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 (209)

  • 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
  • anon

    I make my living selling online. These problems are endemic to the post office. I never have these issues with Fedex and UPS. I have been doing this for 5 and a half years and have seen a steady decline with the last year being the worst. I went from shipping 99% of my packages through the post office to about 30% now. Their rates are no longer competitive also, 6lb. package Wisconsin to California, 50$, UPS, 21$. Unacceptable.

    Mar 02, 2018
  • anon

    The USPS office in my town (League City) has some of the worst reviews I have ever read. Take an opportunity to look them up on google. The wrong mail regularly makes it to our boxes and our town's letters and packages go missing or are marked as delivered but show up days later. I think we all value the safety and families of our post workers but horrendous customer service, dishonesty, and frequent delivery to the wrong addresses comes down to poor work ethic and mismanagement. The fact that a post office can have 90% terrible reviews without replacement or serious audit of management shows a real lack of oversight. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in mail are constantly at risk because no one within the organization seems to advocate for the clients of our enormous town. Maybe it's time to reevaluate and update the time expectations of package deliveries to match the harsh realities of the job rather than selling 2-3 day shipping options that are dangerous, stressful, and unrealistic. Maybe the employees are acting out in response to the stress. Any improvement would be a step in the right direction.

    Dec 06, 2017
  • anon

    Mail deliveries were missed on Nov. 24,2017 - Dec. 2 and Dec.4 . I can not leave mail in the rural box in fear of it being removed because the flag is up. I also learned the carriers do not clock in when they case the mail. I am 79 years old handicapped. I have to walk 120 ft. to the mail box. I can receive my mail 2 PM to 8 pm or not at all. When the original carrier was on the route, your mail was always there by 3 PM. There is something wrong. Winter is coming which means ice , snow, and darkness for a handicapped person. Need Help.

    Dec 05, 2017
  • anon

    For at least the past month our mail has come well after dark. Since our mailbox is at the beginning of our road, a block away, i'm walking multiple times to my box in the dark to check for the mail. Tonight I checked at 5:00--no mail. I walked back up there at 7:10, still no mail! This time last year someone was stealing mail from neighborhood mailboxes. I'm concerned that it, I leave our mail in the box all night, I'm inviting trouble. Our mailman is normally amazing about getting our mail to us on time and packages are always delivered to the door, not left hanging out of the mailbox. Something needs to be done. I am concerned for my carrier's safety and my own.

    Dec 04, 2017
  • anon

    My husband is a cca in phoenix. You might assume that the post office has been around a long time so they know what they are doing......they don't have a clue. You guys really need to consider the safety of your workers before you send them out over and over in the dark until almost 10 at night? Who wants a package at 930? At night!? It's dangerous and foolish you guys overwork some and let others get away with barely finishi g the route they were assigned! You change times and schedules all the time! I'm surprised you are still in business they way that you run your operation. You need to stop being foolish and do what is common sense

    Dec 01, 2017
  • anon

    It is now 7:52 in Alta Loma, ca and still no mail. I have out going mail waiting to be picked up. We have pay checks that are normally delivered on Wednesday or Thursday yet nothing today. What is going on. Not acceptable to not have mail delivered.

    Nov 30, 2017
  • anon

    Going in earlier seems to make sense. Packages don't have to go out until a certain time but getting a jump on the day would get the day done sooner. Makes sense except you aren't allowed to go in early. Go in later, return sooner is what is being preached and yet with the huge uptick in packages this is not possible without MORE HELP. How are you supposed to deal with the huge workload in less time and with less help? People are asking to come in early and are being told no. Why? And don't even get me started on how many hours are being worked without pay because they are taking significantly longer and have not had the paid hours for a route assessed and updated. So now you get to deliver in the dark and not even get paid for it. Most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. How is this even legal? It's a huge safety issue and it looks like the long hours and late hours will have to cause injury the USPS has to pay for before anything will change. This seems to be the new business model for many companies these days.

    Nov 30, 2017
  • anon

    Constant misdeliveries. We were getting our mail at noon,now we don't get our mail till 5pm or later. What is going g on?

    Nov 29, 2017
  • anon

    I would like to know why cariers in Phoenix are starting at 9:30 am. They start at 8:30 now. On December 2nd they will be starting at 9:30. Why with Christmas coming, are they starting later? This seems stupid to me. What is the reasoning for this?

    Nov 28, 2017
  • anon

    The reasoning is supposedly; mail from the main plant is not arriving to the individual post offices as early as it once did. Well I guess that makes sense when you make cutbacks at the main plant. Duh! My wife is a mail carrier and she will be starting at 9:30am. I fear for her safety after dark as well as all carriers. Mail will be arriving to the customer later. The USPS is antiquated in their thinking and operating measures. This whole thing is stupid and the USPS won't be happy until they've driven themselves out of business.

    Nov 29, 2017
  • anon

    Our community is older, and many residences choose to use the Postal Service by way of the P.O. Box. This usually works well and oversized boxes are "sometimes" used for delivery of packages that can't fit in the normal boxes. The problem is that time after time, notification of package arrival is jotted on a yellow card and held for pick-up during regular hours. NOT EFFICIENT. I work regular hours - which is why I depend on the oversize box system. Not using the system in place causes problems on my end. I pay to use the P.O. Box and would like it to be a benefit and not a point of frustration.

    Nov 27, 2017
  • anon

    We have been getting our regular mail regularly 7pm and later for the past two years. Despite numerous contacts with the local post office staff, and reassurances the problems would be taken care of with hiring new staff we are getting our regular delivery later and later. Recently we signed up for the free service to get preview of mails and are now finding the mail delivery is often skipped for the day. It seems like if they dont have time to deliver it just gets scheduled for the next day. We often get other peoples mail as well that we have to get the carrier to redeliver. We have tried to ask local post office management for a call back or way to contact the supervisor of the district but the local office 95136 refuses to give us callback or any contact information from their supervisors. Tried calling the ask-usps number but the wait times were > 20-30 minutes. Would appreciate any information on how to escalate our issues.

    Nov 22, 2017
  • anon

    "insufficient staffing, late or improper mail arrival, inaccurate route adjustments and insufficient supervision." What else do you need to know? Have the Postal Service correct these issues and you will have no problems! You can waste thousands of dollars doing these audits, but if the Postal Service doesn't do anything to fix what you have found, what good is it. I'd love to just deliver parcels in the dark. Try being a city letter carrier walking on dark streets trying to read three bundles of mail! I've carried for 25 years and the Postal Service has done nothing but make the job harder and harder. Later start times, and carrying a third bundle every day sets you up for nothing but failure.

    Nov 21, 2017
  • anon

    Thanks for your comments, which often inform our work. We appreciate your ideas and insights on this important topic. Please also note that general delivery/service issues should be addressed directly to USPS, at www.usps.com/help/contact-us.htm.

    Nov 21, 2017
  • anon

    What is up with Atlanta? Perhaps the 8PM and later deliveries are making it difficult to read the addressing? Three days out of five last week I received other people's mail. There was no pickup or delivery the other two days. A first class from Columbia SC postmarked the 15th shows up on the 20th. I've been waiting for a parcel mailed from Japan (average transit 6 days) to arrive. It was posted the 3rd of Nov in Japan and as of 21 November has not arrived in Atlanta. Do I incur a 1.5% fee to pay my property tax on line or do I trust the USPS to get my check to the county tax commissioner? What is our new postmaster doing? How do I contact him?

    Nov 21, 2017
  • anon

    Why not set the whole delivery clock back? Mail comes to the post office earlier. Clerks sort the mail earlier. PARCELS are up earlier. Carriers get out EARLIER and back off the street earlier. Let the carriers case bulk flats that aren't time dated in the pm after they are off the street. Being out in the dark is not safe. You are blinded from lights behind you; lights in front of you. You can't even read the mail. What about taking PARCELS to the door? You don't know the lay out of the land or if they HAVE A DOG. OR IF THEY THINK YOU ARE A PROWLER. Please help ensure the letter carriers safety. You can redirect the earlier time when mail and PARCELS aren't as heavy. Sign me a proud and VERY MUCH ALIVE RETIRED RURAL CARRIER.

    Nov 20, 2017
  • anon

    Unfortunately the problem will stop or start raising eyebrows when a carrier gets hurt, robbed, beat up or even killed. As carrier I noticed that safety is a myth. They say safety is a priority and even article 39 of the book states that safety is in the hands of management but still they allow us to stay out late in the dark. Is all about numbers. We should start thinking about everyone's life.

    Nov 20, 2017
  • anon

    Why not set the whole delivery clock back? Mail comes to the post office earlier. Clerks sort the mail earlier. PARCELS are up earlier. Carriers get out EARLIER and back off the street earlier. Let the carriers case bulk flats that aren't time dated in the pm after they are off the street. Being out in the dark is not safe. You are blinded from lights behind you; lights in front of you. You can't even read the mail. What about taking PARCELS to the door? You don't know the lay out of the hard or if they HAVE A DOG. OR IF THEY THINK YOU ARE A PROWLER. Please help ensure the letter carriers safety. You can redirect the earlier time when mail and PARCELS aren't as heavy. Sign me a proud and VERY MUCH ALIVE RETIRED RURAL CARRIER.

    Nov 19, 2017
  • anon

    Distribution plants/mail handlers and Associate office/clerks need performance standards just as Letter Carriers have. There is no accountability at this level......hence delayed mail. Every day carriers are expected to recover lost productivity on distribution side. Incompetent managers are also part of the underlying problem.

    Nov 17, 2017
  • anon

    90 percent of the mail I get is junk, allow customers to stop junk mail, would cut your work load way down, this is harrassment in its worst form, so there is no way the US Post Office can force us to accept it. ONline we have the option to stop the harassment, but not the US Post Office. I know that you make a lot of money delivering junk mail and your employees say you deliver to addresses where you know that no one lives there as you get paid so much for every delivery. How about respecting your customers and allow them to stop the harrassment of junk mail.

    Nov 15, 2017
  • anon

    I agree that 90 percent of mail is junk. As a mail carrier, I can assure you I hate junk mail 500 times as much as you do. However, the post office can’t pick and choose which mail they can and can’t deliver. It’s a mandate written into law so that even the poor had the ability to send mail and not just the wealthy. If you want to stop junk mail PLEASE!!! Tell the sender to stop sending it. Don’t go bitching to the post office and start the process of taking away yet more freedoms. Thanks.

    Nov 15, 2017
  • anon

    I am a person with a disability having had a stroke and my mail carrier, a female, has been harrassing me for several years. The postal service will do nothing. After what she did to me today which has jeopardized my physical safety, I made a police report. There's nothing good to say about the postal service whatever. My carrier would run over me if she could.

    Dec 13, 2017

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