One of the wonders of modern technology is being able to trace a package’s journey from across the country until it’s sitting on your doorstep.
The United States Postal Service handles a massive amount of mail both domestically and internationally, and a large portion of that consists of parcels with tracking attached.
But does USPS update tracking? Is it a reliable service that you can count on for sending and receiving? Here is what you need to know!
Does USPS Update Tracking?
The United States Postal Service does update its tracking information for items that are large enough or which have been shipped with a service that includes tracking. While real-time tracking is unavailable, USPS updates tracking information several times daily and can be relied upon for accurate reporting.
To find out more about USPS tracking in real-time, what the tracking updates mean, what it could mean if your tracking info isn’t updating, and why your tracking info is updating even after delivery, keep reading for the answers!
How Does USPS Tracking Work?
When an item ships with USPS or one of its partners, if the item is large enough or has been shipped with an applicable service, USPS gives that item a bar code on its shipping label.
The barcode has an associated tracking number so that every time the barcode gets scanned on its journey from source to destination, the tracking information updates.
These scans happen most commonly during arrival at a facility and departure (it’s kind of fascinating to watch something move across the country like that).
In the majority of cases, the sender will share the tracking number with the recipient so that they, too, can keep dibs on the package as it moves toward them.
Additionally, tracking helps the recipient know when to expect the delivery and avoid any late-stage mishaps.
USPS tracking always states an “Expected Delivery Date” that updates as the item moves.
Does USPS Update Tracking In Real-Time?
Tracking updates in real-time is unfortunately not feasible for USPS, considering the volume of packages that pass through their organization every day.
However, USPS updates tracking a few times a day.
If the new activity has occurred since the last update, you can bet that the latest scans will be included with the most recent update.
While you might not receive updates the second it happens, I have found that it occurs within a fairly short window in general.
Sometimes that’s as little as half an hour, though I have also experienced updates that occurred 6-12 hours after the fact.
What Do USPS Tracking Updates Mean?
The language used in tracking updates can be a bit confusing, so let’s go over some of it.
- One thing I see a lot is “USPS has created a shipping label, awaiting item”; that means the label is all ready to go on USPS’s end, but the item isn’t quite on its way yet.
- Similar to that is “Departed Shipping Partner Facility, USPS Awaiting Items”; this gives you a little bit more information. You know your item is on its way to the USPS facility.
- “In Transit”; is a catch-all designation for when your item has started to move. You will likely see it repeated as the item stops and goes, switching facilities.
- “Out For Delivery”; is undoubtedly one of the most exciting tracking updates to receive – your item is on the delivery truck and will be arriving that day!
- “Delivered”; your package has reached its destination. If it will fit in the mailbox, that is the most likely location, but if not, it could be in various locations.
Try looking just inside your porch (if you have one); smart postal workers leave packages there because they’re not visible to porch pirates from the street.
- “No Access” indicates that the delivery driver attempted to reach your address, but there was some kind of obstruction.
This could include a gated community or perhaps an unfriendly dog with access to the mailbox area.
- “Notice Left” is usually what you’ll see if the package required a signature, but there was no one home. You’ll go to your delivery post office to retrieve the item.
Make sure to bring the notice slip that the postal worker left!
These are some of the most common phrases you’ll see as you’re tracking your package.
For a complete list and more detail, visit the USPS webpage here.
Can You Receive Text Tracking Updates From USPS?
USPS does allow you to sign up for tracking updates, texts, or emails.
To access this free feature, visit your item’s tracking page. Scroll down to “Text & Email Updates.”
You can choose what types of updates you receive (e.g., “Package In-Transit Updates,” “Expected Delivery Updates,” etc.) and how you receive them (texts or emails).
From here, you will have to have an account on USPS and have both a phone number and email address on file.
Once this is complete, you’ll receive tracking updates as the site is updated (not in real-time), and it will save you a lot of anxious checking.
Should You Be Worried If USPS Tracking Is Not Updating?
You should not necessarily be worried if your USPS tracking hasn’t been updated in a few days.
While it’s incredibly frustrating when you are anticipating your delivery, it usually does not imply something bad.
The most likely answer? The parcel somehow skipped a scan.
Also likely? The package skipped a scan and is on a long leg of its journey.
If you’re in New York and your item is coming from California, that is definitely grounds for a lack of update for a few days.
Does USPS Update Tracking After Delivery?
It can be jarring to check on an old delivery that you received and see new tracking information.
That is likely a case of recycled tracking numbers.
While rare, it can happen that USPS is overwhelmed with packages and dips into old tracking numbers while transporting new items.
This is likely what happened if your old tracking information shows an item as “Delivered” – but not to your location and “Archived.”
Why Is Your USPS Package Stuck In Transit?
Nothing is more frustrating than checking your tracking status multiple times over the course of a few days and finding that it’s stuck in transit.
It’s not necessarily a sign that your package is lost, though.
In some cases, it could be that the item missed a scan and is on its way. If so, you will receive an update after the next scan.
Additionally, it could also be that something is causing a delay, but the delay has not yet been recorded in the system.
Alternatively, if your package is delayed, USPS will get to updating that and give you a new expected delivery date.
(If you are receiving an item from Amazon, shipped with Prime 1-day or 2-day, and your items are delayed, you could be compensated for that from Amazon!)
Finally and unfortunately, it could be that your item has been lost. Here is USPS’s chart for delivery standards and when to reach out to customer service.
If you want to learn more, you can also check our related guide on whether or not USPS sends text messages, if USPS ships to Canada, and if USPS delivers to your door.
On the whole, USPS does an admirable job of updating tracking statuses.
While it might not happen in real time, for the volume of mail that is sent through this system, mistakes and missteps are rare.