Post Office can’t meet its own lower standards as late mail soars

Amid a significant downsizing of the money-strapped U.S. Postal Service, the number of letters arriving late has jumped by almost 50 percent since the start of the year.

And that’s as measured against the agency’s own newly relaxed standards. The delays have become so serious that the Postal Service’s watchdog issued an urgent alert earlier this month recommending that postal officials put all further closures of mail-sorting plants on hold until service stabilizes.

“The impacts on customer service and employees have been considerable,” Inspector General Dave Williams wrote.

Mail that’s supposed to take two days to arrive took longer – anywhere from 6 to 15 percent of the time during the first six months of 2015, investigators found, a decline in service of almost 7 percent from the same period last year. Letters that should take three to five days took longer anywhere from 18 to 44 percent of the time, a 38 percent decline in performance over the same time last year.

First-class mail has gradually been traveling more slowly since the Postal Service started closing dozens of mail-sorting plants in 2012. But in January, something more drastic happened: To prepare for another round of plant closings, the agency eliminated overnight delivery for local first-class letters that used to arrive the next day. And up to half of mail traveling longer distances was given an extra day to reach its destination.