Q&A: Mail Delivery During and After Major Snowstorms

February 08, 2013 

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1. What are the general rules for a carrier's accessibility to a mailbox?

During and after a storm the Postal Service employees will make every reasonable, safe attempt to deliver mail to the addressee.

For successful mail delivery during and after storms, we ask for the cooperation of our customers so that our employees return home safe at the end of each work day. Carriers are not required to deliver to locations where safety issues — such as icy steps, snow-packed paths or icy overhangs — create perilous conditions. Some things to consider:

  • Painted porches and steps are particularly hazardous. While salting or rubber-backed mats help make them less slippery, we rely on our customers to clear the snow before a letter carrier arrives with the mail.
  • Keeping your steps and sidewalk clear of snow and ice — as well as removing snow from around curbside mailboxes — allows us to provide you with the safest, most efficient service possible.
  • In those situations when delivery is suspended, we look for the customer to contact local postal officials to discuss ways to eliminate the hazard. Sometimes we are able to offer suggestions that help restore delivery quickly.
  • Slips, trips and falls are the leading cause of accidents among letter carriers. In addition to the safety of the carrier, injuries to a letter carrier — or any visitor to your home — can result in costly liabilities to homeowners.

2. Is it different for rural delivery?

Rural letter carriers often drive their own personal vehicles with roof or magnetic signs identifying them as mail delivery vehicles. They make frequent stops at curbside mailboxes.

For rural delivery and customers who receive mail delivery to rural or curbside boxes need to keep the approach to and exit from their mailbox clear of snow, ice, vehicles, trash cans and other objects. Customers must remove obstructions around a mailbox.

If you have a mailbox at the road, keep it clear of packed snow. Clearing the mailbox allows your letter carrier to deliver mail safely and without delay This will permit the carrier to drive up to your mailbox and deposit or collect mail without leaving the vehicle.

The approach to and exit from the mailbox should be cleared sufficiently on both sides to allow the carrier to drive ahead and not be required to back up after delivery.

3. Is it the carrier's call on what is safe/accessible?

Carriers are not required to deliver to locations where safety issues -- such as threatening animals, slippery steps, snow-packed paths or icy overhangs -- create perilous conditions.  Even when customers make a path for us, we recognize conditions can and do change throughout a particularly stormy day.  This could affect your mail delivery.

While our goal is to deliver the mail, we stand by the decisions of local managers and/or carriers when delivery is suspended due to an immediate, serious safety concern -- particularly during changeable weather conditions.

4. The plow knocked over the mailbox.  What do you do in that case?

Each city of town has their own set of procedures for handling a replacement of a mailbox in these conditions. We refer our customers back to their own communities for what to do in those instances.

We cannot provide curbside service to a residence without a mail receptacle.  In some cases, we do see short-term creative placements of mailboxes or residents will ask us to hold the mail for a short period until the replacement of the box.   But we do need that box to make a delivery on a regular basis.

5. How does the postal patron get notified if the carrier can't access the mailbox?

There is no formal notification process. If mail is curtailed, delivery is attempted the next delivery day.

If the customers have a temporary situation where mail delivery is unsafe, we will hold the mail at the Post office where delivery originates and the customer can pick up mail at that Post Office.

6. What happens to the person's mail? Is it held at the local branch for a specified period of time?

When we face this situation, customers are allowed to pick up their mail at the post office for a reasonable period of time and once the box is restored, we will resume delivery immediately.

As each situation is unique, we ask that customers talk to their local Postal manager to discuss their individual situation and when the snow finally clears, customers may want to discuss the best location for the mailbox with the delivery supervisor in an effort to minimize these types of delivery disruptions.

7. Have you received a large number of complaints about mail not being delivered in the region?

Our employees have received praise for their efforts from customers and various news outlets and we know that this winter is not over yet. We look forward to an improved forecast over the next few days which we hope will afford customers an opportunity to clear any snow and ice which may have impeded their carriers in completing delivery.

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A self-supporting government enterprise, the U.S. Postal Service is the only delivery service that reaches every address in the nation, 151 million residences, businesses and Post Office Boxes. The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations. With 32,000 retail locations and the most frequently visited website in the federal government, usps.com, the Postal Service has annual revenue of more than $65 billion and delivers nearly 40 percent of the world’s mail. If it were a private sector company, the U.S. Postal Service would rank 35th in the 2011 Fortune 500. In 2011, the U.S. Postal Service was ranked number one in overall service performance, out of the top 20 wealthiest nations in the world, Oxford Strategic Consulting. Black Enterprise and Hispanic Business magazines ranked the Postal Service as a leader in workforce diversity. The Postal Service has been named the Most Trusted Government Agency for six years and the sixth Most Trusted Business in the nation by the Ponemon Institute.

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