One of the most popular ways to send mail in the United States (especially with a bit of extra speed), the USPS handles millions and millions of USPS Priority Mail pieces every single year.
Faster than First Class mail, but not significantly more expensive, this mail delivery method is speedy, reliable, and consistent.
A lot of people like the fact that they have an opportunity to send mail based off of the weight and dimension of the package or parcel they are shipping, and a lot of people also take advantage of the Flat Rate Priority Mail boxes and envelopes, too.
This service was also designed to get mail to its ultimate destination within one, two, or three (maximum) business days, sometimes it takes Priority Mail a little bit longer to arrive – especially recently, with so much mail moving through the USPS infrastructure.
Other than speed, though, the big benefit of using Priority Mail on the USPS is that it offers very accurate and up-to-date tracking information (for the most part).
Below we dig a little bit deeper into how Priority Mail tracking works throughout the USPS system, what you need to know about leveraging this tracking information to make life a little easier, and how you can get even more information about the packages, parcels, and letters that hit your mailbox with an exciting service not available through the USPS.
Let’s get into it!
How USPS Mail Tracking Works?
All Priority Mail pieces sent through the USPS include tracking information attached, giving both the sender and recipient of that package, parcel, or envelope the ability to watch as it moves through the USPS system to its destination.
Information is updated in real time every single time a USPS Priority Mail piece arrives at another “link” in the USPS infrastructure chain. This usually happens when USPS planes or vehicles arrive at another regional distribution hub, with each pallet of mail being sent to a specific area of the country getting an update scan at the same time.
Whereas those services use general estimates for how long it takes a certain piece of mail to move from one location to another within their systems, USPS actually and physically scans mail as it moves through their infrastructure.
You’ll always have a better idea of where your Priority Mail is because of these kinds of initiatives.
Even cooler, though, is the inclusion of Mobile Delivery Devices that the USPS rolled out in 2013.
These MDDs are used to capture GPS locations along the postal carriers route as they move from one drop-off to the next, with that information linking to the tracking barcode info on Priority Mail pieces.
This allows your package to be updated almost in real time, confirming that a delivery is going to be made that day, giving an estimated time for that delivery to actually arrive, and then sending a notification (if you sign up for notifications, more on that in a moment) that your package has been delivered as soon the MDD recognizes the package coming within 10 m of its ultimate destination.
Technology like this has really helped to improve not only the deliverability of USPS Priority Mail pieces, but it’s also help to speed up the process and improve the overall amount of transparency customers receive when they choose to send their stuff through the USPS in the first place.
Does USPS Priority Mail Include Tracking for Free?
While you will have to pay for tracking information when you choose First Class mail (or other types of mail pieces), that’s never going to be something that you have to worry about when you use Priority Mail through the USPS.
Instead you’re going to get 100% free tracking information – complete tracking information – included with every Priority Mail package, parcel, or envelope that you choose to send out.
This is just part of the premium service, giving you both Product Tracking and Routing information through the multidigit tracking code that you’re given the second your Priority Mail package is scanned into the USPS system.
It’s important to make sure that you keep a copy of this tracking number if you want to be able to watch your package moved throughout the country and eventually arrived at its ultimate destination.
You’ll find this tracking code prominently displayed on the shipping label itself (really easy to find), and if you decide to send Priority Mail pieces from your local post office you’ll get the tracking information included on your receipt, too.
Other add-ons and extras (like insurance, for example) can be purchased for your Priority Mail pieces if that’s something that you’re interested in.
Tracking, however, is included 100% free of charge with your Priority Mail postage.
Adding Instant Notifications for Tracking Updates
Somewhat recently, USPS has given their customers the opportunity and ability to receive automatic notifications every time something new happens with their USPS mail pieces as they move through the national infrastructure.
Using the tracking code information you’ve been provided with your Priority Mail piece, you simply have to visit the USPS Tracking Website and then click the “Text and Email Updates” section on that page.
From there a new tab is going to expand, giving you a couple of forms to fill out so that you can get automatic and instant notifications about anything and everything that changes with the tracking of your Priority Mail package.
These requests are active for a period of two weeks from the day that they have been requested, giving you real-time (or almost real-time) updates about everything that happens with that package, parcel, or envelope.
This means that every time your Priority Mail piece arrives at a new USPS regional hub, gets sorted through their mail sorting facilities, and leads that hub to move on to the next link in the chain (or is sent out for delivery) you’ll be given a text or email update – or both.
That’s a really cool service to keep a closer eye on your package as it goes through the system, and really gives you a better idea of whether or not there are going to be any delays for your Priority Mail delivery (or if it’s set to arrive even earlier than you expected).
You can also sign up for these kinds of services by contacting USPS directly and setting up USPS Text Tracking on your phone.
All you have to do to get that set up is send a blank text to 28777 (2USPS). Detailed information and step-by-step instructions will be texted back to your device to help you get your Text Tracking confirmed for the Priority Mail you want to keep a closer eye on.
Text Tracking through the USPS also adheres to that same two-week window that we mentioned earlier.
After two weeks, if your package hasn’t been delivered (and with Priority Mail it should have been) you’ll be able to reinitiate text tracking until it arrives at your doorstep.
What Do I Do If My Tracking Hasn’t Updated in a While?
Even though USPS tracking has improved significantly over the last 10 to 15 years, it isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination – though improvements are still being made to the system on a regular basis.
Tracking information for your specific mail piece may not update for a couple of days, and may show absolutely no activity whatsoever and then arrive at your doorstep as a complete surprise.
A lot of this has to do with the fact that a lot of automated processing equipment handles the bulk of the heavy lifting for scanning, sorting, and tracking your information – particularly when it moves through the “middle stages” of the USPS Priority Mail delivery process.
100% accurate information will be made available when the USPS themselves are handling the Priority Mail pieces you have sent (usually when you hand them off at the post office to be sent out and then again when they are sorted near the ultimate destination and later by the individual mail carrier and Mobile Delivery Devices responsible for tracking them).
At the end of the day, don’t get nervous if you haven’t seen any movement on your package in a day or two – especially if you’re using Priority Mail.
As we highlighted earlier, the overwhelming majority of Priority Mail pieces are going to be delivered within one, two, or three business days. If it’s going to take any longer than three business days you’ll certainly get an update in your tracking information, as that’s plenty of time for your parcel to “shake loose” in the system and get scanned again.
What’s the Expected Delivery Window?
The expected delivery window is provided to Priority Mail customers based off of a couple of different things.
For starters, the USPS (since they handle billions of pieces of mail every year) as data and information about how long it takes for packages and parcels to move through the mail system – from one location to the next – that they are always improving the accuracy of.
This allows the USPS to give you a general idea of when you’re Priority Mail package is expected to arrive at its destination, but then they go another step further.
Every time your package or parcel gets scanned in the USPS infrastructure that estimate is updated based off of the location of that scan.
This means that the USPS is always looking to see if things are moving faster or slower through the infrastructure, how they can be improved and streamlined, and how long it’s going to take (generally) for your package to arrive.
You might notice your expected delivery window to shift and change a little bit throughout the tracking process. This is especially true if your package hits delays (like extreme winter weather delays, for example) somewhere along the chain but then gets rapidly accelerated towards the delivery because that end of the system isn’t quite as bogged down.
All in all, though you should be able to use the expected delivery window information as a great “rule of thumb” and ballpark estimate of when you’re Priority Mail is going to arrive at its ultimate destination.
Can I Access Tracking Information After My Package Was Delivered?
Tracking information is maintained by the USPS for a lot longer than most people realize, especially when you are talking about Priority Mail delivery services.
You’ll be able to access your complete tracking information for your Priority Mail package, parcel, or envelope for 120 days (or four months) after it has been delivered.
That gives you plenty of time to go back and look at these records, track how long it took for your package to arrive, and give yourself a little more information about what that postal route is like – especially if you plan on sending more packages, parcels, and envelopes to that same destination via Priority Mail.
Priority Mail Express tracking information is kept for up to two years in the USPS system, too – though this service is a slightly more expensive premium to the standard Priority Mail delivery method.
Beyond Traditional Tracking Info – US Global Mail Scanning Solutions
While it’s nice to have relatively accurate information about your Priority Mail pieces sent through the USPS, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to accurately track and be instantly notified about EVERY single piece of mail that hit your mailbox – the moment that it arrived?
Providing clients with full virtual mail scanning services on every package, parcel, and envelope that arrives (whether it comes through the USPS, FedEx, UPS, DHL, or something else entirely), you’ll be immediately notified – not only that something has arrived at your mailbox, but with a digital scan of the exterior envelope/package (and optional interior scan of the contents, if you wish)!
US Global Mail has been helping to modernize mailbox services for more than 20 years. Thousands of people worldwide trust them as their mailbox service, and with features like the digital mail scanning service we highlighted above it’s not hard to see why.
For more information about US Global Mail and a complete breakdown of the services they provide, check out their website right now!