The USPS is “gridlocked all over the place” as a historic number of packages flood the system for the holiday season, USPS officials say.
In addition to an “unprecedented surge” in shipping demands this season, the organization has been dealing with cost-cutting measures put in place by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, and even limited staff due to coronavirus regulations and sickness due to coronavirus. Together, these setbacks have created massive wait times on everything from shipping packages, to first class mail. But USPS customers aren’t the only ones left waiting.
“Sitting about eight hours of the day waiting in line to get unloaded, then we get up there to the dock and we can’t offload because there is no space to put the stuff,” said Terrance Briscoe, a truck driver, to WBAL TV.
White House rejects bailout for U.S. Postal Service battered by coronavirus https://t.co/3OYrP3a36Q— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) April 11, 2020
According to USPS officials and truck drivers alike, the US Postal Service has recently become so overwhelmed with packages that there is hardly room to walk through a storage room, and certainly no room to store even more incoming packages.
“There’s very few people out there. As a matter of fact, there’s really not a place for people to walk. It’s that crowded,” Briscoe said. “It’s a stand still. By the time the trucks are loaded. Every truck is loaded trying to go in. There is really no place to put the mail. It’s been mail left on trailers overnight.”
“We’re really gridlocked all over the place,” said a Postal Service transportation manager in Ohio, who wished to remain anonymous. “It’s bad. I’ve never seen it like this before.
He says that the situation is so dire, carriers like FedEx and UPS have stopped accepting shipments, leaving the service with no option other than to take the influx of mail “one day at a time.”
“UPS and FedEx have shut us off. Nobody can keep up right now, but we don’t have the luxury of turning people down. They’re sitting on so much mail right now that it’s almost one day at a time in these facilities.”
Although the USPS has denied claims of limited staff due to cost saving measures, anecdotes from employees seem to say otherwise. A few anonymous USPS employees in Baltimore told News 11 that an entire shift of workers had been eliminated from their post office in order to save money, and a letter carrier in Detroit told the Washington Post that many of his coworkers had been assigned two eight-hour routes each day to make up for missing employees and to help with the pallets full of undelivered boxes. Additionally, according to public payroll data, approximately one out of every five hours worked throughout the entire agency has been an overtime hour so far during the month of December.
“I don’t think anyone, including the post office itself, knows just how bad delays are,” said a letter carrier in Philadelphia.
According to Kristin Seaver, chief retail and delivery officer of the Postal Service, the shipping demands put on the USPS this season have not even peaked yet, but are expected to sometime this week, and had this to say about the situation: “We thank our customers for their continued support, and we are committed to making sure gifts and cards are delivered on time to celebrate the holidays. We continue to flex our network including making sure the right equipment is available to sort, process and deliver a historic volume of mail and packages this holiday season.”
While not a government entity, FedEx and UPS alike have been experiencing similar influxes in shipping demands, forcing them into an overflow situation, one that flows directly into the overwhelmed USPS. FedEx has hired 70,000 seasonal employees, shifts to seven day operations, and has even sped up Sunday delivery, but has still been working proactively with customers to warn them of the potential delays.
“Delivery drivers, warehouse employees, and support staff across the globe are tirelessly and safely working to meet the surge in demand this holiday season on top of volume increases created by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said FedEx spokesman John Scruggs.
“Everybody is doing their best to try to accommodate this. There’s a reality, though, that the increase that has been seen in the package industry, writ large, was really planned for over the next three or five years instead of the next three or five months. It’s a real conundrum to have that much growth in that period.”
Amongst all this chaos, Postmaster General Dejoy recently released a video message thanking all USPS employees for their hard work.
“We are expecting record package volume this season, possibly a third more than last year,” he said in the video. “Our competitors are likely to get more volume than they can handle, which means we may be getting a lot of overflow.”
“2020 has been a difficult year for the nation and for the Postal Service. The women and men of the Postal Service have played a tremendous role in supporting the nation throughout the pandemic, during the election season, and now through a very busy holiday season. I am grateful for your service in every community.”
Still, all the appreciation in the world won’t change the fact that truck drivers will likely continue to be stuck waiting outside USPS locations, losing money, until some substantial progress is made on the organizational front.
“There’s a lot of standstill now. With trucking, you’re on a time schedule and most of the truck drivers are going to have to stay here and wait until tomorrow,” said trucker Fronrue Tarpeh, who was stuck waiting at a USPS location in Cleveland just last week with fellow truck driver Miz Azamkloe, who claimed to have been waiting for 15 hours.
“[USPS is] not going to get them on time. All we [drivers] can do is just deliver it. They’ve got to go and do their part,” Fronrue said.
The bottom line for truck drivers can be summed up in a statement made by Azamkloe after his 15 hour wait time last week: “I need money. I need jobs. I’m not working here.”