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 (77)

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  • anon

    thanks for asking for our input

    Sep 21, 2017
  • anon

    Route are adjusted to 7:50,,street time don't change since carrier deliver the same way every day.., even with volume increase his leaving ofic tme shol b e same. Now first class mail is on the decline and routs a adjusted on circ day. You get the carrier to the street on time and they return on time...if they leave late they can not make the return time...plus now you use the scanning report as tracking time.

    Sep 21, 2017
  • anon

    OK OIG...You asked.......Just read all of these responses....It seems OIG never consults the workerbees when you do an audit......YOU SHOULD......You'd find out what REALLY is going on.... Now let's see you respond to all of these comments......It is obvious that management across the US isn't listening. Hopefully OIG doesn't have its head in the sand also.

    Sep 21, 2017
  • anon

    Staffing the plant is the key. Getting it to the stations at the earliest time. Staffing the stations. Have enough vehicles. Contract retired Supervision to train supervisors in stations...leave when their qualified

    Sep 21, 2017
  • anon

    Distribution is key in order for us to get to the street sooner, if distribution is not up then we have to wait.... Management must also take into consideration that if we are submitting a 3996 requesting time that there is some legitimatcy to our request, instead of ignoring and denying the request.

    Sep 20, 2017
  • anon

    Have CCA’s report at 8:00 am and deliver only parcels come back to station at 1:00 pm to get late arriving parcels. 4:30 they should have all parcels delivered on routes with close proximity. Cannot bring parcels back.

    Sep 20, 2017
  • anon

    Seriously, WITHOUT A DOUBT, this is the best idea ever and I t needs to be instituted immediately!

    Nov 12, 2017
  • anon

    Having our start times pushed back is making letter carriers have to work in the dark and its not save. Especially if you are on a pivot or on a different route. Customers are not expecting someone on their front door after dark. Its hard to see where dogs are steps and other things that could harm us. It also makes family life a bit harder like picking your kids up from the bus, daycare, appointment, and school events.

    Sep 20, 2017
  • anon

    Not insufficient supervision, inadequate. People who are capable of supervising are discouraged from doing so because the environment is SO toxic, and the ones who do are not allowed to actually supervise. "We're not allowed to start anyone early, we're not allowed to bring in ODL carriers on their day off, we're not allowed to...". Seems like they're not allowed to do anything efficiently or at all. You handcuff these people, then tell them to diffuse a bomb. Stop allowing there to be bonuses for anything unless it's operating without costing us thousands in grievance money, because that's all that's happening when they're not allowed to operate within the rules of the contract. If we're going to have one person calling the shots from a downtown office, why bother having supervisors? Just have a big skype session and the one deciding everything for all the supervisors out there can tell us whatever we need to hear instead of wasting our time talking to vessels of the wizard of Oz down in Emerald City.

    Sep 20, 2017
  • anon

    It would be nice to have your carriers, perform professionally. And to see current updated information when tracking mail, or as package. When I track a package, nothing changes, until I already have the package.

    Sep 19, 2017
  • anon

    The first problem with the rural craft is unrealistic standards. The engineering study should help. The second problem is the difference between what happens at mail count and what actually happens the rest of the year. For example supervisors separate all misthrown parcels during count but carriers do it the other fifty weeks. Carriers are not timed to put parcels in delivery order but it must be done especially if the parcels are not marked in the mail as well as many smaller things that add up over time. Carriers are paid two minutes per mile. Who delivers mail at 30 mph? An uneven mail flow is an issue on certain days of the week. Carrier could curtail bulk mail to get back earlier and case bulk mail in the afternoon or evening. This is now more of an issue since facilities have been closed in recent years. One thing is for sure, rural carriers are doing all they can at this point as we took the biggest loss because of the nations economic situation.

    Sep 19, 2017
  • anon

    First p.m. casing to be allowed. Second curtailing of bulk mail on a case-by-case basis. Third proper Staffing of clerk craft to be able to distribute mail and a more timely fashion. 4th would be to expedite newer loves being issued because the problem of breakdowns is adding to the problem of late delivery.

    Sep 19, 2017
  • anon

    Morning mail trucks need an earlier arrival time for clerks to sort mail. Clerks should sort mail first and then packages to get carriers to street as early as possible. Almost every office has too many parcels and need parcel routes. If routes delivered mail and only small parcels that fit in mail box they would be done much faster. Part time workforce needs to be used for what they were intended, eliminating overtime for regulars. The parttime workforce would deliver parcels every day just as they do on Sundays freeing regular routes to deliver letters and flats. Offices with the most serious late deliveries need an intervention team with power to make changes necessary and find best solutions to use in other offices.

    Sep 19, 2017
  • anon

    I'm a city Letter Carrier, LC, w/ 21 years. When I started in 1996 the LCs started @ 5:30am and were off the street by 2pm, even w/ a heavy mail day or absences, the latest was between 4-6 pm. Now the LCs start at 8 am, BC management can't get less mail to the delivery stations as fast as it was done 20 years ago. How does less mail take longer to process? This later delivery times is a creation of management, someone thought "If the LCs start later the LCs will work faster to get done sooner and lower the overtime! No one wants to be delivering mail @ 8pm.", This clearly has NOT worked. Why don't the LCs start @ 6am? Management

    Sep 19, 2017
  • anon

    Great point! How does the decline in 1st class mail and the addition of automation (DPS/FSS) result in later mail?

    Sep 19, 2017
  • anon

    Let the carriers start before 8am Iny district we can't touch the mail until 8am. We used to start at 7am

    Sep 19, 2017
  • anon

    "insufficient staffing, late or improper mail arrival" you need not go any further....EVERY audit you've done on operations across the united states say the same thing.....Carriers (city and rural) are not miracle workers. If plants can't provide product properly, you will see late carriers. It isn't rocket science. Yet we never see OIG sight in on the obvious cause of the problem.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    earlier start times,earlier mail and parcels being ready. also, even distribution of mail instead of 2 days w/hardly any nail and 3 days very heavy mail. also, allow carriers to case bulk in the pm for the next day instead of "everything must go".

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    Mail needs to come to the office early and carrier start times need to be earlier. Staffing needs to increased. Carriers start times are continually moved later and later and the workload this time of year gets heavier and heavier so having the mail available earlier and clerks and carriers starting earlier to get it sorted and cased gets them out of the office early and prevents them from delivering after dark.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    1) properly staff clerks and mail handlers at the plants and stations so that mail and parcels can get to carriers earlier 2) move cut off times for dispatches to stations earlier 3) hold shippers who do drop shipments directly to stations accountable for arriving late. If it's late, it goes the next day. They get a discounted rate, so make them earn it. 4) have enough vehicles for carriers so on heavier days extra CCAs can be scheduled to take some of the load off 5) move all start times to 7am or earlier, work in the office when it's dark and on the street when there is light 6) load level. No reason to run full coverage standard letters or flats on Monday's. Monday's should be 1st and 2nd, parcels and weekend cleanup. Standard can wait until Tuesday.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    Responding to the Delivery after Dark article, the biggest three factors in late delivery return times at our office (Grand River Carrier Annex Grand Rapids MI 49503), in my opinion as a city carrier with 17 years, are: 1) pushing our start times up to an hour later while the clerks maintain the mail dispatch times haven't changed combined with 2) not enough clerks to accomodate the mail to get it sorted on time - even with our later start times and 3) mismanagement of resources, mainly not utilizing available overtime carriers in the most efficient way to minimize travel time and sort times. Thank you.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    Mail trucks are late a lot. Stop changing out start time. When I started in 2003 we started at 6 am now we start at 8 am.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    First of all, you forgot about Rural Carriers and RCAs who work hard daily and can't make the truck because start times have moved back and routes are overburdened with parcels. I'm not looking forward to Christmas. I'm exhausted just thinking of it. Parcels take longer than mail to deliver. They just do! Especially if you curb wheels, turn car off, take keys, set brake, grab scanner, pen, dog spray, walk to porch juggling parcel(s) and then get back in car and restart everything. It's time consuming.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    Recount the routes fairly with the Amazon load included. Change start times as necessary. Cut routes that go over the threshold, distribute the load more evenly.

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    I worked as a carrier for 32 years and when i left automatization was in full force and they cut the clerk craft alot from clerks from stations to bulk mail centers as our station complained of short clerk staff was always overlooked late trips come in no clerks to work it and never staffed or window right always had long lines out the door teams would come in and do nothing so not only our front counter customers were not happy niether was the carrier craft waiting on mail and alot of the time city and rural carriers would help get the late mail out so bottom line staff the clerk craft so customers in line at counter are happy and can get the mail and PACKAGES to the carriers

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    Can we just go to a 7 day delivery? The subs would finally have an actual part time job, and most offices are open anyway for Amazon delivery. It would even out the ridiculous Mon nightmare of high volume. And do away with those tiny mailboxes! How money, energy, time wasting to not have sufficient size mailboxes for small parcels and clearly not enough parcel lockers at the cndbus!!!!!!!

    Sep 18, 2017
  • anon

    I've found that the folks delivering the mail, at any time of the day, have been courteous and typically in good spirits. I read that online services with delivery options are still going to grow over the next decade. It stands to reason that the low staffing is going to remain a problem with USPS. Clearly pricing remains key as well as innovative services that create more revenue. Also, improving self-serve kiosks capabilities in suburban areas may serve to shift personnel from counter to delivery.

    Sep 18, 2017

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