U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability that oversees the USPS, sent a letter to the agency's Inspector General. Connolly is requesting an investigation into the Postal Service's policies for selecting and overseeing trucking contractors and subcontractors.
Where is the Data?
The letter, sent by a member of Connolly's staff to Government Fleet, states that he recently requested information from the USPS regarding data on crashes, injuries, and deaths related to the operations of its owned and contracted vehicle fleets. Connolly wrote that he was "concerned" to learn that the agency did not track this information. The letter went on to cite subsequent reporting from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on safety oversight of USPS-contracted vehicles. According to WSJ's reporting, 79 people have been killed in at least 68 accidents involving trucks hauling USPS mail since 2020.
"Reporting reveals troubling allegations the USPS is managing truck freight operations that do not adhere to common-sense safety standards, such as utilizing 'conditionally' rated motor carriers, setting delivery schedules that require exceeding driver hours of service requirements, and selecting carriers with extensive records of safety violations," the letter read.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCMSA), a "conditional" safety rating indicates a motor carrier does not have adequate safety management controls in place to ensure compliance with relevant safety standards.
Concerns Over Previous Violations
The letter pointed to WSJ's report, which stated that in the two years that ended in December 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) flagged 466 Postal Service trucking contractors for high rates of violations related to driving hours. The WSJ's numbers came from an analysis of the DOT's internal scoring system, which the agency uses to prioritize investigations.
The letter also noted a 2017 investigation by the DOT Office of Inspector General that revealed that Beam Brother Trucking, the recipient of more than half a billion dollars in USPS contracts over the preceding decade, violated FMCSA safety regulations by "encouraging, permitting, causing, or requiring" its drivers to make trips that violated federal safety regulations designed to prevent commercial motor vehicle crashes caused by fatigued drivers.
Recent WSJ reporting suggests that two other USPS contractors — McCormick Trucking Inc. and Tracie McCormick Inc. — have a similar history of violations. According to the WSJ, the Postal Service has since awarded new truck freight contracts to McCormicks LLC, located at the same address as the previously mentioned companies.
Inspector General Investigation Requested
In the letter, Connolly requested the USPS Inspector General address the following 11 issues:
- A record of how many people have been killed or injured by USPS truck freight contractors from 2017-2022.
- Details on USPS selection criteria for motor carriers and how the criteria is weighted in the awarding of contracts, as well as documented formal policies concerning selection and monitoring of contracts.
- Details on what mechanisms are in place for the Postal Service to be notified of a prime contractor utilizing a sub-contractor to fulfill its freight contract, as well as requirements sub-contractors must meet.
- Whether USPS procurement policies allow the agency to award truck freight contractors to higher cost bidders if they have a quantifiably better safety record than others.
- How truck freight contracts are monitored for compliance with contract requirements.
- Whether the Postal Service is taking appropriate measures to ensure contractors and subcontractors are taking appropriate measures to comply with hours of service requirements on routes that require more than a single driver.
- What measures the USPS has at its disposal to respond to contract violations by truck freight contractors, and how often the agency used these mechanisms from 2017-2022.
- How many contract officers are employed to monitor truck freight contracts.
- What measures contract officers take following contract awards to continue to monitor the safety performance of USPS-selected carriers.
- How many conditionally-rated motor carriers have active USPS truck freight contracts.
- What level of liability insurance the USPS requires of truck freight contractors, and how those standards are enforced.
USPS Responds to Safety Concerns
Following the letter, Government Fleet reached out to the Postal Service and the USPS Inspector General's Office. A spokesperson for the Postal Service said the agency will respond directly to the Office of the Inspector General concerning "any resulting audit related to the safety and security of our surface transportation."
The statement continued, saying,
"It’s important to note that adherence to best transportation safety practices has been and will continue to be a top priority for the U.S. Postal Service. There are no acceptable trade-offs between operational, scheduling and routing needs, and unsafe operations – best safety practices are always expected of every contractor. The Postal Service aims to continuously improve safety practices and eliminate accidents among both our own employee drivers as well as contract drivers."
The spokesperson explained that when third party trucking companies or brokers are hired to transport mail and packages, the Postal Service both requires and expects every contractor to operate safely, adhere to all federal, state, and local laws, and to properly compensate their employees. Repeated safety issues by contractors are grounds for termination if the agency believes remedial actions are not being pursued. When safety issues occur, the spokesperson said senior agency officials review and discuss those issues with the contractors when they happen, to determine the cause and to minimize the chances of repeated offenses.
"As an ongoing practice, the Postal Service reviews transportation contractors’ overall performance with the goal of terminating relationships whenever unsatisfactory safety performance is identified – and has discontinued relationships with many contractors on this basis. Through the implementation of our Delivering for America plan, the Postal Service is engaged in the process of building a high performing organization. Making improvements in our operations goes hand in hand with improvements in safety."
A member of the media team for the Inspector General's Office responded to our request, saying the agency was looking into the letter.
Government Fleet also reached out to the National Star Route Mail Contractors Association, which was unable to provide any comment. It's unclear whether the contractors mentioned in the letter are part of the association.