Tracking Number Formats by Carrier

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March 24, 2024

Imagine you’ve just ordered a special gift for your loved one’s birthday. You carefully select the item, place the order, check out, and await its arrival. 

But how can you be sure it will reach your loved one on time? Can you tell if your package encountered a problem along its journey?

Enter tracking numbers. In logistics and shipping, these alphanumeric codes ensure that shippers can monitor their parcels’ progress throughout the mailing network and help alleviate recipient anxiety by providing real-time updates.

This article unravels the tracking number world, exploring carriers, their formats, and these seemingly random digits’ invaluable role in courier services.

Are you looking for additional information on tracking numbers and systems? Visit a U.S. Postal Service facility. You can quickly find your area’s nearest and most convenient post office locations with FindPostOffice.org.

What Is a Tracking Number?

Tracking numbers or codes are unique identifiers that shipping service providers, like the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), Federal Express (FedEx), and United Parcel Service (UPS), assign to each mailpiece shipped through its delivery services.

Often represented as a combination of alphabetic and numeric characters, these identification digits enable you to follow and monitor a parcel from its departure to arrival at its final destination.  

How Does Shipment Tracking Work?

It begins when the shipper hands over a package to a courier company. At this point, the shipping service provider assigns a tracking number, often printed as a barcode on the shipping label. This barcode contains all the essential information about the shipment.

Various scanning devices read the barcode as the package moves through the courier company’s network. These scans allow the customer to view the package’s status in real-time, providing information about its location, transit time, and estimated delivery date.

To understand how the current tracking process came to be, let’s revisit FedEx’s history.

When FedEx was founded in 1971, its primary purpose was to pick up and deliver Federal Reserve bank cheques. But when it shifted to package delivery services, little did FedEx know that it would revolutionize the industry.

At the tail end of the 1970s, FedEx introduced a system using tracking or shipment numbers to improve its internal processes’ efficiency. The system’s success was undeniable, prompting FedEx to extend this tracking service to customers soon after.

While modern courier companies have developed their unique approaches to package monitoring, the fundamental concept that FedEx pioneered decades before remains at the core.

Why Is the Courier Tracking Number Important?


The anxiety and uncertainty of not knowing where a parcel is or its delivery date can be unnerving. The courier tracking number plays a pivotal role in ensuring a seamless customer experience, and here’s why it’s so crucial:

  • Minimizes customer anxiety: Have you ever ordered something special and wondered when it will arrive? The lack of tracking information can lead to unease. 

However, with a tracking number, you can rest easy knowing that you’ll know what’s happening with your purchase at the push of a button.

  • Reduces pressure on customer service: Previously, you had to call your carrier’s customer care hotline to request tracking information on a mailpiece – one of FedEx’s marketing strategies.

However, providing parcel tracking allows customers to track their packages independently, eliminating the need for constant inquiries and updates.

  • Provides transparency: Transparency is the foundation of trust in any customer-business relationship. Customers can easily monitor their packages in real-time, strengthening the bond between them and businesses.
  • Enhances security: Courier offers digital proof of delivery, ensuring packages reach their intended recipients. This digital record helps prevent disputes and minimizes the risk of fraudulent claims, theft, or mishandling.
  • Reduces costs: An effective delivery tracking system can help streamline a courier company’s operations, leading to cost savings in the long run. As a result of this cost-efficiency, carriers can offer competitive pricing to customers.

Types of Tracking Numbers

Tracking numbers come in two fundamental types, these are:

  • Numeric and alphabetic tracking numbers: These identifiers are the most likely you’ll encounter, especially if you’re shipping through major U.S. carriers like USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL.

These tracking codes typically consist of a combination of numbers and letters, varying in length and structure depending on the courier company. Note that some tracking numbers may only consist of numerical digits.

  • International tracking number: What sets international tracking numbers apart from domestic ones is that the former follows a specific structure beginning with two letters, followed by five numbers, and ends with two more alphabetic characters.

These two primary variations encompass most tracking numbers you’ll come across in package tracking. While there may be slight differences in formats between courier companies, the absence of white spaces and symbols in tracking numbers is a universal standard.

Where Can We Find Tracking Numbers?

Discovering your tracking number is crucial in keeping tabs on your package’s journey. Fortunately, you can quickly find your mailpieces’ tracking numbers in various places, including the following:

  • Sales or mailing receipt: If you’ve made an in-person purchase or sent a package through a physical location, the tracking number will generally be included on the sales or mailing receipt. It may also be located on the physical shipping label.
  • Online label record: If you purchase postage online, whether through platforms like Click-N-Ship, eBay, or other online retailers, you’ll typically find the tracking number on the online label record.
  • Shipping confirmation email: Online retailers typically send a confirmation email when you purchase an item. The email will often include your item’s tracking number.
  • Courier account: Services like USPS Informed Delivery automatically track parcels heading to your address. You may find your shipments’ tracking numbers by visiting your courier’s tracking page.

Tracking Number Format by Carrier: What Is the Tracking Number Format?

Tracking numbers come in various forms, each tailored to the specific needs and services of the courier company. Now, let’s take a closer look at the tracking number formats you may encounter when shipping:

United States Postal Service Tracking Number

The U.S. Postal Service employs several tracking number formats to accommodate its diverse services. Here are some possible USPS tracking number formats:

All Possible USPS Tracking Number Formats

ServiceSample USPS Tracking Number
USPS Tracking9400 1000 0000 0000 0000 00
Priority Mail9205 5000 0000 0000 0000 00
Certified Mail9407 3000 0000 0000 0000 00
Collect On Delivery Hold For Pickup9303 3000 0000 0000 0000 00
Global Express Guaranteed
82 000 000 00
Priority Mail Express InternationalEC 000 000 000 US
Priority Mail Express9270 1000 0000 0000 0000 00EA 000 000 000 US
Priority Mail InternationalCP 000 000 000 US
Registered Mail9208 8000 0000 0000 0000 00
Signature Confirmation9202 1000 0000 0000 0000 00

USPS Priority Mail Tracking Number Format

The Postal Service’s Priority Mail shipping option is one of the most popular, as it offers flat-rate pricing for mail items weighing up to 70lbs with reliable next- to three-business-day delivery.

Packages you ship through this service will have a tracking number format of 22 numerical characters arranged in five groups of four numbers followed by two digits. For instance, 1234 5678 9101 1121 3141 51.

What Do USPS Tracking Numbers Start With?

The beginning characters of a Postal Service tracking number vary depending on the specific USPS service. However, domestic mailpiece tracking codes usually start with numbers, while international ones begin with two letters representing the mail class.

Track USPS Parcel

To access a parcel’s tracking information, visit the USPS website and head to the tracking page. Talk to a Postal Service representative for additional information on USPS tracking numbers

You can use FindPostOffice.org’s locator tool to find post offices in your area.

UPS Carrier Tracking Number

When shipping with UPS, you’ll likely receive a “1Z” UPS tracking number. These identifiers will have a format of 18 alphanumeric characters following a specific sequence.

Here’s an example of a 1Z tracking code:

1Z – 999999 – 01 – 23456789
  • UPS tracking numbers generally start with the “1Z” prefix.
  • Following the prefix are six digits, representing the shipper’s account number.
  • Next, UPS assigns a two-digit code indicating the UPS service level.
  • The tracking number will then end with the package’s unique identifier.

The UPS service level indicator is a two-character code representing the specific UPS package delivery service. For instance, “01” indicates UPS Next Day Air. At the same time, a “42” service level indicator means you’re shipping through UPS Ground with the required signature confirmation.

However, UPS tracking numbers may also come in other formats, including the following:

999999999999T9999999999999999999

UPS Mail Innovations Tracking Numbers

The UPS Mail Innovations solution offers reliable delivery times at an economical price by utilizing the U.S. Postal Service for the last leg of the shipping. When sending a parcel through this service, you’ll receive a tracking number that observes the following format:

MI – XXXXXX – NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN

UPS Mail Innovations tracking numbers begin with the “MI” prefix, indicating the Mail Innovations service. It’s then followed by a six-digit customer number, then up to 22 alphanumeric characters uniquely representing the package.

UPS Next Day Air Tracking Number Format

If you’re mailing a package through UPS Next Day Air, which boasts next-day delivery for items up to 150lbs and 108in long, you’ll receive a 1Z tracking number with a “01” service level indicator.

Track UPS Parcel

As mentioned, tracking systems can vary depending on the courier company. In UPS’ case, you can monitor up to 25 packages simultaneously via their tracking or reference numbers.

DHL Carrier Tracking Number

Like other shipping service providers, DHL (Dalsey, Hillblom, and Lynn) employs various tracking number formats depending on the specific service and purpose. Here’s a breakdown of DHL’s package identifier formatting:

  • DHL Express: For DHL Express parcels, you’ll typically encounter a 10-digit tracking number starting with 000, JJD01, JJD00, JVGL, or something similar.
  • DHL Parcel: Tracking codes contain 10-digit alphanumeric characters beginning with 3S, JVGL, or JJD.
  • DHL Global Forwarding: The DHL Global Forwarding service offers various tracking number formats to cater to their diverse services. These formats include the following:
    • Tracking numbers with only seven-digit numbers
    • Alphanumeric combinations beginning with one number, two letters, and four to six numbers
    • Sequences that commence with three or four letters followed by a dash and eight digits

DHL Ecommerce Tracking Number Format

DHL eCommerce provides domestic and international mail delivery for high-volume business customers. When shipping through this service, you’ll receive a 10- to 39-alphanumeric tracking number that includes prefixes like GM, LX, RX, or a five-letter combination. 

Track DHL Parcel

To monitor your DHL package’s status and whereabouts, visit the DHL Track and Trace page. For additional information on DHL tracking, head to the DHL customer service webpage.

FedEx Carrier Tracking Number

FedEx tracking codes can come in 10-, 12-, 15-, 20-, and 22-digit formats. FedEx exclusively uses numeric characters to create unique package identifiers, unlike other courier companies.

FedEx Ground Tracking Number Format

FedEx Ground mailpieces typically have 12 numeric characters making up their tracking number.

FedEx Ground is a cost-efficient shipping option that offers one- to five-day delivery in the contiguous U.S. and three to seven days to Alaskan and Hawaiian addresses. 

FedEx SmartPost Tracking Number Format

FedEx SmartPost or Ground Economy tracking numbers predominantly comprise 22 digits, which typically look like the following:

9212345678910111213141

This 22-digit identifier is two tracking numbers into one. The entire sequence is the FedEx SmartPost shipment number. 

In contrast, the numbers after the “92” prefix form the parcel’s USPS tracking number. The reason: FedEx SmartPost is a collaboration with the U.S. Postal Service.

Track FedEx Parcel

Although you can monitor your FedEx mailpieces using their tracking numbers, FedEx also lets you stay informed about your packages’ shipping statuses via references and Transportation Control Numbers (TCN).

DPD Tracking Number Format

As mentioned, tracking numbers also benefit recipients. If you’re expecting an international shipment via DPD (Dynamic Parcel Distribution), now Geopost, you may encounter one of four formats:

  • 10 digits
  • 12 digits
  • 14 digits
  • 14 digits and 1 letter or digit

DPD Tracking Number Example Format

To give you an idea of what to expect, here are some sample DPD tracking numbers:

052189625196020522799463279005228964284282P
013270361018910101513416248001015134162471

XPO Tracking Number Format

XPO Logistics, Inc.’s tracking numbers are generally between 8 and 16 alphanumeric characters. For example, an XPO shipment’s identifier may look like 1234567890.

Pitney Bowes Tracking Number Format

The tracking number for Pitney Bowes includes the carrier, package, and customer I.D.s, creating a 22-digit alphanumeric identifier. While the format depends on the carrier used to ship your item, it follows a structure like PB1234567891011121314151.

ABF Tracking Number Format

ABF Freight System, Inc.’s tracking or PRO (progressive) number is nine characters long. You can use this tracking number to monitor your LTL (less-than-truckload) shipments or freight that doesn’t require an entire trailer.

SF Express Tracking Number Format

Like other tracking systems, SF (ShunFeng) Express tracking numbers follow a specific structure. They typically start with two alphabets, followed by 13 digits. Here’s an example: SF 1234 5678 9101 1.

4PX Tracking Number Format

When shipping with 4PX Express Co., Ltd., you’ll likely encounter a 13-character combination of numbers and letters, such as Lx123456789SG or Rx987654321CN.

Amazon Tracking Number Format

The Amazon tracking number format can vary wildly depending on the carrier they use to ship your purchased goods. However, the most common Amazon parcel tracking code has 12 digits. This identifier begins with a letter, preceded by nine numbers, and then another letter.

Asendia Tracking Number Format

The tracking number format for Asendia deliveries consists of 13 to 20 alphanumeric characters. However, Asendia shipment numbers can reach a maximum of 40 digits.

Royal Mail Tracking

Royal Mail’s tracking or reference number format comprises 9 to 27 characters. You’ll typically find this package identifier on the shipping label or your post office receipt.

Hermes Tracking

The tracking code for Hermes or Evri mailpieces is 16 characters long. Depending on where you are, you can use Hermes Live Tracking for the U.K., the “Hermes paket tracking” engine for Germany.

How to Track a Package: Track Any Package, Freight, and Shipment

Tracking a package and staying informed about its progress can be straightforward if you have the tracking number. Simply visit the courier company’s website, access their tracking page, and enter your parcel’s unique identifier.

How Do I Track International Packages?

You can use the carrier’s tracking page or website for international packages like you would with domestic mailpieces. Enter your international tracking number and receive real-time updates on your package’s journey.

However, it’s worth noting that monitoring international mail can be complex, as scanning capabilities and agreements with other countries’ postal agencies can vary from country to country.

How to Track an Online Store Parcel

Monitoring a purchased item from an eCommerce store isn’t all that different from standard parcel tracking. You only need to input the tracking number provided by the vendor for your parcel. Note that this tracking code will depend on the courier company handling your mail’s delivery.

Can’t Track Package for a Long Time?

If you cannot track your package immediately after receiving the tracking number, there’s no need to panic. 

The process of making a parcel trackable takes some time. The postal or courier company must process and sort your package before forwarding it along the delivery route.

However, if you’re concerned about a prolonged lack of tracking updates, you may want to contact your carrier’s customer service hotline. Conversely, you can visit a local post office. 

You can find your area’s nearest and most convenient Postal Service facilities with FindPostOffice.org.

Delivery Time

The delivery time for a letter or parcel can vary wildly depending on the shipping service provider and the mail class. Fortunately, tracking your item allows you to receive an estimated arrival date and put your worries to rest.

FAQs

  1. Do all courier companies use the same tracking number format?

Package delivery service providers have distinct tracking number formats. For instance, some carriers’ tracking codes only consist of numbers, while others may use an alphanumeric structure.

  1. How do I know the shipping carrier or shipping method?

Depending on the carrier, the tracking number may include codes that indicate the service level. For instance, UPS places a “01” code within its 1Z tracking numbers to indicate a Next Day Air package.

  1. What are the best package tracking sites?

Major carriers like USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL have their own tracking pages, allowing you to monitor packages shipped through them. However, third-party sites like Parcel Monitor allow you to track packages from various courier companies.

  1. Are there any special tracking numbers?

Some shipping services will have unique tracking numbers distinct from the courier’s standard offerings. For instance, FedEx’s tracking numbers are usually 12 digits long. However, its SmartPost shipments have 22-character tracking codes.

  1. When do we track the courier consignment number?

You should use the courier consignment or tracking number to monitor a package’s movement.

References

  1. Tracking Number Formats By Carrier – All You Need To Know
    https://geekzowns.com/tracking-number-formats-by-carrier/
  2. 5 Facts About FedEx
    https://uk.worldoptions.com/news/5-facts-about-fedex
  3. Shipshape: Tracking 40 Years of FedEx Tech
    https://www.wired.com/2013/04/40-years-of-fedex/
  4. USPS Tracking
    https://tools.usps.com/go/TrackConfirmAction_input
  5. Informed Delivery® – The Basics
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Informed-Delivery-The-Basics
  6. Priority Mail
    https://www.usps.com/ship/priority-mail.htm
  7. Tracking Number Formats By Carrier
    https://parceltracking.info/tracking-number-formats-by-carrier
  8. Track any package, freight and shipment
    https://parcelsapp.com/en/tracking
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    https://www.ups.com/us/en/support/tracking-support.page
  10. UPS Service Code | Simple Handy Guide
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    https://www.ups.com/track
  12. TRACK & TRACE
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    https://www.easyship.com/blog/dhl-tracking
  14. FedEx Tracking
    https://parcelsapp.com/en/carriers/fedex
  15. FedEx Ground
    https://www.fedex.com/en-us/shipping/ground.html
  16. FedEx Ground® Economy shipping
    https://www.fedex.com/en-us/shipping/ground/economy.html
  17. XPO logistics tracking
    https://www.ordertracker.com/couriers/xpo-logistics
  18. Pitney Bowes Tracking
    https://www.aftership.com/carriers/pitney-bowes
  19. ABF Freight Tracking Number
    https://www.ship24.com/couriers/abf-tracking/abf-tracking-number
  20. Amazon Tracking Number
    https://www.ship24.com/shops/amazon-tracking/amazon-tracking-number
  21. Asendia Track & Trace System
    https://onlinetrackingnumbers.com/v4/asendia-tracking/
  22. I need help with my reference number
    https://business.help.royalmail.com/app/answers/detail/
  23. Your Complete Guide to Tracking Services
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  24. Evri/Hermes UK Tracking
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