You may have heard rumors of recent delays in U.S. Postal Service delivery times, or perhaps experienced longer transit times yourself. Since Shippo's technology powers shipping for more than 50,000 businesses, we have a unique view of USPS and many other top carriers. Recently, we analyzed our aggregate package data from many millions of shipments to provide a definitive answer to the ongoing questions around USPS reliability.
The good news, both for the USPS and thousands of businesses that rely on its services, is that overall the USPS remains a reliable choice for most e-commerce shipments. That said, since the beginning of July, we've seen small increases in transit times and delayed deliveries. Notably, packages traveling longer distances have been impacted more than those going shorter distances.
However, there are outliers: specific routes that are experiencing delays far greater than the average USPS route (more on that soon). Before we dive in, it's worth noting Shippo's data is specific to package shipments and not letter mail.
Average transit time
We looked at the average transit time in days for USPS's most popular services, Priority Mail and First Class Package Service. Overall, the increases in transit time are small, which means it's taking only slightly longer for the USPS to deliver packages.
For USPS Priority Mail, packages traveling in July/August took an average 9.03 percent longer to reach their destinations than those in May/June.
Please note: Since the USPS does not deliver on Sunday, transit times increase toward the end of the week, which is why we see the weekly fluctuations. You will also see spikes in late May and early July, because of the federally observed holidays of Memorial Day on May 25th and Independence Day on July 4th.
As for USPS First Class Package Service, packages shipped in July/August took an average 8.80 percent longer to be delivered than those traveling in May/June.
Prevalence of delays
How many packages are getting delivered after their original delivery date? We took a look at the overall percentage of packages that experienced delays. Here are our findings.
There were 17.45 percent more USPS Priority Mail packages delayed in July/August than in May/June.
On average, USPS First Class Package Service deliveries saw a 31.28 percent increase in the average percentage of packages delayed daily between May/June versus July/August, increasing from 14.64 percent delayed to 19.22 percent delayed.
The following chart depicts the 10 delivery routes that saw the highest delays. For comparison's sake, from July 1 to August 6, USPS Priority Mail as a whole saw 24 percent of its packages experiencing a delay. Here is how the top 10 most-delayed routes stack up.
USPS First Class Package Service saw 17 percent of its volume get delayed from July 1 to August 6. Notably, 43 percent of packages traveling via this service level from California to Michigan were delayed.
What do these changes mean for businesses?
While the USPS has experienced minor delays, it continues to be a strong option for many e-commerce businesses. Especially for small and medium-size businesses, affordable rates and the accessibility from servicing every address daily make the USPS a popular option.
We also reviewed trends for transit times and delays from top private carriers, including UPS and FedEx, and found that they have not seen any significant increases in transit times or delays over the same time period. Both carriers are also great options, especially if you need greater certainty around transit ETAs.
In terms of whether you should consider changing carriers or shifting volume, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It will depend on several factors that are specific to your business. However, some things that you should consider are:
Is your business experiencing significant delays that are harming your customer experience? In other words, are you one of the outliers?
Is your business prepared to fulfill orders through multiple carriers today? For example, if you only use the USPS, you'll have to change your internal workflow for pick and pack and devise a strategy for getting your packages to other carriers, either dropping them off yourself or coordinating pickups.
How will changing to a new carrier or service level impact your margins? In most cases, you should expect to pay a bit more per shipment for UPS or FedEx compared with the USPS. You'll want to make sure that you are accounting for these costs and your business can sustain them.
Generally speaking, the slight increase in USPS delivery time should not cause alarm for most businesses and does not warrant a change in your shipping mix, especially if you're happy with your fulfillment flow. But if you are looking to make a change, do it now so you can be well prepared for the holiday selling season in Q4.
The time in transit and percent delayed charts and tables analyze package volume from May 1 through August 12. We are not including more recent days because shipments are potentially still in transit, meaning only the fastest-delivered packages would be accounted for and skew the results.