The U.S. Postal Service is working hard to restore mail delivery in Chicago.
This was a key message from John E. Potter, who spoke at a May 31 Chicago hearing sponsored by the House Subcommittee on Federal workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia. The panel is part of the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform.
“This is the third time I have visited Chicago in the last two months,” Mr.Potter said. “The reason is simple. Chicago is one of the world’s great cities. It deserves world-class mail service. Unfortunately, local mail service has fallen far short of that goal. Mr. Chairman, I am here today to tell you, every member of this subcommittee, and every resident and business of Chicago that I am personally committed to restoring our service performance to the levels enjoyed by every other city in America.”
U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-IL, chairman of the newly reconstituted House Subcommittee scheduled the hearing to explore the city’s mail delivery problems. For many years, Chicago has had mail delivery problems, but recently the problems have escalated. In March, for example, postal officials said 91 percent of letters mailed to other addresses within the city were delivered within a day, compared with the national average of 95 percent.
Mr. Potter told the panel about a number of important actions it has taken to bring Chicago to the upper ranks of service performance.
“To begin with, we have initiated a top-to-bottom review of every element of postal operations in every facility throughout the Chicago Post Office,” Mr. Potter said. “Our local staff is working with experienced operational managers from throughout the nation to do this.”
Mr Potter said the USPS’s review has found significant data gaps between the actual addresses of Chicago’s homes and businesses and the more than 1.2 million Chicago addresses contained in the USPS’s address management files.
“We are in the midst of a major initiative to correct our address data and close this gap,” he said. “This is a priority and we have already gathered current data from more than half of Chicago’s 2,500 delivery routes. When we complete this process, by the end of August, it will contribute to significant delivery improvement throughout the city.”
Mr. Potter also said we are asking for the help of every mailer with this, as well.
“I cannot overemphasize the importance of using a correct address,” he said. “Like a phone number, if you transpose two digits in an address, you’re not likely to get to the person you’re trying to reach.”
“With this solid address database, the next step is looking at our equipment. If it is not up to par, mail won’t be sorted accurately. Therefore, we are assuring adherence to proper maintenance procedures for our state-of-the-art mail processing equipment so it is operating at maximum accuracy and efficiency,” he said.
Mr. Potter said one of the most important steps USPS has taken is a close examination of staffing needs.
“This has resulted in a determination that our complement of letter carriers in Chicago has fallen below the numbers needed for satisfactory mail delivery service. We are correcting that with the hiring and training of over 200 additional letter carriers. They have been assigned to 40 different stations throughout the city. This has advanced time-of-day mail delivery for many of our Chicago customers and is increasing consistency in daily delivery time as well.”
The agency has also begun to establish Customer Advisory Councils.
“This will provide our local managers with the opportunity to work closely with their customers and their city representatives to understand and address their concerns,” Mr. Potter said. “And these important relationships can serve as an early warning system.”
And, finally, Mr. Potter said at his request, – and in response to Congressional inquiries into delayed mail and service complaints – the Office of Inspector General is conducting a review of mail service in the Chicago District. He said he expects to receive a draft report of that office’s findings and recommendations within the next few weeks.
“Overall, we are bringing a renewed focus on the basics throughout our operations in Chicago,” Mr. Potter said. “We are making sure that our employees have the training and the knowledge necessary to succeed in their jobs. And, in those instances where we discover performance deficiencies on the part of employees – whatever their position – we will take the necessary corrective action.”