Looking at mail delays by the numbers: USPS Service Performance in Q2 FY2024

SteveBlog, Featured

Last week the Postal Regulatory Commission issued an order that was totally unprecedented. The Commission directed the Postal Service to file a request for an advisory opinion on the Delivering for America plan or to “show cause” why an opinion is not warranted.

The Postal Service has claimed that the mail delays we’ve been seeing over the past several months are isolated, temporary, and do not represent a change in postal services on a nationwide basis, so an advisory opinion is not required. The Commission’s order questions that claim and goes on to say, “it has become increasingly apparent that the operational changes to be implemented by the Postal Service nationwide may result in significant service changes over a broad area of the country.”

Time will tell just how temporary the delivery problems are, but they don’t appear to be isolated. Over the past several months, nearly the entire country has suffered mail delays.

The nation overall

The service performance reports for the second quarter (January-March 2024) won’t be available for a couple more weeks, but much of the data is already being reported on the USPS Service Performance Dashboard.

Here’s a table breaking down the national scores by mail type, comparing the second quarter of FY2024 with the same quarter last year. (The reports for the first quarter were discussed here.)

In every category, on-time scores have dropped. During Q2 FY2024, for the nation as a whole, 84 percent of First Class mail was on time, compared to 91 percent during Q2 FY2023. Compared to SPLY, single-piece mail with a 3, 4 and 5-day standard has dropped by 12.5 percent, 14 percent, and 21.4 percent, respectively.

The causes for these falling scores may be located in specific places at specific times, but the low scores are a nationwide problem, and it’s not at all clear when service performance will return to a satisfactory level.

District by district

Looking at the district-level scores provides further evidence that the problems are widespread.

Here’s a table showing the district-by-district scores for inbound single-piece First Class mail for Q2 FY2024 and the same quarter last year. The table can be sorted by columns; refresh your browser to return to the original sort. ADD is the average days to deliver.

District% on timeSPLYChangeADDSPLY% Change
CALIFORNIA 185.12%87.31%-2.19%2.72.412.50%
CALIFORNIA 283.93%86.56%-2.63%2.72.412.50%
CALIFORNIA 387.34%88.46%-1.12%
CALIFORNIA 488.80%92.90%-4.10%2.62.313.04%
CALIFORNIA 585.44%88.96%-3.52%2.82.512.00%
CALIFORNIA 687.55%87.28%0.27%
FLORIDA 180.45%83.31%-2.86%
FLORIDA 283.46%87.44%-3.98%
FLORIDA 381.20%78.25%2.95%
ILLINOIS 179.88%88.90%-9.02%2.82.321.74%
ILLINOIS 276.40%79.15%-2.75%2.82.416.67%
MICHIGAN 182.08%82.94%-0.86%
MICHIGAN 281.37%85.19%-3.82%2.62.313.04%
NEW JERSEY86.18%88.24%-2.06%
NEW YORK 179.26%84.42%-5.16%2.82.512.00%
NEW YORK 284.79%85.50%-0.71%
NEW YORK 388.27%88.07%0.20%
NORTH CAROLINA80.56%88.52%-7.96%2.72.412.50%
OHIO 180.52%83.12%-2.60%2.62.313.04%
OHIO 282.16%85.34%-3.18%
PENNSYLVANIA 188.16%91.25%-3.09%
PUERTO RICO82.93%78.69%4.24%2.82.512.00%
SOUTH CAROLINA78.44%76.84%1.60%2.82.512.00%
TEXAS 180.02%84.34%-4.32%3.12.810.71%
TEXAS 272.53%78.77%-6.24%3.22.718.52%
TEXAS 382.00%79.33%2.67%

Here are some maps to help illustrate these numbers.

The first map simply shows the 50 USPS districts (scroll over for district name). The second map shows on-time performance for inbound First Class during the second quarter of FY2023, and the third shows on-time performance during the second quarter of FY2024. The darker the shade of pink-to-red, the lower the scores. The fourth map shows the changes from the second quarter in FY 2023 to FY 2024. The darker areas show the districts with the largest drop in scores.

In Q2 FY 2023, service performance ranged from 75 to 93 percent, and the average for the nation was 84.5 percent on time. The Colorad0-Wyoming district had the lowest score — 74.7 percent — possibly due to staffing shortages.

In Q2 FY2024, on-time scores fell in 40 of the 50 districts. The range dropped to between 60 and 89 percent, and the national average dropped to 80 percent on time. Average delivery time (days to deliver) increased in every district except Alaska.

The worst on-time percentage scores were in Georgia (60.2 percent), a result of problems opening the Atlanta Regional Processing & Distribution Center in Palmetto, as discussed in this post. Virginia continued to suffer low scores (73.3 percent) as a result of problems launching its RPDC in Richmond, as discussed in this post and this OIG report.

As the map showing changes in service performance from 2023 to 2024 shows, the problems in Atlanta and Virginia may have spread to nearby districts like North Carolina, Kentucky-West Virginia, and Tennessee, where only 73.5 percent was on time in FY24.

The scores in the Texas 2 District were also very low (72.5 percent). Apparently the problems with the North Houston and Missouri City P&DCs that began last summer continue to be an issue (discussed in this OIG report). Wisconsin’s scores were low as well (74.4 percent), perhaps partly due to the implementation of the Local Transportation Optimization plan, which eliminated evening collections at hundreds of post offices in the state in January. There were also problems in Nevada-Utah (75.3 percent) and especially the Kansas-Missouri (67.9 percent) districts, but it’s not clear why.

Making the mail more reliable

When the Postal Service proposed relaxing service standards on First Class mail back in April 2021, it said that the new standards, as well as other initiatives, would make it possible “to consistently meet or exceed service performance targets of 95 percent,” across the board. That included single-piece First Class mail with a 3-day service standard — mail that historically has had a score between 80 and 85 percent. While the mail would be slower, said the Postal Service, it would be more “reliable and consistent.”

But that clearly hasn’t happened.

Here’s a chart showing annual scores for First Class mail since FY 2019 (from this USPS report and this one). The scores for FY2024 are for the first half of the year through the week ending April 19, from the Service Performance Dashboard.

During FY2020-2021, on-time scores dropped significantly, due primarily to the package surge and employee availability issues caused by the pandemic. They then recovered to pre-pandemic levels, but this year scores fell off again, due largely to problems associated with implementing DFA.

Here’s one more chart, this one showing monthly scores for single-piece First Class since the beginning of FY 2022, when the new service standards went into effect.

During FY 2022-2023, scores averaged 88 percent on time. As FY 2024 began, scores began to drop, and they’ve fallen now to 77.5 percent on time. That’s about 10 percentage points below average and 17 percent below the 95 percent target — a goal that looks farther away than ever.

But for now, achieving such lofty goals is not the main concern. The question is, with scores like these, is the Postal Service prepared to deliver election mail in a timely and reliable way?

— Steve Hutkins