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UNACCOUNTABLE! U.S. Postal Service Punishes Almost No One for Bad Driving

U.S. Postal Service drivers have no respect for vehicle rules — and are rarely disciplined for it. Photo: Simon Smith

Just 10 employees of the United States Postal Service have been disciplined for vehicular crashes in the last three years — a shockingly low number given that the mail system pays out tens of millions of dollars to settle thousands of crash suits every year.

Postal Service officials and their enablers try to hide the damage caused by its tens of thousands of employees who drive more than one billion miles per year, but Streetsblog has been able to slowly tease out information via Freedom of Information Law requests. So far, we have been able to determine:

    • The city Department of Finance forgoes millions of dollars in parking fines that could be issued against USPS trucks, as they are against the agency's competitors at FedEx and UPS. (Streetsblog, Feb. 13, 2019)
    • The NYPD does not even track moving violations by United States Postal Service vehicles because the trucks do not have license plates. (Streetsblog, May 6, 2019)
    • The Postal Service has a secret list of which of its 23 districts are not properly assessing employee driving records, but it refuses to release it. (Streetsblog, May 15, 2019)
    • The Postal Service has not disciplined the driver who hit and killed Charles McClean in Ocean Hill in May. (Streetsblog, June 6, 2019)
    • The USPS has paid out more than $23 million to settle claims by New Yorkers who have been injured or killed in crashes caused by mail company employees since 2013. In those six and a half years, the USPS has quietly settled 661 motor vehicular injury suits by New Yorkers, roughly 100 per year, with an average value of $35,000.  (Streetsblog, Aug. 14, 2019)
USPS Payouts

That past coverage was merely prologue to our latest discovery. As part of our ongoing investigation into the Postal Service, we sought more information about how postal workers are disciplined when they are found liable for crashes such as those that have resulted in the $353 million in settlements nationwide since 2013.

Specifically, we asked:

    1. How many moving violations were issued to USPS trucks in New York City in 2010 and 2015-2018?
    2. How many USPS drivers received moving violations in New York City in those same years?
    3. How many drivers were disciplined for poor driving in those same years?

Here's what we got back:

    1. "In response to requests numbers 1 and 2, we have made a diligent search of our records and have been unable to locate any documents that are responsive to your request."
    2. "In response to [question 3], we have located 51 pages that are responsive to your request. However, these pages have been withheld in their entirety pursuant to FOIA Exemption No. 6."

Ah, FOIA exemption number six! Like Heller's Catch-22, there's really only one catch, and FOIA exemption number six is the best there is. According to the USPS, exemption number six "permits federal agencies to withhold information which, if released, would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."

Streetsblog had not asked for the identities of the disciplined employees — merely information about what they were disciplined for, with their names or any identifying information redacted. Even the denial of that information is covered under exemption six, according to the Postal Service. "The disclosure of information concerning conduct on the part of low-level employees does not significantly further the public interest." (Low-level employees who kill with company-issued trucks would seem to constitute a "public interest," so Streetsblog has appealed the latest FOIA denial.)

But there was some information that the agency was willing to release:

"Based upon the relevant documents, six employees were disciplined for vehicular incidents in 2016 and four received discipline in the years 2017 and 2018," the agency wrote. "No documentation was available for the remaining years in your request."

The fact that only 10 of nearly half a million postal service employees were disciplined for crashes speaks for itself. But what is also shocking is that the House Oversight Committee, which monitors the Postal Service, has never held hearings about the mail service's terrible driving record and lack of accountability. Repeated calls by Streetsblog to the committee's media liaison have not been returned.

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