As a USPS customer, you probably don’t think too much about how your mail gets from point A to point B. In most cases, that’s totally fine!
However, if your mail gets held up at a USPS sorting facility, you may start to wonder how your mail is delivered. If that sounds like you, then you’re in the right place. Read on to learn more about USPS sorting facilities and how they work.
USPS Sorting Facility In 2023
USPS sorting facilities are large, centrally located offices dedicated to receiving and processing mail. They do not deliver mail and are not open to the public. Additionally, mail arrives from other sorting facilities, delivery units or drop shipments. Items may pass through several sorting facilities en route to their final destination.
If you’d like to learn more about how sorting facilities work and what to do if your package is stuck at one, then be sure to check out the rest of our article.
What Is A USPS Sorting Facility?
Sorting facilities are large, centrally-located offices dedicated to receiving and processing mail from other sources.
Mail may come to a sorting facility from other sorting facilities, delivery units or from drop shipments that arrive directly at the facility.
Once a sorting facility receives mail, employees and machines sort and redistribute it based on the final destination.
Depending on the final destination, mail is either labeled for a delivery office (the last stop before local post offices) or sent to the next sorting facility.
Most USPS sorting facilities are regional. As such, an item may pass through several sorting facilities en route to its final destination.
How Do USPS Mail Sorting Facilities Work?
USPS mail sorting facilities receive pallets of mail from other sorting facilities, distribution centers and drop shipping facilities.
Using machines, employees break apart the pallets, scan the mail’s barcode and re-sort the mail into new pallets based on destination.
Once mail is regrouped, it’s placed on trucks or sent to the airport (depending on the shipping service).
Some mail will head directly to local post offices for delivery, while other mail will head to another sorting facility.
Can You Pick Up Packages From A USPS Sorting Facility?
Sorting facilities are only for mail processing. They are not open to the general public. Therefore, you cannot pick up or intercept packages from a USPS sorting facility.
Sorting facilities mechanically sort packages based on barcode. After, employees load them onto trucks or planes so they can make it to the next stop on their journey.
Because most of the work at sorting facilities is done mechanically, trying to find a single package would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
If you want to intercept a package (i.e. pick it up before it goes out for delivery), then your best bet is to call your local post office and request that they hold the package, rather than put it out for delivery.
However, you’ll need to supply the package’s tracking number to do this.
What Does Departed USPS Sort Facility Mean?
Tracking information that says “Departed USPS Sort Facility” means your package has left a sorting facility.
Depending on the location of the sorting facility and the package’s final destination, the package will either be sent to another sorting facility or to your local post office for delivery.
Why Do Mail Items Get Stuck USPS Sorting Facilities?
There could be a few reasons why your package is “stuck” at a USPS sorting facility.
One of the most common reasons (and one that’s a bit counterintuitive) is that your item isn’t actually at a sorting facility anymore.
Given the large volume of mail USPS processes, it’s possible that your package just missed getting scanned. If that’s the case, your package could very well be on the right track, albeit with incomplete tracking information.
While most “stuck” packages are simply missing tracking information, there are still plenty of other cases when mail actually does get temporarily lost in the shuffle.
For example, items may get mis-sorted and need to be rerouted to the correct area. Unsurprisingly, this slows down the processing time and may make it appear that your item is stuck.
Stuck items may also be the result of mechanical issues. Sometimes items fall off a belt into undesired locations and get lost for hours or days.
Other times, items break equipment, forcing the item to be removed from the automated line and placed into a manual line.
What To Do If Your Package Is Stuck In A USPS Sorting Facility?
Before launching into an investigation, see how long your package has been “stuck.” If it’s only been a day or two, be patient. It’s likely that the sorting facility is busy. Your package should be processed soon.
If it seems like your package hasn’t moved in 4-6 days, wait a couple more days before sounding the alarm bells. That’s especially true for First-Class and Priority Mail packages.
It’s quite possible that your package just missed getting scanned and is actually on its way to you.
If your package has been in a sorting facility for a week or more, then you can start taking action.
One option is to contact your local post office with the tracking number. Alerting them to the issue allows them to “flag” the package and get it moving in the right direction.
You can also call USPS’ main customer service number at 1-800-275-8777.
Sorting facilities are an essential part of what makes the USPS system run smoothly. Every day these warehouses process thousands of pieces of mail, making sure that every item gets where it needs to go in a timely manner.
Most of the time this network runs perfectly. However, there are cases when packages don’t get scanned or items get temporarily misplaced. If you suspect this is the case, contact customer service or your local post office. They’ll be more than happy to help you find your package!