An IG report found a USPS facility had still failed to meet security compliance following the theft of charging station and IT equipment in March and May 2023.

An IG report found a USPS facility had still failed to meet security compliance following the theft of charging station and IT equipment in March and May 2023. Jackyenjoyphotography / Getty Images

USPS struggles with theft as it begins ordering charging stations for forthcoming EVs

A review praised the mailing agency for ensuring the chargers would work.

The U.S. Postal Service is having trouble with theft of its new electric vehicle equipment, suffering two recent robberies at the facility where the products are stored. 

The agency saw nearly $70,000 of charger and other IT equipment stolen last year, according to a new inspector general report, which faulted USPS for failing to properly secure the materials. The review came as the Postal Service is preparing to acquire more than 41,000 charging stations to support its 66,000 new electric vehicles over the next several years. 

The IG praised USPS for conducting a slew of tests on its new chargers after it awarded contracts to three different companies. It deployed the equipment to three sites in Northern Virginia, where it conducted both initial tests and three-month monitoring. All three companies initially won conditional approval from USPS and eventually received full acceptance. Management acknowledged some issues arose due to human error, which it will have to address with training going forward. 

The Postal Service did not conduct long-term testing of the products, with management noting it did not seem possible to do so but said all three companies had been in business for more than a decade and it could assess their products through their real-world deployment.

USPS has also not tested the chargers on its custom Next Generation Delivery Vehicles, as they have yet to be manufactured. While management said it was working on a plan to test the custom-built vehicles, rather than just the commercial, off-the-shelf iterations, the IG noted it could not opine on the overall reliability of the charging stations. 

The Postal Service is in the midst of replacing 106,000 vehicles in its fleet as part of a $9.6 billion investment. Congress provided $3 billion for USPS to buy more EVs and charging stations as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, which included $1.7 billion for the support infrastructure. The Postal Service initially pledged to only electrify 10% of its new fleet, but significantly increased that rate after a series of lawsuits and negotiations with the Biden administration.

Delivery of the new NGDVs is not expected until 2026, but the Postal Service has already begun purchasing charging stations. It is storing them at the Material Distribution Center in Topeka, Kansas, though the IG flagged security concerns there. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service met with facility leadership in February 2023 to discuss ways to shore it up, though the first theft incident took place in March. That incident led to further review from the USPIS. 

The Postal Service failed to implement all of the law enforcement arm’s recommendations, however, despite the facilities receiving 2,000 charging units in April. The second robbery occurred in May, with charging station heads and IT equipment stolen. 

“Facility management did not employ necessary physical safety measures designed to protect and deter the theft of Postal Service assets,” the IG said. “These issues occurred because facility management did not provide sufficient oversight nor resolve security deficiencies in a timely manner, as it relates to asset management responsibilities.”

Postal management has since hired contractors to patrol the facility and has replaced locks. Still, the IG said after a visit in August the agency remained out of compliance with its security practices and has yet to restrict access to key areas. USPS has yet to finalize a plan for its security upgrades, the auditors said. 

Management agreed to address those concerns and implement a physical safeguard plan. John Ciotta, USPS’ director of audit services, added the agency took “all physical safety measures that were operationally available” for the leased facility and it is in the process of implementing more. He added the armed guards will remain in place until physical upgrades are completed. 

“As the Postal Service continues to deliver on the vision to electrify its delivery vehicle fleet, the ongoing testing, monitoring and safeguarding of the charging stations are critical to mitigating financial and operational risks, as well as ensuring the Postal Service is obtaining the best value,” the IG said.