WTVR, BRENDAN KING
An audit report obtained by CBS 6 revealed management at the Richmond Processing and Distribution Center in Sandston underestimated mail volumes which led to additional problems in 2020.
The USPS Office of Inspector General conducted the self-initiated audit from October 2020 through January 2021 and filed the report on January 11.
The auditor found that management at the Sandston facility underestimated mail volumes and failed to appropriately forecast the amount of mail that employees and sorting systems could process.
“We found that the Richmond P&DC did not always adhere to the planned clearance times which resulted in late and extra trips,” according to the report.
From July 1 through September 30, 2020, the Richmond P&DC location reported the fourth highest number of late trips in the country.
The auditor wrote late and extra trips can cause disruptions when carriers return after 6 p.m. Customer service can suffer as a result of the late returns which causes mail to be delivered to the distribution center behind schedule.
Late and extra trips also increase overtime and penalty overtime costs, according to the report.
Mid-Atlantic Division Director of Processing Operations Sharon Young sent a letter to Director of Audit Operations Joseph Wolski on January 7 in response to the report.
“Management agrees with the findings noted int the audit report related to the data for the number of late and extra trips created by missed planned clearance times,” Young wrote.
Young cited the COVID-19 pandemic for the “historic increase in the volume of packages” that needed to be processed while also negatively impacting staffing due to quarantine protocols.
Mail-in ballots were received in far greater numbers than any years in the past, she said.
“The beginning of peak season for holiday mailings began even sooner than in previous years with unprecedented mail volumes. While other package carriers can refuse to accept retail mailer’s packages when their networks are full, the Postal Services does not have similar capabilities. The situation further hindered our ability to forecast and plan accurately,” Young wrote.
Young said management will also provide refresher trainings to ensure calculated planned volumes are as accurate as possible.
On Tuesday, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-7th District) reopened a survey asking constituents about mail delivery delays and their concerns about the future of the USPS.
In 24 hours, her office received more than 2,100 responses.
Spanberger has urged President Joe Biden to fill vacancies on the USPS Board of Governors and to oust Postmaster General Louis Dejoy.
Last Fall, the Postal Service said it stopped removing mailboxes and mail-sorting machines amid an outcry from lawmakers.
In a statement earlier this month, a USPS spokesperson said the postmaster general and the executive leadership team took a number of specific action steps to help address the issues including correcting staffing issues and reinstating overtime.
In August, the Henrico Democrat received 1,200 responses from Central Virginians expressing concerns about ongoing delays at USPS.
Central Virginians can click here to complete Spanberger’s brief USPS survey.
CBS 6 viewers share impacts of late mail deliveries
Leslie Saar worried how much longer she can rely on the United States Postal Service to ship her Etsy store packages.
For 10 years, USPS has helped Saar deliver vintage and antique furniture hardware.
“Of all the things I thought may be an issue with this business over the years I never imagined it would not be able to get the items to the customers who want them,” she explained.
CBS 6 last spoke to Saar in August when her packages were delayed by three to four days. Now, she said her packages routinely spend nearly a month in transit to her customers.
“When businesses like mine do a lot of small orders it’s just the post office or nothing,” Saar stated. “There was a couple of days I might just have to send everything FedEx, but it costs four or five times as much.”
Sarr was uncertain whether she can continue operating her niche business if she can’t deliver her goods to her customers in a timely manner.
The Postal Service is among the nation’s oldest and more popular institutions, strained in recent years by declines first-class and business mail, but now hit with new challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.
A Richmond-area business owner, who spoke to CBS 6 on the condition of anonymity, has also criticized the persistent issues regarding mail deliveries. They operate as a small vendor that fulfills orders for large marketing companies.
The business owner stated some of their customers are sympathetic to the delivery issues.
“Some companies we work with are not entirely understanding though. They have blamed us for creating shipments and holding the orders or being dishonest. The thing about it is their end customer will start to get angry with them so they pass it off to us,” they wrote in an email.” We have about 15 employees and we rely on quality partnerships with these various marketing companies to grow and count on a steady work flow coming in.”
William Hundley said he’s getting the runaround about a package that was shipped to their Middlesex County home nearly a month ago.
“Tracking is still showing the same thing as it has the last several days,” Hundley wrote in an email. “The lady who promised to call me back never did and I called her multiple times with no answer, left voicemails and still have not heard back. Whenever I call the USPS Call Center it is at least an hour wait and when they take your number to call back they don’t. I really don’t know what to do at this point.”
USPS Full Statement regarding late or missing packages:
“The United States Postal Service processed and delivered a record number of holiday packages for the American people under some of the most difficult circumstances we’ve faced in the past century — specifically more than 1.1 billion packages were delivered this holiday season amidst a global pandemic.
Throughout the peak season, the Postal Service, along with the broader shipping sector, faced pressure on service performance across categories as it managed through a record of volume while also overcoming employee shortages due to the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases, winter storms in the Northeast, as well as ongoing capacity challenges with airlifts and trucking for moving historic volumes of mail.
To recover and stabilize operations, the Postmaster General and the Executive Leadership Team took a number of specific action steps to help address the issues. Those action steps included:
Worked with union leadership to retain holiday peak season employees until operations stabilized.
We worked with union leadership to increase fulltime career staffing in key several facilities across the country, by more than 10,000 positions total, which will improve performance long term.
We continue to utilize employee overtime as necessary to stabilize operations.
We extended lease agreements on annexes to provide additional package processing and dispatch capacity beyond the holiday peak season.
Implemented in August 2020, we realigned organizational reporting structures, providing greater visibility by the executive team into operations, allowing for quicker responses to issues.
The Postal Service strives every day to provide excellent service to our valued customers and we apologize for any inconvenience that may have been experienced. We have returned to pre-peak operational conditions in most areas and we fully anticipate continued improvements in service performance.”