USPS Slammed for Delivery Delays and "Unacceptable" Conditions
The agency is facing a number of complaints and concerns amid the hectic holiday season.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) works to meet our mailing needs year-round, but the agency's importance becomes even more apparent during the holidays, as we stress over getting online orders in and gifts shipped out. In fact, the USPS usually prepares all year for its peak mailing season, which happens from Thanksgiving through New Year's. As it turns out, the Postal Service's efforts might not have been enough to handle the significant surge in demand this year, as the agency is now getting slammed for delivery delays and "unacceptable" conditions.
Recent complaints about missing mail have been piling up in multiple parts of the country. In North Carolina, Rocky Mount resident David Radford told WRAL News that postal services in the area are "sporadic," and he's worried that delivery delays will negatively affect the holidays.
"We do order a lot of our stuff from Amazon," Radford said. "If they don't bring those packages … those are grandchildren's presents."
Similar issues are impacting residents in the Twin Cities metro of Minnesota, with U.S. Rep Angie Craig having spoken out about "persistent mail delays" in the area several times in the past already, the Star Tribune reported. "Unfortunately, I think the issues are rising again," Craig told the newspaper in a new interview.
But much of the most recent backlash has come out of Montana. On Dec. 6, Sen. Jon Tester wrote a letter to President Joe Biden about "continued concerns … over delayed postal delivery in various parts of the state."
Meanwhile, Minnesota senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith are also "working to increase transparency and accountability surrounding delays with the post office to increase speed and reliability at the USPS," according to a Dec. 8 X post from Klobuchar.
It's not only the delivery delays that are a concern, however. Smith recently told local radio station WCCO that postal workers in parts of Montana are facing tough working conditions as well.
"This is what I find particularly unacceptable: Folks that are working 12 hours a day, six days a week. They're driving their own vehicles, and they are not getting paid extra for this extra work that they're doing," she explained. "It's completely unfair to them."
Three separate Postal Service employees in Missoula, Montana, spoke with the Missoulian this month about their experiences in the workplace, claiming that the environment now is the worst it's ever been. According to the workers, there are not enough substitute carriers to allow them to only work five days a week. And if carriers do take time off, they often come back to a huge pile of undelivered mail they still have to get out—which means they're overworked either way.
"It's hostile here," one employee told the newspaper. "Some people are not getting their routes carried. Everyone's mad. We'll have stand-up meetings, people are yelling at each other. It's crazy in here. It's because we're all worked to death and we're tired. It's a circus. There's an atmosphere of 'you can't take days off.' You can, but people are gonna get mad."
Smith told WCCO that the issue with postal staff being overworked is creating a snowball effect in which more workers are quitting and delivery delays are being exacerbated as a result.
Kim Frum, a USPS strategic communications specialist, told the Missoulian that the agency is working to address the issue.
"It's a well-known fact the Postal Service is facing staffing and hiring challenges both in Montana and nationwide," she said. "The need is especially urgent in most areas for mail handlers, clerks and mail carriers. All Post Office locations, including Missoula, have skilled, experienced management in place overseeing the day-to-day operations and using every available resource at their disposal to overcome staffing issues."
But in a Dec. 11 press release, the USPS said that its service performance still "remains stable" across its network. According to the latest delivery metrics, it took the agency an average of 2.6 days to deliver a mailpiece or package across the nation during the ninth week of the first quarter for its 2024 fiscal year.
But for the entire first quarter—which ran from Oct. 1 through Dec. 1—the amount of mail delivered on time fell for all three major categories compared to the last quarter. There was a 3.9 percent decrease for First-Class Mail, a 1.2 percent decrease for Marketing Mail, and a 2.8 percent decrease for Periodicals, according to the release.
Aside from staffing struggles, the agency also acknowledged other problems that have contributed to recent delivery delays.
"Operational disruptions within our network, including insourcing of several Surface Transfer Centers after a supplier bankruptcy, and the extended shutdown of a critical St. Louis, Missouri processing facility due to a mercury leak from an illegally shipped package resulting in a lengthy decontamination period, have and will continue to negatively impact our service performance scores through the end of this month," the USPS added in its release.
Additionally, the Postal Service noted that while it will continue to experience a demand in package volume throughout the peak holiday season as anticipated, it has still "effectively managed" this increase amid the disruptions in order to deliver mail and packages to 98 percent of the nation's population in less than three days.
"The very small percentage of mail that is not delivered within this time frame is often the result of broader staffing and hiring issues within the local economies that we are working aggressively to address," the agency stated. "The American public and American businesses can and should feel confident that their mail and packages will get where they need to be in a timely manner during this busy season."