- The U.S. Postal Service is well-prepared to handle a peak season influx of packages this year, even with fewer seasonal employees and facilities on board, agency stakeholders said during a House subcommittee hearing Wednesday.
- The Postal Service installed new package sorting machines, leased additional trailers and announced in September it would hire 28,000 seasonal employees in preparation for peak. It also isn't expecting a volume 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 lease as much peak season facility space as planned, according to an Office of Inspector General report published Nov. 14. The USPS had only secured leases for 53% of temporary processing annexes and 11% of temporary delivery annexes as of Nov. 1, but contingency plans are available.
After a rocky inaugural peak season for Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in 2020, the agency has made investments to limit its future vulnerability to typical holiday challenges like inadequate staffing levels and strained facility capacity.
The USPS is hiring fewer seasonal employees than the 40,000 it pursued last year as it moves to stabilize its permanent workforce year round. It has converted 41,000 employees from part-time to full-time career positions since January of this year, limiting the need for additional peak season help, Gregory White, USPS executive manager of strategic initiatives, said at the hearing before the Subcommittee on Government Operations.
"The reality is that this year we are less dependent on peak season heroics than we have been in the past," White said.
The agency's efforts to bolster its capacity include signing multi-year leases on peak season annexes and processing facilities. They are strategically located throughout the U.S. to help existing postal facilities that may not have the space, White said.
USPS management says securing facility capacity just for the peak season can be difficult, and the agency wasn't able to find available space in some locations, according to the Office of Inspector General report. Contingency plans to mitigate a lack of peak season space include moving mail volume to other postal facilities.
The Office of Inspector General didn't issue any recommendations in its report because the USPS "has a reasonable plan for peak," Hull said. No carrier is completely free from risk during the holiday shipping rush — weather delays and local hiring challenges can still occur and impact service levels — but the Postal Service is better equipped this year than it has been in the past, other speakers at the hearing noted.
"Given the sheer scope of postal operations, there will undoubtedly be unforeseen difficulties, but the systemic problems 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.