Postal Service Old Trucks

U.S. Postal Service carrier John Graham packs his mail bag after parking a 28-year-old delivery truck in Portland in July 2021. AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

A federal audit of Maine’s U.S. postal operations confirmed the agency has struggled with widespread delivery delays and mail tracking problems.

The problems were blamed on inadequate staffing and training, and will come as no surprise to many Maine residents who have experienced gaps in service and delayed deliveries.

The Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General evaluated mail delivery and services at five stations in southern Maine last spring in response to requests from Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Chellie Pingree. A report on the audit was published in June and cited in a statement by Collins on Wednesday. It found deficiencies at all five locations, including delayed mail that was not properly reported and improper scanning of package codes.

“Mainers have shared with each of my six state offices about the ongoing mail delivery issues they face. The fact that in one day the (inspector general) found over 150,000 pieces of delayed mail in Maine is unacceptable,” Collins said in a written statement.

A regional spokesperson for the postal service did not agree to be interviewed about the findings on Wednesday and said the agency’s response was included in a letter attached to the report.

In a June 8 letter responding to the auditors, Regina Bugbee, district manager for Northern New England, said management agreed with all of the recommendations in the report. Bugbee said managers at the Maine stations already had received additional training to address delivery and tracking deficiencies, and that managers were working with human resources staff to improve recruitment and hiring.


The postal service also has faced criticism in other states about delivery delays and the agency has blamed national workforce shortages that worsened during the pandemic. It was not clear Wednesday if similar audits have been conducted in other parts of the country.

USPS Inspector General Tammy Hull’s office conducted the audit in Maine from March to June.

On March 14, auditors discovered nearly 150,150 pieces of undelivered mail, primarily letters (55%) and flats (42%), such as large envelopes and magazines. Only 3% of the undelivered mail were packages.

The audit generally found that delivery and service problems were caused by a lack of staffing and training at each station. Staffing issues were caused by vacancies, medical restrictions and extended leaves, the report found.

The report also says stations did not properly report delayed mail, as required, and did not properly scan packages when loading them onto trucks or at the delivery sites. And it found maintenance problems at several stations.

Postal workers have warned of workforce shortages and deficiencies in the mail delivery system for years. And residents in southern Maine have periodically complained about delivery disruptions.


Postal carriers also previously had accused the Portland postmaster of prioritizing packages from Amazon over timely delivery of first-class and priority mail. But a spokesperson from the Office of Inspector General said Wednesday that the auditors did not find that the postal service was prioritizing any specific packages over others, or over other types of mail.


According to the audit report, the largest number of undelivered parcels was at the Maine Office Carrier Station in South Portland, which serves more than 150,000 people along 113 city routes and 11 rural routes. That office had more than 80,000 pieces of undelivered mail, nearly 42,000 were letters and 35,550 were flats.

The Industrial Park Annex in Saco had the highest ratio of undelivered parcels per population. That station serves more than 50,000 people along 32 city routes and 12 rural routes and had nearly 43,850 delayed parcels. 

The Southern Maine Carrier Unit in Scarborough, serving nearly 44,000 people on 29 city routes and 18 rural routes, had 11,155 delayed parcels. The Lewiston Main Post Office, serving nearly 36,600 people on 22 city routes and five rural routes, had 10,585 delayed parcels. And the Sanford Main Post Office, serving 34,174 people on 12 city and 11 rural routes, had 4,181 delayed parcels. 

In terms of scanning issues, auditors reported that some carriers would categorize undelivered mail as “delivery attempted – no access” or “no secure location available” during inclement weather.


The report includes a series of general recommendations to address staffing and other issues identified in the report, such as to create and execute plans to ensure all mail is delivered daily, that staff is adequately trained, and that managers do daily sweeps and enforce compliance with tracking standards.

A spokesperson for Collins said the senator urged the USPS to follow the recommendations and received assurances that the inspector general would update Collins on progress.

Collins, who met with Hull on Monday, and Sen. Thomas Carper, a Delaware Democrat, had written Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in January, urging him to streamline the hiring process and adopt measures used by the private sector to attract and retain employees, including sign-on bonuses and longevity stipends.

Pingree said in a prepared statement that she also plans to make sure the Postal Service follows through on improvements.

“Mainers have been plagued by Postal Service issues for far too long – I know, because my office receives complaints nearly every day about mail that has been delayed or not delivered at all,” Pingree said. “I’ll be following up with U.S. Postal Service leadership to ensure that management follows through on the report’s recommendations and meets the service standards that Mainers rely on and can expect from America’s essential Postal Service.”

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story