U.S. Postal Service spent $5.7 million on idle trailers last year

"This occurred because the Postal Service has not performed an analysis to determine what the optimal number of trailers should be," says a new OIG report.

Updated: December 13, 2020 - 6:20am

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The Golden Horseshoe is a weekly designation from Just the News intended to highlight egregious examples of wasteful taxpayer spending by the government. The ward is named for the horseshoe-shaped toilet seats for military airplanes that cost the Pentagon a whopping $640 each back in the 1980s.

This week, our award goes to the United States Postal Service for spending $5.7 million in the past year on mail trailers that they did not use.

To deliver mail, the USPS utilizes a system of leased and bought trailers — dispatching them where and when they are needed, in accordance with demand. Most of the fleet is comprised of leased trailers — more than 75% in 2020. A new Inspector General report, which assesses USPS management of the leased trailers, concludes that there is room for improvement in the system.

The trailer fleet the USPS uses is supposed to be monitored on the basis of how frequently trailers are used. If a leased trailer is not used for a period of 10 or more days in a given month, it is required to be returned or relocated.

The OIG report discovered was that, on average, 13% of leased trailers contracted by the USPS were underused and should have been returned or relocated between January, 2019 and March, 2020 — but were not. That 13% translates to $5.7 million needlessly spent on idle trailers.

Figuring out a cost-effective model of purchasing — as opposed to leasing — trailers, would, according to the report, save the Postal Service a "substantial" number of dollars over the lifetime of the trailers.

However, that is much easier said than done in this case, because, according to the report, the Postal Service isn't even really sure how many trailers it needs to operate efficiently.

"The Postal Service has not performed an analysis to determine what the optimal number of trailers should be," let alone "how many to lease versus own," reads the IG report. This, the IG found, is a direct failure of the Postal Service's management team, which is "responsible for ensuring it maintains an optimal number of trailers to achieve cost control and operational efficiency."