With all eyes on USPS as the presidential election inches closer, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is under fire. As the new face of the organization, DeJoy has taken a lot of flack for the Postal Service’s current problems. The media has scrutinized him for the financial state of the organization, his lack of knowledge about postal operations, and the uncertainty around vote-by-mail, to name a few. However, one issue is certainly not DeJoy’s fault: mail and package delays over the past few months.
COVID-19 and Surging Package Demand Required USPS to Allot an Extra Day for Delivery, Leading to Mail Delays
When the Coronavirus pandemic first forced America (and the world) into lockdown, USPS saw an enormous surge in package volumes. When consumers began relying on online ordering for both essential and non-essential goods, eCommerce demand skyrocketed beyond record levels.
This uptick in package demand, coupled with a lack of transportation resources, inevitably led to mail and package delays across the board for the Postal Service. As a result, USPS made changes to its longstanding delivery commitments in order to better service its customer base. For all First Class Package and Priority Mail parcels, USPS allotted an extra day for delivery, increasing their usual timeframes from 1-3 business days to 2-4 business days.
The Numbers Aren’t That Bad
According to detailed data and analytics ran by Shippo, average delivery times since May have fallen in line right with these expectations. Shippo took a look at 50,000 packages during July and August sent by their users. The numbers showed that only 24% of Priority Mail and 17% of First Class packages got delivered later than the originally scheduled date. Also, the same data shows that average transit times have only increased incrementally. From May/June to the July/August period, Priority Mail shipments took an average of 9.03% longer to arrive. First Class Package shipments, on the other hand, took an average of 8.8% longer to reach their destinations.
From the tables below, one can see how many days that delivery times for Priority Mail and First Class Package shipments have increased by:
For each USPS zone, the data above show that delivery times for both services have increased by not even a full day, on average. In regards to these delays, Shippo provided the following statement on their blog:
“Overall, the USPS remains a reliable choice for most eCommerce shipments. Since the beginning of July, we’ve seen small increases in transit times and delayed deliveries for longer shipments starting at Zone 5 and up. Shorter-distance shipments, on average, remain mostly unimpacted.”
USPS Announced Changes to Service Commitments Before Louis DeJoy Became Postmaster General
When looking at these mail and parcel delays, many are quick to blame current Postmaster Louis DeJoy. Here’s the kicker though: in reality, DeJoy had nothing to do with this change to service commitments. In fact, these changes took place before he even got his current job. USPS first announced changes to its service commitments on April 17, 2020, under Postmaster General Megan Brennan.
Louis DeJoy assumed his role as Postmaster General during the first week of May, 2020. His ascension to his current role occurred almost two full weeks after USPS announced the changes to its service commitments. USPS made the change to its service commitments as a response to COVID-19, not as a result of new leadership.
The Plan to Shut Down Mail Sorting Machines Has Been in Place for Years
Many people out there are also wondering about the mail sorting machines that USPS has proceeded to dismantle shortly before the election. This is another operational decision that has been in motion for years prior to DeJoy taking the job.
The Postal Service has two distinct facets of its operations: mail and packages. As we relied more on the Internet, people needed to mail things like letters and postcards less and less. On the other hand, package growth has risen year over year, and is now the fastest-growing revenue driver for USPS. Thus, to properly service the marketplace, USPS needs more package processing equipment, and less mail sorting machines.
According to postal insiders we’ve spoken with, these sorting machines USPS shut down were only operating under 40% capacity, anyway. By shutting these sorting machines down, USPS is making way to invest in more cutting-edge package processing equipment to better address growing parcel demand. Again, this has less to do with DeJoy, and is more so a follow-through on existing plans.
What Can I Do if Mail and Packages Keep Getting Delayed?
If you’re a consumer, the only thing you can do is simply wait and be patient. Rest assured that USPS is doing everything they can to service every single American citizen, and these are challenging times.
If you run an eCommerce business, the best practice is to set fair and reasonable expectations with your customers. A simple disclaimer posted on your website, or a message you send to your customers when they check out telling them to expect a slightly longer delivery timeframe for their items would go a long way. In our experience, most consumers are fairly understanding right now, considering the current state of the Postal Service and the world as a whole.
Lastly, if you’re worried about your items taking too long to be delivered or getting lost along the way, you can always protect your packages with extra shipping insurance.