USPS OIG: ‘Tis the Scan Season

BREWER, MAINE -- 12/24/2016 - United States Postal Service carrier Adam Hall scans a package to deliver along his route Christmas Eve in Brewer. Ashley L. Conti | BDN

November 13, 2017

It’s the week before Thanksgiving, when attention turns to travel, favorite family recipes, overeating, and, of course, package delivery.

That’s right. Cyber Monday is right around the corner and predictions put this year’s spend at roughly $3.8 billion in sales. And with an expected jump in online sales of 18-21 percent over the entire holiday season, the U.S. Postal Service is preparing for a 10 percent increase in the number of packages it will deliver (to 850 million) between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

And lots of packages means lots of scans. The Postal Service scanned 4.3 billion packages in fiscal year (FY) 2016, up from 3.5 billion pieces in FY 2015. USPS recognizes that scanning accuracy is critical to the success of real-time visibility. Customers want to see their packages in transit from departure to delivery. And online retailers want to track USPS performance.

In a recent audit report on the Postal Service’s package delivery scanning process in city delivery operations we found carriers were sometimes improperly scanning “stop-the-clock” events at a location other than the designated delivery location (house, business, apartment building). When carriers scan a package at the delivery location after either delivering or attempting to deliver, the scan “stops the clock,” indicating USPS has met its delivery commitment. Anyone tracking their package would see that delivery was made or attempted.

But if, for whatever reason, a “stop the clock” scan occurs at a post office or other delivery unit — before delivery is even attempted — a customer would see package delivery made or attempted when none has actually occurred.

Of the 2 billion scans between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2016, we identified 25.5 million scans that occurred between 7 p.m. and when the carrier clocked out for delivery the following morning. We excluded known instances where scans in a delivery unit were valid and used GPS to further analyze these scans. We identified about 7 percent, or 1.9 million scans, as improper “stop-the-clock scans” that occurred at delivery units and not at the delivery location.

We found improper scans occurred for a variety of reasons, including failure to follow proper scanning procedures, technical limitations with the scanners, and management’s oversight tool, the Scan Data Integrity report, which doesn’t identify all improper scan events.

We welcome your comments on scans, the mobile devices, and your overall delivery experience as they can help inform our future work. As a Postal Service customer:

  • What are your expectations for package delivery this holiday season?
  • Are there delivery services or features you would like to see the Postal Service offer?
  • How could package delivery be improved?

Please note that specific customer complaints about lost or delayed packages or any other customer service issues should be directed to the Postal Service. Please contact your local post office, USPS Customer Service (800-275-8777), or follow this link.

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