As long as their package arrives on time, many Americans might not think twice about the agency or company delivering it. But it’s important to study and analyze the practices of all large organizations, including Amazon and Starbucks, but also the United States Postal Service (USPS). Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article on USPS, revealing alarming information about the federal agency and its practices.
USPS faces competition from private shipping companies like the United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) and FedEx Corp. USPS receives some of its funds from the federal government, but most of its funds come from selling postage. To increase its revenue, USPS hires external trucking contractors at cut-rate prices, requires truckers to meet unmanageable delivery schedules, and continues working with contractors, even after their truckers violated traffic safety regulations.
John Sheehy, president of the National Star Route Mail Contractors Association, told the Journal that USPS offered its contractors rates that were 15-20% below industry standards. This allows USPS to hold onto more of its funding, but at the expense of the truck drivers.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has strict rules regulating truck drivers and the amount of time that they can operate their vehicle. DOT regulations state that a truck driver cannot drive more than a total of eleven hours in a day and may not work for more than fourteen hours a day (including stops and truck loading time). The DOT established these safety regulations because research has shown that ‘drowsy driving’ substantially increases the risk of getting into a car accident. Research has even suggested that 24 hours of sleep deprivation causes roughly the same effects as having a BAC of 0.10%. Violation of these regulations leads to the decreased safety of the drowsy driver, other drivers on the road, and pedestrians.
In civil cases where the plaintiff was involved in an accident with a commercial truck driver, the plaintiff’s attorney will often look for evidence that the truck driver had violated DOT regulations. For example, the attorney may look at the driver’s records from the day of the accident to see if they had worked more hours than DOT allows for.
Sheehy, who himself is a former USPS contractor, told the Journal that there is immense pressure to make scheduled delivery times. Sheehy added that in previous years, USPS has chosen to terminate contracts with contractors that failed to make at least 95% of their deliveries on-time.
The Journal reviewed a series of USPS contracts and found one route that required the driver to leave Salt Lake City at 3:30 AM and arrive in San Francisco at 5:30 PM. This route is a fifteen-hour drive, which is one more hour than the fourteen-hour maximum amount of time worked that DOT allows for. This example is part of a larger pattern–the DOT reported that, from 2021 to 2022, about 39% of USPS’s trucking companies had violated its regulations, compared to only 13% of for-hire trucking companies.
One of USPS’s most important vendors, McCormick Trucking, clocked over 200 DOT violations between 2017 and December of 2022. Its sister company, Tracie McCormick Inc., has also been fined by the DOT for violating safety regulations. Even in light of both companies’ poor safety records, USPS has continued working with McCormick Trucking and Tracie McCormick Inc., and extending existing contracts.
Unfortunately, the Postal Service did not track crashes caused by its contractors. It did not require contractors to report accidents to USPS, but this policy has recently changed since the Journal’s article. USPS now requires its contractors to notify USPS of fatalities, injuries, or significant property damage after a serious accident occurs.
One serious accident occurred in June of 2022, when five people, including a baby, were killed after a Postal Service truck driver struck their car. The accident occurred on Interstate 25, near Denver, Colorado, and police later reported that the accident had been caused by the truck driver’s distracted operation of his vehicle. Police also learned that the driver lacked a valid commercial driver’s license.
Since USPS has established a mandatory reporting guideline, Americans should hope to see more accountability from USPS and its contractors, as well as greater adherence to DOT safety regulations.
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Scene of the Denver, June of 2022 Crash
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