An update on USPS service performance in Georgia

Steve HutkinsBlog, Featured

Mail delays continue to be a problem in Georgia. Service performance scores have improved since bottoming out in March, but they are still very poor, and they’re the lowest in the nation by far.

At a contentious Senate hearing on April 16, Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia questioned Postmaster General DeJoy about the persistent delays that followed the opening of the new regional processing center in Palmetto, outside of Atlanta. DeJoy said it would take about 60 days for scores to return to normal. Ossoff told DeJoy that if the problem weren’t fixed in weeks, not months, “I don’t think you’re fit for this job.”

A few days before the Senate hearing, Ossoff had sent a letter to the Postmaster General, signed by six other elected officials in Georgia, including Senator Raphael Warlock, demanding answers about the mail delays. The letter set a deadline of Friday, May 10, for DeJoy to respond. Senator Warnock’s representatives confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that as of late Friday they had not received a formal response.

On May 9, Ossoff wrote a second letter to the Postmaster General, this one requesting an update on service performance in the Georgia District.  “At the hearing,” he wrote, “you told me that my constituents should start seeing service improve ‘now’ and that ‘we will get to where we need to be in about 60 days. Please provide me an update on the current on-time delivery statistics in the metro Atlanta area within one week.

DeJoy’s response is due tomorrow. Here’s a preview of what the Postal Service may report. It’s based on data on the USPS Service Performance Dashboard.  (The most recent data is for the week of April 27 – May 3. The Postmaster General may be able to provide data for last week as well.)

Here’s a graph showing on-time performance for First Class mail (composite).

Performance scores dropped precipitously in mid-February, the same week the Palmetto facility opened, and then a couple of weeks later they started to improve. The scores for both inbound and outbound mail are still well below where they were before the Palmetto facility opened, but they were headed in the right direction — until the week of April 20, when they took another downturn.

These composite scores include both presort and single-piece. Presort, which accounts for about 75 percent of First Class mail, always scores higher, which buoys the composite scores. Here’s a chart separating presort and single-piece mail for inbound mail:

In mid-March, the score for single-piece mail inbound dropped to 25 percent. As of the week of April 27-May 3, only 40 percent of this mail was on-time.

If one digs still deeper into the single-piece mail, the delivery problems become even more apparent.  Here are the charts for single-piece with service standards of 2, 3, 4 and 5 days.

The scores for 2-day mail, both inbound and outbound, are the lowest of all service standard categories. Also called turnaround mail, this is essentially mail that originates and destinates in the Georgia district, so it doesn’t have far to go. It’s not clear why this mail scores so low, but there are a couple of possibilities.

One is that Local Processing Centers in Macon and Augusta are sending all their outgoing mail to the Palmetto RPDC. The local 2-day mail then goes back to Macon and Augusta for delivery. That could add a day to delivery times and make it very difficult to achieve a 2-day service standard.

Another possibility is that the Local Transportation Optimization plan was implemented in Georgia at the same time the plants were consolidated to the Palmetto facility. Under LTO, mail sits overnight at post offices, waiting to be collected in the morning when the day’s mail is dropped off. For the 2-day mail, the first day is thus spent at the post office, so it would not be surprising if much of it failed to meet a 2-day standard.

It’s noteworthy that there’s a significant difference between inbound and outbound scores for all service standards, particularly 4-day and 5-day mail. Inbound and outbound scores are usually about the same, but in Georgia the outbound scores have been significantly lower. It’s not clear why that this has been happening.

In any case, as these scores show, the Postal Service continues to have serious problems in Georgia, ten weeks after the Palmetto RPDC opened. Given the downturns in most of the scores over the last two weeks reported on the dashboard, it appears that it will take some time before on-time scores are back to anything like normal in Georgia.

— Steve Hutkins

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