USPS is better prepared for the 2022 holidays after past top fights

diving letter:

  • The U.S. Postal Service is well-prepared to handle an influx of peak-season packages this year, even with less seasonal staff and onboard facilities, officials for the agency said during a House subcommittee hearing on Wednesday.
  • The Postal Service installed new parcel sorting machines, leased additional trailers, and in September announced it would hire 28,000 seasonal workers to prepare for peak periods. Volumes are also not expected to increase compared to last year, according to Tammy Hull, inspector general of the Postal Service.
  • The agency is at risk of not being able to rent as much space in the high season as planned, according to a report by the Office of Inspector General released on Monday. The USPS had only secured leases for 53% of the temporary processing attachments and 11% of the temporary supply attachments as of November 1, but contingency plans are available.

Dive insight:

After a bumpy opening peak season for Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in 2020, the agency has made investments to limit its future vulnerability to typical holiday challenges such as understaffing and strained facility capacities.

The USPS is hiring fewer seasonal workers than the 40,000 it hired last year to stabilize its permanent workforce year-round. Since January of this year, 41,000 employees have been converted from part-time to full-time jobs, limiting the need for additional help during peak seasons, Gregory White, USPS executive director for strategic initiatives, said at the hearing before the government operations subcommittee.

“The reality is that we’re less dependent on high-season heroics this year than we have been in the past,” White said.

Efforts by the agency to bolster its capacity include signing multi-year leases for outbuildings and peak-season processing facilities. They’re strategically placed across the US to help existing postal facilities that may not have the space, White said.

USPS management says securing the facility’s capacity for just peak seasons can be difficult, and the agency could not find available space in some locations, according to the Office of Inspector General’s report. Contingency plans to alleviate peak season space shortages include shifting mail volume to other postal facilities.

The inspector general’s office didn’t make any recommendations in its report because the USPS “has a reasonable plan for peak periods,” Hull said. No carrier is completely risk-free during the holiday shipping rush – weather delays and local adjustment issues can still occur and affect service levels – but the postal service is better prepared this year than in the past, noted other speakers at the hearing.

“Given the sheer scale of postal operations, there will no doubt be unforeseen difficulties, but the systemic issues impacting the 2020 holiday season appear to be a thing of the past,” said Michael Plunkett, President and CEO of the Association for Postal Commerce.

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