Are you tracking a package with USPS, and are wondering how accurate the tracking actually is?
The truth is, USPS packages make a lot of stops before they arrive at your doorstep. So if you’re relying on the tracking to give you an estimate on when it will arrive, it’s important to know how trustworthy their tracking actually is.
In this article, I’ll be covering the postal service’s tracking system in detail, showing you exactly how accurate it is, and covering other important information to help you get your package as quickly as possible.
Let’s get to it!
Is USPS Tracking Accurate?
So, here is the big question – is the tracking provided on USPS’ website accurate? Can it be relied upon to determine the date your package will arrive?
Thankfully, the answer is yes. USPS is extremely accurate, and almost always delivers on the estimated delivery date provided.
While only Priority Mail Express has a hard guarantee on when the package will arrive, USPS will go to great lengths to ensure your package arrives on the estimated delivery date. This may include expediting certain packages if they end up behind, or delivering certain mail first in order to ensure your package gets on the truck more quickly.
This is why certain package services like Priority mail are well, prioritized. The same can be said for packages running late.
12 News sent 33 packages across the United States, with GPS trackers inside of them, during the weeks before Christmas – the busiest times of the year for the United States Postal Service.
Out of the 33 packages, 29 of them arrived either on time or early – a success rate of 88%.
Overall, that’s pretty good. When you take into account that the Christmas season is by far the hardest time of the year for USPS, we can be reasonably certain that the normal success rate is actually much higher than that!
So, we can conclude from this experiment that USPS is indeed very accurate in its tracking. Anecdotally, my companies have shipped over 100,000 packages in the last few years and we very rarely see them arrive late as well.
Is The USPS Estimated Delivery Date Accurate?
Did you know that the accuracy of the delivery date, and the accuracy of the location history are different?
It’s true! According to the same case study mentioned earlier, while 88% of packages arrived on time or early, there was a much larger discrepancy between the location USPS stated the package was in, and the city it was actually in according to their GPS trackers.
That being said, the estimated delivery date is by far the more accurate of the two.
This is because USPS uses real-time computing and advanced algorithms to estimate when your package will arrive.
Most of their systems are fully automated, so they are able to give extremely accurate estimates based on their entire network of sorting hubs and processing centers.
The fact that so much of everything is automated and requires so little intervention by humans allows them to make very accurate estimates. For more information on how USPS sorting centers work, consider watching this video!
How Often Does USPS Tracking Update?
We now know that USPS tracking is extremely accurate, and uses advanced algorithms to provide you with your delivery estimates.
But how often are these estimates recalculated – how often will tracking on the USPS tracking page actually update?
You can expect to receive updates each time your package makes a stop along its route to your delivery location.
It turns out, packages don’t go directly from the seller’s post office to your local post office.
Instead, they make many stops along the way across many different sorting hubs / distribution centers, so USPS can better keep things organized and help mail move across the world efficiently.
In fact, nobody really pays any attention to the address on the package at all until it gets to your local post office for final delivery – the only thing that is paid any mind is the zip code it’s being sent to.
As your package gets closer to your home or delivery location, you can expect tracking updates to appear more frequently.
Typically, the estimated delivery date will update alongside any updates to the package’s location as well – but again, it may not change at all throughout its entire journey, since USPS is great at giving accurate estimates even very soon after the shipping process begins.
Why Is My USPS Package Going Farther Away?
One thing that can be very concerning when checking the tracking of your package, is if you see it going father away rather than getting closer to you.
So what causes that, and is it something you should worry about?
It turns out, packages being sent further away is something that is completely normal!
As mentioned earlier, USPS sends packages to various distribution centers on its way to your home. However, there are only 22 distribution centers across the United States.
This means that your package may have to go a bit further to reach one – but don’t worry, this actually helps USPS deliver the package even quicker.
Tip: Follow These Tips To Help Mail Get Delivered More Quickly!
So, what causes delays, and what can be done to ensure packages arrive on time without any issues?
It turns out, it’s very rarely due to human error on USPS’ end. As mentioned earlier, so much of their system is automated and done by machines that there is very rarely any issues. And even if there are, they’re usually automatically corrected.
What has far more of an impact however is the sender of the package, as well as ensuring the information is correct.
This means double checking that you’ve used the right address for your package, without any spelling errors. While USPS is exceptionally good at finding the right address (even when there are spelling or formatting errors), it can slow the process down.
Additionally, if you address the package to someone who isn’t known to live at your residence, it may be returned to sender or held at the post office, with a message stating ‘Addressee Unknown.’
If you are the sender of the package, there are a few things you’ll want to do:
- Make sure the label is on completely flat, and doesn’t wrap around the edges of the box.
- Make sure the barcode is not smeared or blurred, as USPS relies on these to scan the package along its route.
- Make sure the address is clearly legible, and has been verified with USPS prior to shipping.
If USPS can’t find the address of a package or its too difficult to be read by computer, they have a team of specialists whose job is to identify the proper address.
It’s actually extremely interesting to see how it works! Here’s a link to a video by Tom Scott that shows you the behind-the-scenes.
Fun fact – they have to do each address in just 4 seconds or less!
Only Certain Mail Classes Offer Guarantees
Finally, one more thing to keep in mind is that only Priority Mail Express offers a guaranteed delivery date.
While the other package services offer delivery estimates, USPS does not claim that the package is guaranteed to be delivered during that time. Unfortunately, during peak shipping seasons (such as right before Christmas), delays become more and more common.
For reference, here is a table with the estimated delivery window for each package service:
|Speed (Business Days):
|USPS Marketing Mail
|USPS Retail Ground
|Parcel Select Lightweight
|Parcel Select Ground
|First-Class Package Service
|Priority Mail Express
|Next Day - 2 Days, Guaranteed
Note that this is the timeline for when USPS actually receives the package. Senders can print off a shipping label and create a tracking number before they ever drop off the package with USPS. In these instances, tracking will state either Shipment Received, Package Acceptance Pending or Pre-Shipment.
The United States Postal Service is surprisingly efficient at getting your mail to you on time – including all packages and parcels.
Remember, they have no incentive to lie to you about tracking estimates, but your tracking page will update if the estimate changes.
If you have an urgent matter you need to discuss with USPS, click here to learn how to talk with a real person, rather than being stuck on their automated support line.
I hope that you’ve found this article to be helpful. If you have any other questions about USPS, please ask them using the comment form below.
Wishing you the best,
– James McAllister