Is USPS Tracking Accurate? (All You Need To Know)

If you have a package on the way and want to make sure it gets into the right hands, then your best bet is to keep a close eye on your USPS tracking information.

In most cases, USPS tracking is fairly reliable, but you may still have questions about how accurate it is (especially if the package you’re waiting for is important or expensive). So, if you’d like to know more about USPS tracking, keep reading!

Is USPS Tracking Accurate In 2022?

USPS tracking is very accurate in most cases. In fact, it can be up to 95% accurate for mail sent within the continental United States as of 2022. Real-time tracking updates are not available due to the sheer volume of packages USPS processes on a daily basis. Still, most tracking information is updated within hours of a scan.

For even more information about USPS tracking, check out the rest of this article to gain useful facts and tips!

What Is USPS Tracking?

USPS tracking information is a way of telling you where your package is at any given time or day. It can also tell you if and when a carrier has attempted delivery.

When you purchase a mail service that includes tracking (e.g. Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, or Parcel Select), your package will be assigned a 20-22-digit tracking number.

This number comes with an accompanying barcode that’s either printed on your shipping label or attached to your package with a sticker.

USPS scans the barcode every time your package arrives at a new location, whether that’s a mail distribution center or your local post office.

You can check the location of your package in (almost) real-time by entering your tracking number into the tracking tool on the USPS website.

Your tracking number is located at the bottom of your sales receipt.

Be aware that First-Class letters (i.e. regular letters and greeting cards) don’t come with tracking. Moreover, tracking cannot be included on items weighing less than 13 ounces.

Is the USPS Tracking System Accurate?

In most cases, the USPS tracking system is very accurate. This includes not only the location of a package at a given time but also the estimated delivery date.

One news outlet set out to test the accuracy of USPS’ tracking system by sending 33 packages to 13 cities.

Twenty-nine of the packages arrived on time or early, meaning that USPS’ tracking is about 88% accurate.

Not only did the news outlet study the accuracy of delivery estimates, but it also looked at the accuracy of USPS’ location updates.

This outlet did so by placing GPS trackers inside of each package and comparing that information with the information in the USPS system.

Some were correct, while others were wildly inaccurate. For example, one package was in Fort Worth, Texas, but the USPS system indicated that the box was in Tampa, Florida.

Does USPS Update Tracking?

USPS updates tracking information on all items that include this service.

This covers Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, Media Mail, Parcel Select, and First-Class Package Service.

USPS tends to update tracking information at least once a day or more.

Does USPS Update Tracking in Real-Time?

Does USPS Update Tracking in Real-Time?

Given the enormous volume of packages going through the USPS system on a daily basis, updating tracking in real-time is not feasible.

That being said, you’re likely to see at least one update per day, or even more frequently.

What’s more, although you won’t receive an update the minute your package is scanned, the delay is fairly short.

Sometimes you’ll receive an update within half an hour of a scan, while other times it may take several hours. 

Is USPS Tracking Delayed?

While USPS does a fairly good job of updating tracking information, there are times when the system lags behind or even fails completely.

In terms of delays, tracking information usually updates within a few hours of your package getting scanned. However, it may take up to 24 hours for scan data to reach you.

This delay is normal and to be expected, as USPS processes a massive amount of packages every day.

Even the most sophisticated system couldn’t be expected to provide perfectly accurate updates.

While time lags in tracking information updates are to be expected, it’s less common (but still possible) that tracking information doesn’t come through at all.

One possible reason for this is that USPS is overwhelmed and behind schedule.

When that happens, it’s not uncommon for the postal service to skip scans in order to move packages more quickly.

Broken scanners are another explanation for missing or delayed tracking updates.

How Accurate Is USPS’ Expected Delivery Date?

USPS’ expected delivery dates are very accurate. In fact, they may be up to 95% accurate for items mailed within the continental United States.

For items mailed to Alaska, Hawaii, or to overseas locations, tracking information is unfortunately not as accurate.

It’s also possible that unforeseen circumstances, such as bad weather or staffing shortages, causing expected delivery dates to get pushed back.

If you are looking to learn more, you can also read our posts on lost USPS tracking numbers, USPS article numbers, and why is USPS tracking not updating.

Conclusion

USPS tracking is a great tool that lets you follow your packages every step of the way. Most of the time it’s incredibly accurate and reliable, however, it’s not a perfect system.

If you’re experiencing any tracking problems, be patient; either your tracking information will update, or your package will show up unexpectedly.

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Marques Thomas

Marques Thomas graduated with a MBA in 2011. Since then, Marques has worked in the retail and consumer service industry as a manager, advisor, and marketer. Marques is also the head writer and founder of QuerySprout.com.

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