there is no guarantee on the date given by your tracking service, but it insinuates that the 6pm goal is not the priority you hope it to be. But maybe not. It's just a thought.

    Jan 21, 2018
  • anon

    I am in the same boat as Jib lee. My packages were to be delivered today by 8pm. I waited around this evening for them to show up and apparently there was an "attempted delivery" at 7:35PM, but I never saw or heard them. They apparently "left a notice" but I cannot find it either. It is really aggravating! I needed one of the packages by tomorrow. I would just go to my post office, but 1) we have two in our town with the same postal code and 2) I know they'll just say it is out on the truck for delivery. So, I will lose either way. BUT they were able to deliver a couple of letters today... but not either of my packages that did NOT require signatures. Not cool.

    Jan 18, 2018
  • anon

    I’ve been getting a lot of “out for delivery” notices and then either the packages done show up for another day or two, or one out of three will show up. We had two snow storms in a row, so I got mail Friday, nothing Saturday, Monday was a holiday, and Tuesday was another storm. Now my packages are four days late and while they were out for delivery, they just weren’t delivered. I got letter mail and three small parcels, but now all I see for the other two packages is “delivery status not updated.” Great.

    Jan 18, 2018
  • anon

    I work in an office in SF and it really hurts us when our mail doesn't get delivered on time or at all. We didn't get mail yesterday and it looks like we won't again today. This happens way too often. Hire more people!

    Jan 17, 2018
  • anon

    If my mail cannot be in my curbside mailbox by 5:00 pm then please deliver it the next day. I am a senior and I do not like my mail sitting in the mailbox all night long. It is not safe and I will not go out in the dark to go get it!!!

    Jan 16, 2018
  • anon

    I'm a USPS ARC (Associate Rural Carrier) in Western Washington State. I deliver Amazon.com packages on Sundays and postal holidays. Here are some of the reasons we don't get back before dark: (1) In Winter months, it gets dark here by 4:00 pm, even 3:30-3:45 under the dense forest on rainy days. So the goal getting letter carriers off the street by 5 - 6 p.m. wouldn't come close to beating dark here. (2) Another issue has been technology failures causing delays in getting the Amazon Sunday routes ready for ARCs to load their trucks. Our local staff has always been on time to sort parcels by route, but some days we've had to wait 30-60 minutes for routes to be ready for scanning. In one case we had to run our routes without any GPS. If we can't leave the Post Office until 10:30, it's really hard to get done before dark. (3) We spend way too much time hunting for delivery locations. GPS has its limits and we need better signage to do our jobs efficiently. The Postal Service doesn't seem to have an effective program to encourage or require customers to make it easier for us to do our jobs. In my rural area, so many houses have no visible house number, or have gated driveways, or tiny mailboxes that don't fit even the smallest standard shipping boxes. Mailboxes often lack a visible address number or are only marked on one side, possibly written in pen 10 years ago which is now invisible, etc. The expectation seems to be that all Post Office employees should 'learn' their routes, including where every customer keeps their parcel locker, which houses are hidden behind the other and have no numbers, who is OK with us leaving parcels outside locked gates and who isn't, etc., etc... Why can't there be a communications campaign for rural customers encouraging them to install larger mailboxes, make sure the address number is clearly marked on BOTH sides, and make sure their house number is clearly visible from the end of their driveway and on the residence? (4) I'm expected to drive muddy, unpaved 4WD driveways that are often 1/4 mile or more into the woods, up and down through ravines, b/c that's the contract USPS has with Amazon. I also frequently drive on badly rutted, unpaved private roads that have clusters of mailboxes at the end but no secure place to leave parcels. So then I might drive 2-3 miles each way on a poor road to deliver one small package. (5) I'm sure the routes that are created for Amazon deliveries could be more efficient. Yesterday I delivered two routes, and both of them took me on a 15-minute twisting, turning, up and down loop through the forest around the SAME lake. On the second route, I passed the two addresses that I delivered to on the first one!

    Jan 16, 2018
  • anon

    I am a former RCA in the Great Lakes, who happily 'retired' from carrier duty 4 years ago, due the poor work conditions. So I totally hear you on the bad address factor. Every RCA has a favorite route(s) and every office has one or two routes that no sub wants to work, because of long driveways or woods, as you mentioned, or the poor road conditions. The PM and supervisor issue unmarked mailbox notices into oblivion, but that did little to nothing to motivate that homeowner at the end of the 1/4 mile driveway to please fix their box, so that the sub can deliver their mail. And yet a sub who doesn't know that route that well, was expected to waste time driving up to the door, only to discover they had the wrong house. In which they were forced to take all that mail back to the office to re-case for the next day. A few of those customers had nerve to call the office and 'complain' about not getting their mail or packages, after they'd ignored the unmarked box notices. GPS was not the high tech function it is today, so delivering to a wooded rural area meant you got little to almost no signal, so you were basically screwed. It was no fun backtracking between missed mailboxes, on a long stretch of rural highway, because you couldn't find the address. It all just got too ridiculous after years invested, for justifying the higher wage, and the on-call or part-time jumbo. By the time I left, 3 other subs also quit or resigned because of the poor work conditions.

    Feb 07, 2018
  • anon

    My mail was suppose to be delivered at 8pm.Well it's now 10:31 pm.I just want to know what's the latest you guys run routes? I definitely don't want my package to be sitting outside late at night unattended.

    Jan 13, 2018
  • anon

    Can you just send my mail on time for once???????????

    Jan 13, 2018
  • anon

    8:28 Mail JUST came.... never showed up yesterday at all... not rural.. Glendale CA

    Jan 12, 2018
  • anon

    Lately we've been getting late mail around here as well (Boston area). It is frustrating on days when mail is not delivered, but moreso when you track a package that is expected for delivery that doesn't show up. Also had deliveries show up after 8pm. Waiting for a package until 8, it not showing up, locking up the house then seeing that package tracking says could not deliver because no access 5 minutes after locking up is very annoying. On the flip side, I do feel for the carriers. All the packages, junk mail and later hours is dangerous and unfair to them as well. The problem is with all management (higher and lower). USPS should clean house with management up and hire competent thinkers and more workers, not less.

    Jan 12, 2018
  • anon

    Why is it that a lot of times I mail checks for bills, and they either don’t get sent or there’re really overdue or don’t get mailed??

    Jan 12, 2018
  • anon

    Tracking my package it says it will get here at 8:00 PM. This seens super late but I am counting on the time they have given me as I live in an apartment complex where I dont exactly trust what can happen to it.

    Jan 11, 2018
  • anon

    No mail delivery on January 4 (snowstorm), 5th, 6th, or 8th! When will we ever get it? Did our mail person quit? We are on the longest route in 11209. The carriers can't do it for long because it is mostly single family houses with steps. Please adjust this route. When we do get mail, it's always dark.

    Jan 09, 2018
  • anon

    I live in Coshocton ,Ohio, within city limits. My mail used to come between 10-11 am thru the week and early afternoon on Saturdays. This worked well for me a I work 2nd shift 40 miles from home. Now it comes late in the evening everyday, 5pm or after as noted on a Saturday when home. This means, due to my work hours, anything that would have been done the same day in regard to mail I received that required an action on my part, now has to be done a day later...very inconvenient...pushing my entire week out of schedule. This has been going on for many weeks now and in my opinion, there is no justification for it considering it is deliveries within city limits in a small town.

    Jan 06, 2018
  • anon

    I would say 100% it's coming in later such as 8 am is the reason for not making the 5 and 6 o'clock windows. Management doesn't make it any better but there is no reason for not coming in early during the holidays or for the entire winter season for that matter

    Jan 04, 2018
  • anon

    We live inner city Minneapolis & have not had mail delivery in our neighborhood the last 2 days (Jan 2 & 3) That means our last mail came Saturday, Dec 31st & we've gone 4 days with nothing. Over the last 6 - 8 weeks it has not been unusual for us to miss a day of delivery here or there, or have mail delivered sometime after we'd gone to bed. We got to accept this. But now with the new year, must we get used to 2 - 3 days without delivery? Contacting my station by phone is impossible. Temps are below zero but I may have to venture out.

    Jan 04, 2018
  • anon

    paid for guaranteed overnight shipping and my letter has not been sent or updated at all on the tracking.

    Jan 03, 2018
  • anon

    I think even in rural areas mail should be delivered to lndividual houses. In our case i never know when we are getting our mail usually closer to 5 p.m. Dark and dangerous walking to the mailboxes in the ice and snow!!

    Jan 03, 2018
  • anon

    Here it is almost 7PM and my mail has not been delivered again. The mail has not been delivered most days before 5pm and many days after 6pm. My question is when do they start work? Is it 9 or 10am? Why has this become a late day delivery? It used to be earlier like 3-4PM. The packages are sometime just dropped on the ground next to the mail box in this rural area that has had mail stolen previously so that is not a good idea.

    Jan 02, 2018
  • anon

    We are at the end of the postal route for our town and often do not get mail delivery. The other end of town almost always gets delivery. I have asked that the route be changed so we are not last ans left out. I was told they couldn't do this. How do I get consistent delivery of mail? I have put letters in the box that haven't gone for 2 days. Please advise. I am tired of not getting things on time when others in the town do.

    Jan 02, 2018
  • anon

    I waited around all day because of a signature requirement delivery and at 7pm, it still hasn't been delivered and I know it won't be today. How can they do this?

    Jan 02, 2018
  • anon

    My mail has been very late and I haven’t got my mail in a few days

    Jan 02, 2018
  • anon

    Related to this article about late deliveries, my local post office in Park Forest, IL. 60466, does not deliver mail to all routes every day. Their excuse is that they are short staffed. Regarding packages, they have left them on my porch after 10 pm and long after I’m asleep masking them an easy target for thieves. They also nearly cost me my Amazon Prime membership by reporting to Amazon that they could not deliver to my address because the doorway was blocked. (It wasn’t.) Finally, carriers have ruined hundreds of dollars of plants by trampling them. The excuse is that their union contract allows them to use short cuts across my gardens and flower beds. Please can someone help my village get adequate postal service?

    Dec 29, 2017
  • anon

    Go home whenever you want. I don't care what time you deliver. Before dark, after dark, whatever makes you happy. But please, stop lying. Don't say "2-3 days" when you know you can't do it. And don't say "Delivered" when it wasn't. My asthma medication currently says "Delivered." It was not. Where is it? When will I get it? There's no way to find out. At all. Just stop lying. Don't overpromise and underdeliver. Tell the truth. You should have learned that by the time you were three. It's not too late, though.

    Dec 29, 2017
  • anon

    My mail has not been delivered at all today, it is 7:30pm and no one has received mail today Tuesday!! It says everything is out for delivery. This is so annoying. How late do the mail men stay delivering mail? I read somewhere it has to be done by 5pm one time I got my mail around 7pm. What is going on?

    Dec 26, 2017
  • anon

    My mail gets delivered at 6 or 7 at earliest most days. I know it's because they have only one mail person doing my whole section. What would improve this is just one more mail person to deliver, if they need more workers they need to put that out their so people who don't have jobs can apply.

    Dec 26, 2017
  • anon

    I'll tell you what I don't like is when the Washington State Otis Orchards post office delivers our mail, and packages are smashed in our mailbox, or the boxes with books get folded in half to fit. They have done it time and time again and it ruins the things I buy.

    Dec 24, 2017
  • anon

    I thought mail service was worse in Miami than any where in the World. I have been proven wrong, the mail carrier in Stuart FL is Lazy, Doesn't care, apparently cannot Read, among other problems he apparently has? But I guess that is common in South Florida. 3 weeks in a row I have had packages(sent Priority) from Jupiter Fl to Stuart about 13 miles. The first two took 5 days and 6 days, and still waiting for a package tracked to be here today. This isn't a problem of delivering in the Dark or the Holiday Rush, This is All Year. Complaints have been made and Nothing Happens?

    Dec 23, 2017
  • anon

    To Whom It May Concern: Hope my Christmas gifts arrive in time! One package is still at a "Regional Distribution Center in Little Rock, AR." where it has been since several days ago and was to be delivered yesterday on the 22nd of Dec., 2017!!! Paid over $60.00 and not happy about this--hope it is not lost!;( A lot of expense and not to mention all the preparation to send my GC's presents--don't know if I will use this route again should it not be delivered in time...major disappointment not only from my perspective, but sad that they will have to experience it as well on a major holiday and that being "CHRISTMAS!" Is this the best that can be done? C. K.

    Dec 23, 2017
  • anon

    Yaphank, New York - last Monday, my mail got delivered at 8:00pm. This Monday is shaping up to be the same thing. This is a safety issue for residents, particularly women alone and the elderly, who have to walk out to street side mailboxes after it's pitch dark out. This is unacceptable. If the post office is truly so overwhelmed with delivery at holiday time, then hire extra part-time carriers for the season.

    Dec 18, 2017
  • anon

    Likewise it's unsafe for the carrier, too. I was a CCA who oftentimes had to deliver parcels to strange neighborhoods, in the dark, sometimes as late as 9 pm. I didn't like it one bit. Mostly, I was afraid of being attacked by a dog, or worse, being shot by a resident who might think I'm a burglar. I don't know what the answer is -- all I know is, that more and more people are ordering online, and this means more parcel deliveries for postal workers. We cannot effectively deliver the mail and parcels at the same time, while getting back in the office by 5 pm. It's unrealistic.

    Dec 23, 2017
  • anon

    Priority package I was expecting today has gone from Chicago to Elk Grove Village, back to Chicago on it's way to my post office since yesterday. Package shipped December 13 Priority. Site tells me expected delivery today by 8:00PM. I know my post office and they are not delivering until 8:00 PM. This has happened with every package I have shipped via USPS. No wonder people are choosing to pay more for FedEx or UPS. When they say something will be delivered in 3 days, unless there is a weather or mechanical problem it gets delivered. So sick of paying extra for Priority Mail (guaranteed 2-3 day delivery) and getting it in 4-5 days. USPS sucks.

    Dec 16, 2017
  • anon

    Priority package I was expecting today has gone from Chicago to Elk Grove Village, back to Chicago on it's way to my post office since yesterday. Package shipped December 13 Priority. Site tells me expected delivery today by 8:00PM. I know my post office and they are not delivering until 8:00 PM. This has happened with every package I have shipped via USPS. No wonder people are choosing to pay more for FedEx or UPS. When they say something will be delivered in 3 days, unless there is a weather or mechanical problem it gets delivered. So sick of paying extra for Priority Mail (guaranteed 2-3 day delivery) and getting it in 4-5 days. USPS sucks.

    Dec 16, 2017
  • anon

    Said my package was out for delivery since 10 am... And its 9pm now... I guess that the drivers in CASTRO VALLEY CALIFORNIA are lazy and also love to lie to people as well.. I even went to the post office which is down the street from my house and they lied and said it was out for delivery. Looks like people just want money and don't care about messing with people. Pathetic! I hope that I get my package!

    Dec 15, 2017
  • anon

    Out for delivery since 9:50 a.m. and it is now 10:09 p.m. and no mail. Sad. I'm beyond frustrated.

    Dec 12, 2017
  • anon

    what happens when you hire a bunch of lazy workers for a decent paying job. they dont care it is 9:00 right now and still no mail. i get it that it's december but wtf.

    Dec 11, 2017
  • anon

    I’m a 17 year veteran letter carrier and lazy is NOT what I am. When management can’t get our mail and packages to us on time and don’t let us start early, among many other things, this is why we are so late. Not to mention we can’t fit our workload into our outdated trucks. We are working 13+ hour days. Do your research before you mindlessly blame the wrong people.

    Dec 16, 2017
  • anon

    Justine, the general public is extremely ignorant when it comes to the USPS. They have no idea what it entails to deliver the mail...they think it's easy, and it's far, far from easy! Letter carriers must deal with a LOT on a daily basis - from incompetent supervisors, to rude customers, to menacing dogs...the list goes on and on. Instead of whining about a delivery that can clearly wait another day, why don't you (the general public) take the time to thank your letter carrier for their services? A little appreciation goes a long way. God bless and Merry Christmas!

    Dec 23, 2017

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