Mail Delays Spiking Ahead of the Holidays—Will It Get Worse?

On-time performance is at the lowest rate since summer of 2021.

If you're planning to have a low-key holiday or happen to live far from your loved ones, odds are you'll have to ship some gifts and goodies. Early bird shoppers may have taken precautions and already gotten their shipments out, but procrastinators will want to get a move on. According to recent reports, mail delays are spiking during the U.S. Postal Service's (USPS) peak season. Read on to find out whether you should expect the situation to get worse.

RELATED: USPS Postal Inspector Reveals How to Mail Checks to Avoid Theft.

Less mail is being delivered on time, data shows.

USPS, United States Postal Service, van parked on suburban street during winter with lots of snow.
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In a Dec. 4 press release, USPS confirmed that 87.5 percent of First-Class mail was delivered on time between Oct. 1 and Nov. 24.

This data, which is the latest to be released, reveals a 3.6 decline from the previous quarter, where 91.1 percent of First-Class mail was delivered on time.

It's also a decline from the same period last year, where 92.5 percent of First-Class mail was delivered on time, Government Executive reported. The outlet also noted that USPS' current performance marks its lowest rate of on-time deliveries since summer 2021.

Compounding the issue is timing, as USPS cites the holidays as its "peak" season.

RELATED: USPS Is Starting the New Year With All These Changes to Your Mail.

A few factors contributed to delays.

Layton, Florida, United States - August 14, 2018: View of the United States Post Office sign by the Overseas Highway in Layton, Florida Keys - United States
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According to the Dec. 4 release, performance was "negatively affected" due to the insourcing of Surface Transfer Centers, which are facilities where mail and packages are received in containers and then transported to other facilities. Previously, these were managed by third parties.

In addition, the release cites the two-week shutdown of a facility in St. Louis "for decontamination of a hazardous mercury leak from an illegally shipped package, which required significant rerouting of product and service disruptions throughout the Midwest."

In a statement provided to Best Life, USPS spokesperson Albert Ruiz added that supply chain delays have also resulted in more volume for the mail system, creating delays.

USPS remains optimistic.

usps smart lockers
USPS

In terms of ongoing delays, Ruiz noted that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's 10-year Delivering for America (DFA) plan—which is a multifaceted approach to improving the mail system—may also create issues when meeting standards.

"Our aim is to keep any temporary disruptions to service resulting from these changes to a minimum," Ruiz said. "When there are service impacts, we respond rapidly to resolve those issues."

But with these changes ongoing during the holidays, it's natural to wonder whether we can expect delays to worsen. However, USPS reaffirmed its ability to handle the volume.

"The Postal Service is strongly positioned to handle the holiday mail and package surge by leveraging our significant investments in our people, infrastructure, delivery network and technology," Ruiz said.

Ruiz also noted that delays aren't actually that long, as 96.5 percent of  U.S. mail is delivered within one day of its service standard. Further, 98 percent of the nation's population receives their mail and packages in less than three days. According to the Dec. 4 press release, the average delivery time is currently 2.6 days.

RELATED: USPS Issues New Warning About Delivery Delays and How to Avoid Them.

Do your part to avoid delays as well.

Child Receive a Present for Christmas in the Mailbox
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While USPS is doing its part to keep up, if you're planning to mail cards or gifts, remember that you need to meet certain deadlines.

According to USPS' website, for five-day shipping via First-Class mail and USPS Ground Advantage, the cutoff is Dec. 16 to ensure delivery before Christmas. If you shell out for four-day shipping, you can wait until Dec. 18. If you're using the Priority Mail Express 1-day shipping option, Dec. 21 is the last day to get your goods out.

Keep in mind that USPS' last scheduled delivery day is Saturday, Dec. 23 for regular delivery and Sunday, Dec. 24 for Priority Mail Express if you pay for the holiday premium. USPS will not be delivering on Christmas Day, Dec. 25.

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Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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