The USPS Southern MD Distribution Center in Capitol Heights: Your Guide to this Major Processing Facility

An image showcasing a bustling delivery depot, with workers in vibrant uniforms swiftly sorting parcels onto conveyor belts

The USPS Southern Maryland Distribution Center is a key processing and distribution hub for the United States Postal Service in the Maryland area. This large facility handles millions of pieces of mail per day, serving communities across Southern Maryland. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about the Southern MD Distribution Center, from its operations to its location and history.

Where is the USPS Southern MD Distribution Center Located?

The USPS Southern Maryland Distribution Center, often referred to as the Southern MD Distribution Center or the Southern Maryland P&DC, is located in Capitol Heights, MD. Specifically, it is situated at 5500 Marlboro Pike in Capitol Heights, just east of Washington D.C.

The sprawling complex sits on over 130 acres of land and contains over 1 million square feet of interior floor space. That makes it one of the largest distribution facilities in the United States Postal Service’s network.

What Cities and Zip Codes Does the Southern MD Distribution Center Serve?

The Southern MD Distribution Center serves a large portion of Southern Maryland, processing mail for communities in Prince George’s County and Charles County.

Some of the key cities and towns served by the facility include:

  • Capitol Heights
  • Oxon Hill
  • Temple Hills
  • Fort Washington
  • Accokeek
  • Bryans Road
  • White Plains
  • Waldorf
  • La Plata
  • Indian Head
  • Port Tobacco

The main ZIP codes processed by the Southern MD Distribution Center are 20601-20617 and 20640-20658. However, mail for other nearby ZIP codes may also pass through the facility at different stages.

What Type of Mail Processing Happens at the Southern MD Distribution Center?

As a large Processing & Distribution Center (P&DC), the Southern MD Distribution Center handles a variety of critical mail processing activities. This includes:

  • Incoming mail processing – All mail collected from blue collection boxes, post offices, and collection routes across Southern Maryland comes into the plant for sorting and processing.
  • Outgoing mail processing – Outbound mail is sorted at the plant to group together pieces going to the same destinations for more efficient transportation.
  • Package processing – Parcels and packages are sorted to their destinations.
  • Post office distribution – Processed mail bound for local post offices is dispatched for last-mile delivery.
  • Network distribution – Long distance mail is distributed to other P&D centers, mail processing hubs, and air mail facilities for further processing.

The plant runs 24 hours a day with multiple shifts to keep mail moving. Both mail processing machines and manual sorting is used to handle the high volumes.

How Much Mail Does the Southern Maryland Distribution Center Process?

As one of the largest distribution centers on the East Coast, the Southern MD Distribution Center processes staggering volumes of mail each day. It serves over 1 million customers across Southern Maryland.

On average, the plant processes around 3-4 million pieces of mail per day. During peak seasons like the holidays, volumes can swell to 5 million pieces of mail per day.

To handle these volumes efficiently, the Southern MD Distribution Center employs over 1,100 postal workers. It’s one of the largest employers in Capitol Heights.

When Was the Southern Maryland Distribution Center Built?

The Southern Maryland Distribution Center has been in operation for over 25 years. Construction began on the Capitol Heights site in 1994.

The plant first opened its doors in 1995. It was built to replace the previous outdated Southern Maryland General Mail Facility in Washington D.C.

The new Southern MD Distribution Center boasted advanced mail processing equipment and technology that allowed for more efficient sorting. The spacious new facility was designed to accommodate growing mail volumes in the Southern Maryland region.

What Mail Processing Equipment is Used at the Facility?

To handle its enormous mail volumes, the Southern Maryland Distribution Center utilizes a range of advanced processing equipment and technology.

Key mail processing machines used at the plant include:

  • Delivery Barcode Sorters – High-speed machines that sort letter mail by reading printed barcodes. Can process up to 40,000 pieces per hour.
  • Automated Parcel and Bundle Sorters – Sort packages and bundles by destination using barcode scanning.
  • Flat Sorting Machines – Sorts flat mail like magazines and large envelopes.
  • Optical Character Readers – Read handwritten and typed addresses on envelopes to sort.
  • Culler-Facer-Cancelers – Processes letter mail by canceling stamps, facing all mail upright, and culling out non-machinable pieces.
  • Tray Sorters – Automatically sorts trays of mail by destination.

How Can I Take a Tour of the Southern Maryland Distribution Center?

The USPS offers free public tours of the Southern Maryland Distribution Center periodically throughout the year. Touring the plant is a fascinating opportunity to see the immense mail sorting operation in action.

Tours are typically offered on select weekdays. You can check the USPS website or contact your local post office to inquire about upcoming public tour dates at the Capitol Heights distribution center.

Tours often book up quickly, so reserve your spot early. All participants must be US citizens and must undergo security screening upon arrival. Cameras and recording devices are prohibited.

Can I Track Packages Processed by the Southern MD Distribution Center?

If you’ve dropped off a package destined for somewhere outside Southern Maryland, chances are it will pass through the Southern MD Distribution Center. Fortunately, you can track its progress online.

The USPS offers a free package tracking tool on their website Just enter your tracking number and delivery zip code. This will show each step as your package moves through facilities like the Southern MD Distribution Center.

Third party tracking sites like Track-Trace and K2Track also allow you to trace packages processed at the Southern MD Distribution Center. These tools offer real-time tracking updates as your mail passes through the Capitol Heights plant.

How Does Mail Arrive at the Southern MD Distribution Center for Processing?

Mail makes its way to the Southern Maryland Distribution Center through a few primary channels:

  • From local Southern Maryland post offices, collection boxes, and pickup routes. Mail is transported by truck to the Capitol Heights processing hub nightly.
  • From incoming USPS distribution centers and facilities outside the region. The plant receives bundles of pre-sorted mail from other plants across multiple states.
  • From Washington Dulles Airport and Baltimore Washington Airport. The Southern MD Distribution Center has dedicated USPS units at these airports to receive incoming mail from flights.
  • From local Southern Maryland businesses generating large volumes of outbound mail. These commercial mailers can drop ship directly to the distribution center.
  • From mailers and collection centers across the U.S. sending mail to the 20601-20617 ZIP codes. These pieces funnel through other plants before arriving in Capitol Heights for final sorting.

What Time Does Mail Arrive for Processing Every Day?

As a 24/7 operation, the Southern Maryland Distribution Center receives a constant flow of mail for sorting. But the bulk of incoming mail arrives in the evening and nighttime hours.

Here is an overview of the plant’s daily mail intake schedule:

  • 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm – Local collection mail arrives by truck from post offices and collection routes across Southern Maryland.
  • 7:00 pm – 4:00 am – Pre-sorted mail for Southern Maryland ZIP codes arrives from USPS plants across multiple states.
  • 10:00 pm – 2:00 am – Airmail is transported from Dulles and BWI airports for overnight sorting.
  • 11:00 pm – 6:00 am – Direct drop shipments are received from local Southern MD business mailers.

This evening and nighttime concentration allows the facility to sort new mail so it’s ready for early morning dispatch and delivery across the region.

What Security Measures are in Place at the Facility?

As one of the USPS’s critical mail processing sites, stringent security measures are in place at the Southern Maryland Distribution Center.

Some of the key security features include:

  • Perimeter fencing around the entire campus
  • Video camera surveillance across facility exterior and interior
  • USPS police officers and uniformed guards stationed on premises
  • Employee and visitor ID badge requirements
  • X-ray screening of incoming mail and packages
  • Strict access controls and authorization requirements
  • Random security sweeps and inspections

These measures help ensure the safety of USPS staff and mail as it moves through the distribution center. It also deters any theft, tampering, or unauthorized access.

What Future Expansions are Planned for the Facility?

To keep pace with population growth and rising package volumes, the USPS plans to expand the Southern Maryland Distribution Center in the coming years.

Plans were approved in 2020 for a 70,000 square foot expansion of the Capitol Heights plant. This will provide additional processing capacity and allow the facility to install more package sorting equipment.

Construction is slated to begin in 2023. Once completed, the expansion will enable the plant to sort over 10,000 additional packages per hour. This will help the USPS handle continued e-commerce growth and customer demand across Southern Maryland.

Key Takeaways About the USPS Southern MD Distribution Center

  • It is one of the USPS’s largest distribution facilities on the East Coast at over 1 million square feet.
  • The plant processes around 3-5 million mail pieces daily across Southern Maryland.
  • The facility employs over 1,100 USPS workers to keep mail moving 24/7.
  • High-tech sorting equipment like parcel sorters and delivery barcode sorters are used to process mail quickly.
  • Stringent security measures are in place to protect USPS staff, assets, and the mail.
  • Expansions plans are underway to handle ongoing increases in package volumes.

So in summary, the Southern Maryland Distribution Center is the indispensable, behind-the-scenes hub that keeps mail and packages flowing across the region. It plays an integral role in USPS operations from Washington D.C. to Southern Maryland and beyond.

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