Thursday, November 10, 2011

USPS Going Ape Over Missing Pallets

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.)

For further reading: 35 Creative Ways to Recycle Wooden Pallets (none of which, by the way, involve orangutans or the misuse of government property)


Anonymous said...

for so long nobody cared about mt equipment. Now the problem is biting the USPS in the butt.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I recently saw 3 DHL trucks parked in a lot. The back of each trauck was full of USPS tubs. I have also noticed the armoured trucks delivering money to the bank next to the Post Office using a USPS tub on a hand truck to deliver it with. There is a lot of equipment out there!

David Cary said...

Mailmen drop tubs of mail off at large businesses, schools, offices, hospitals, etc, and don't bother collecting them.

Clerks hand customers their vacation hold mail in tubs, and tell them to give the tub to their carrier! The carrier does not have or take time to retrieve them.

No one is accountable for this stuff. Employees treat these things like "it's not mine, so I don't care".

We cater to the presort people by giving them plastic or cardboard trays. Probably the same with circular mailers, etc., with pallets.

I know we are so big, we can't account for all of it, but one here, and one there, eventually costs the USPS a lot of money!

We are ever so careful to weigh letters and flats, to check to see if Grandma put on enough postage. We send mail back, or collect at destination, a few cents, when it takes ten minutes of a carrier's time.

We carefully count the items in bulk mailings, and do OTIS checks, etc.

But we let MegaMillions walk out the door in the form of huge equipment for which we have to pay cash to replace, and we never bat an eye.

We count steps and letters that carriers take or case per minute, and woe if they go two "clicks" over office time, or take a bit over 8 hours on the street.

But we GIVE equipment to for-profit mailers. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

Barcodes people!!! Just like parcels. Make a label just like the window clerks do. Scan it. You'll know where the equipment goes every time

Anonymous said...

No equipment is "given" to for-profit mailers - the costs are covered by the rates paid. Mailers then return the MTEs to the system, full of the USPS largest mail volumes, prepared in the most efficient manner for USPS processing.

Solutions to manage and mitigate the MTE issues have been worked through MTAC committees and the combined efforts of the USPS and industry - unfortunately there is no $$ to implement the recommendations.

The Capn's Corner said...

Missing MTE has been a problem for decades now. It's a common thing to see people using flat tubs as laundry baskets, and EMM trays with sleeves being used to store things in garages.
I've seen pallets discarded by the side of the road on occasion. Perhaps the USPS ought to charge a deposit on equipment before it goes out the doors forever!

Anonymous said...

The postal service should instigate industry wide negotiations on a per diem charge for any pallet outside the mailing loop. A central clearing house for per diem exchange may be needed.

The per diem would mitigate loss outside the system as an economic reason for not allowing 'leakage' or 'diversion' outside the mailing loop would be created. A notice of reward for return should also be printed, embossed, on the pallets.

The revenue from the per diem could subsidize the placement of tracking devices within the pallets.

Tubs and trays may have to be considered differently as they are more disposable. A large restriction notice, "FOR MAIL USE ONLY" " larger and in addition to the USPS property notice needs to be printed on them and perhaps even a tip line number with a 5% reward for report of misused equipment .

Anonymous said...

Biscuit: It is ODIS, not OTIS.

Anonymous said...

As a mail service provider, a fair amount of equipment that is sent to us simply is broken or in such condition that it is unusable for mailing. In the 20+ years in the business I never have found out how I should handle trays;sleeves or tub when the just fall apart while we load them.

The "wooden" pallet that have been introduce in the last several years are just glued wood chips and sawdust that break so easily that no one even want to to use them.

How can tare weights be determined when whole corner are missing. In some cases they dangerous to even use.

What am I suppose to do with them if not toss them in the dumper when the broken beyond safe use.

I will remain anonymous at this point to avoid the USPS equipment police's new strong arm tactics.

David Cary said...

LOL...OTIS...ODIS...whatever, anon!
I am a carrier, and am not involved in those audits...only HEAR the acronym...

My point is bigger than a misspell of an acronym. We count this, and that, but have no, apparently, tracking method that works, for equipment.

You, or some other Anon, had a good idea about barcodes on equipment.

If it leaves postal property, it could somehow be tracked with a barcode.

We all have to scan a dozen Managed Service Points every day, plus all the parcel barcodes, and accountable barcodes, hey, a few more can't hurt.

A reasonable, but worthwhile, deposit could be set in place, and paid back to whomever turns equipment in, like pop bottles, or does that show my age?

Anonymous said...

Boy, We're running out of palets now , imagine if the mail volume comes back!

Anonymous said...

As a pvs driver i have delivered trailer loads of plastic and wooden pallets to a couple of huge .com companies. They are supposed to work their way back into our system. With other delivery companies (and you know who they are) picking up these loads outbound. I ask. How do they return?