Thursday, November 10, 2011
Millions of dollars worth of pallets and trays are being stolen from the U.S. Postal Service every year, but the agency can't afford to implement systems for tracking the equipment.
Mail-transport equipment (MTE) is in such short supply in parts of the country that some businesses report that they have not been able to send out scheduled mailings. USPS has responded by approving emergency purchases of such equipment, announcing a two-week amnesty program for the return of equipment, and by stepping up enforcement regarding stolen and misused items.
The USPS Office of Inspector General is trying to spread the word that MTEs "may be used only to transport mail, and borrowers of MTE (such as private mailers) are responsible for its proper use and return."
"Over the past few years Postal Service has experienced a significant loss of plastic and wooden pallets. Since fiscal year 2005 the Postal Service has spent over $240 million on close to 19 million plastic and wooden pallets, many of which can no longer be accounted for internally or externally," the OIG wrote this week.
"Realizing the significant cost of leakage of MTE from its inventory, the Postal Service has studied both the movement of MTE as well as ways to reduce leakage. As a result of its precarious financial condition and a freeze on all information technology initiatives, two technological initiatives to better track MTE have been shelved."
This isn't the first time the OIG has pointed out how the Postal Service's cash shortage is preventing it from implementing cost-saving investments. Postal Service Can No Longer Afford Money-Saving Tactics, Study Says discusses the same problem in regards to early-retirement incentives and increased automation.
Nor is this the first time the Postal Service has publicized the issue of MTE "leakage". It released the orangutan photo above two and a half years ago as a reminder to mailers that misuse of the equipment, no matter how creative, is illegal. (See Monkeying Around with Postal Pallets, which has a first sentence with a strange resemblance to the headline on this week's OIG article. Its comments also revealed what happens to some of the equipment: It's given to customers.)