Postal Package Deliveries 'Bogged Down' With Delays, Backlogs
By Jennifer Smith
Surging e-commerce volumes during the coronavirus pandemic are
straining the U.S. Postal Service's parcel network as staffing
shortages and backlogs in hard-hit areas slow deliveries.
The problems have delayed some packages for days and even weeks,
shippers and consumers say, holding up orders at a time when many
people are shopping more online to avoid infection with the
The slow deliveries have complicated business for e-commerce
sellers who rely on the Postal Service to ship packages at
affordable rates, and tracking services have added to the
frustrations, with some items appearing to get stuck at certain
locations or vanishing altogether.
"Updates on locations of almost all of our packages are either
not available, they do not get scanned [or are] sent back without
notification," said Ivy Kami of Colorado Springs, Colo., who sells
jewelry and gifts through an online store called Boutique Alosia
LLC. "Long wait times and frustrated customers have not been fun
for e-commerce sellers like myself."
Business for Luke Marion, co-owner of MIgardener, an online
garden center based in Port Huron, Mich., soared after the pandemic
hit, but transit times for USPS shipments to his customers in some
cases doubled or even tripled in recent weeks, he said. Tracking
information showed that about 30% to 40% of packages he shipped to
his customers in Michigan would go out of state first, which Mr.
Marion attributed to problems at a postal distribution center in
"There is a whole network that is bogged down," he said, "and
it's not the [mail] carriers' fault."
Like private delivery giants United Parcel Service Inc. and
FedEx Corp., the Postal Service is coping with unexpected
holiday-level package volumes as the pandemic adds to operational
and financial stresses. UPS is imposing extra fees to help offset
those costs, while FedEx is limiting the number of items some
retailers can ship from certain locations.
Coronavirus has also taken a toll on postal workers. About 2,830
of the Postal Service's 630,000 employees have tested positive for
Covid-19, a spokeswoman said, "with some deaths." Unions
representing postal workers said this week that more than 60
workers have died.
The Postal Service is focused on keeping its employees and the
public safe while they handle shipments such as medicines, supplies
and benefits checks, the spokeswoman said. Those workers provide "a
vital public service that is a part of this nation's critical
She said the Postal Service, like "other delivery companies, has
experienced some service disruptions in a few locations
domestically, including Chicago, New York and New Jersey, due to
the pandemic," and is working to "match the increased workload,
including hiring based on local needs."
The Postal Service's on-time delivery of parcels from businesses
to homes has declined in recent weeks, according to ShipMatrix
Inc., a software provider that analyzes shipping data.
Between April 19 and May 23, the Postal Service delivered 68.2%
of priority mail packages on time, down from 87.4% between March 1
and April 18. For first-class packages, 84.2% were delivered on
time between April 19 and May 23, compared with 92.9% in the
UPS delivered 96.5% of business-to-consumer shipments on time
between April 19 and May 23, according to ShipMatrix, while FedEx
Ground delivered 86.9% of such packages on time during that
"The parcel volumes have gone up, we are probably working at a
holiday volume rate, but we're doing it with about a 74% staffing
[level]," Dwight Burnside, a mail handler at a USPS processing and
distribution center in Merrifield, Va., said in a union-organized
press call this week.
Write to Jennifer Smith at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 30, 2020 07:14 ET (11:14 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.