Is Mail Getting Faster? Slower? We Measure That Stuff
July 29, 2023   Dave Lewis

In May 2021, we started creating aggregate reports that show service performance for the mail we track for our customers. We process scan data for more than ten million mail pieces a day from all parts of the country – it’s a big sample.

If you follow us on Linked In, you see our weekly US Mail Traffic Report that shows general performance for the week before.  We are always looking for trends and trouble spots. But we also have the ability to look at larger, longer trends allowing us to provide insights into how overall service performance is doing.

We look at two delivery attributes:  Days-to-deliver, and On-Time percentage. Then we break those down by class of piece type – letter or flat. We only include pieces that have a clear start-the-clock event, and a clear delivery event.

Here’s what we’ve seen.

First-Class Letters

In October 2021, the Postal Service changed delivery standards for First-Class Mail. The effect can be seen in additional delivery days – it takes a little longer for First-Class letters to be delivered, about a half-day longer on average. Back in 2021 the average First-Class letter took a bit over 2.5 days to deliver, it now typically takes a little over 3 days.

Average number of days-to- deliver First Class Letters

Interestingly, on-time performance has not improved, even with the easier standard. Since 2021, the trend has generally become worse, although May and June did show some improvement.  Those additional days provided by the new standard are being eaten up with slower delivery.

On-time percentage First Class Letters

First-Class Flats

Oy. If you read the weekly traffic report, you know that First-Class flats performance is all over the place. Frankly, they did very well during most of 2022, but the wheels seemed to come off in 2023. Because of the removal of some flats sorting equipment, flats have become more difficult to track, so the tracking data is somewhat less reliable. Still, there seem to be ongoing service issues. The last few weeks have been more promising.

Average number of days-to- deliver – First Class Flats

Marketing Mail Letters and Flats

Marketing Mail letters, (which include nonprofit) have been one of the pleasant surprises of mail tracking. Marketing Mail letters have generally been delivering faster than First-Class mail.  It is important to note that one big reason is that Marketing Mail tends to be inducted much closer to its ultimate destination – it is much less dependent on Postal transportation. Removing this variable, Marketing Mail delivers somewhat slower than First-Class, but not much and not always. The point of entry can have a dramatic effect. If you have mail that is eligible to mail at Marketing Mail rates you may want to explore delivery times.

Average number of days-to- deliver – Marketing Mail

Worth noting; Marketing Mail Flats perform very much like marketing letters, with on-time percentages improving in 2023.

The Bottom Line

The Postal Service is doing OK, if not quite as rosy as press releases from Postal Headquarters might lead you to believe. Marketing Mail has remained steady, with Intra-SCF delivery times very consistent.

Of course, what we measure is commercial mail from entry to delivery. We do not measure blue-box mail – your Christmas cards and bill payments. It is safe to say they take a lot longer.

All these numbers are averages. To know how your mail performs, you need to track it consistently. SnailWorks also has more advanced tools available to clients for getting delivery statistics for their specific projects. Contact us to learn more.