Update on mail delays in Georgia: Better but still bad

Steve HutkinsBlog, Featured

At a heated hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs back on April 16, Georgia’s Senator Jon Ossoff questioned Postmaster General DeJoy about the persistent delays that followed the opening, in February, of the new regional processing center in Palmetto, outside of Atlanta.

DeJoy said it would take about 60 days for service performance scores to return to normal. Ossoff told DeJoy that if the problems weren’t fixed in weeks, not months, “I don’t think you’re fit for this job.”

We now have the performance data for the 60 days since that hearing, and the scores are nowhere near normal. Yes, they have improved since bottoming out in March, but they are still very poor, and by most measures, completely unsatisfactory.

On June 17, DeJoy provided Ossoff with an update on service performance in Georgia. DeJoy wrote that “service has continued to recover,” and he reported that for the first week of June, 83 percent of outbound First Class mail and 75 of inbound mail was on time. That didn’t sound too bad.

DeJoy did not mention, however, that the outbound score was down about 9 percentage points compared to the same week last year, and the inbound was down 16.5 percent.  Here’s a chart showing the scores for all First Class Mail since January. (The data come from the USPS Service Performance Dashboard.)

For the third week of June (the most recent week for which data are available), scores for inbound mail improved slightly, to 76.5 percent on time — 15 percent below the same week last year — while outbound fell to 82 percent on time — 10 percent below last year.

In his letter to Ossoff, DeJoy did not point out that the scores for First Class mail that he reported were buoyed by pre-sort mail, which represents about 75 percent of First Class, because pre-sort moves much more quickly through the network. If one looks just at single-piece mail, the problems are much more apparent.

Here’s a chart showing the scores for single-piece First Class mail for all service standards. As you can see, the improvement topped off in early June and fell during the second and third week of the month.

For single-piece mail with a 2-day service, during the third week of June less than 55 percent of inbound and outbound was on time.

Also called turnaround mail, the 2-day mail is essentially mail that originates and destinates in the Georgia district, so it doesn’t have far to go. It’s not clear why the scores for 2-day mail are 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 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.

The scores for mail with a 3-day and 4-day service standard show essentially the same pattern — improvement during May and the first week of June, then a decline or flattening off during the second and third weeks of the month. The scores for outbound mail were especially low, with only 45 percent on time for 3-day mail

The only case where improvement has been significant is the inbound 5-day mail, which scored 84 percent on time during the third week of June, just 4 percent below last year. But the outbound 5-day mail scored only 52.4 percent.

Inbound and outbound scores are usually about the same across all districts and all service standards, but in Georgia there’s a significant difference between the two, particularly for 5-day mail, where there’s a 31 percentage point differential. It’s not clear why that this has been happening.

On June 25, Senator Ossoff called for an investigation by the USPS Office of Inspector General into the significant mail delays affecting Georgia residents. The OIG announced several months ago that it was working on a report on the Atlanta RPDC. The results are expected to be released in August.

— Steve Hutkins

Featured image: Fox5Atlanta

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