Revised Delivery Standards:

Postal Delivery Scores Improved but Service Is Slower

GGD-93-12: Published: Nov 25, 1992. Publicly Released: Nov 25, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the changes the U.S. Postal Service made in delivery standards for first-class mail, focusing on the: (1) volume of first-class mail subject to new standards; (2) new standards' effect on speed and consistency of postal delivery service and operations; (3) savings from operational changes; and (4) postal management, customers, and union reactions to the revised standards.

GAO found that: (1) the Postal Service relaxed delivery standards for nearly half of its overnight and 2-day zip code paired locations and over 11 percent of the daily first-class mailstream; (2) new standards shifted 8 percent of overnight mail to a 2-day delivery schedule and 22 percent of the 2-day mail to a 3-day delivery schedule; (3) the new standards improved the timely delivery of stamped mail, but there was no noticeable improvement in delivery service or consistency; (4) stamped mail service measurement scores improved 55 percent for locations that changed standards from overnight to 2-day delivery and 60 percent for locations that changed standards from a 2- to 3-day delivery; (5) locations that changed delivery standards continued to experience consistency problems and a decrease in the speed of mail delivery; (6) the percentage of stamped mail delivered nationwide within 1 day decreased by approximately 3 percent, and mail delivered within 2 days decreased about 1 percent; (7) the Postal Service failed to take advantage of all the anticipated changes due to the new standards, including shifting mail processing duties from morning to daytime hours, sending mail on trucks, and consolidating truck routes; (8) the Postal Service saved $17 million by reducing air transportation rates and shifting some mail to surface transportation; (9) there were few changes implemented due to the low percentage of mail affected by the new standards; (10) large business mailers reported no improvement in delivery satisfaction and that new standards hindered financial institutions' business; and (11) postal unions reported the changes would lead to slower service, were instituted for operational convenience, and were not warranted.

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