Tracking numbers are essential to any shipment and serve as identification numbers for packages.
They also hold important information about packages – information needed to fulfill services and complete every delivery.
Since millions of packages are being shipped out daily with only a finite number of digit combinations, USPS does reuse numbers.
Here’s What You Need to Know About USPS Tracking Numbers:
USPS tracking numbers normally contain 22 digits and are valid for only 120 days – unless they are for signature packages or the shipper paid for USPS Tracking Plus, wherein the validity is extended. Because there is only a limited number of combinations, USPS reuses and recycles tracking numbers.
Can USPS Use the Same Tracking Number More than Once?
By default, USPS tracking numbers for non-signature packages have a validity of 120 days.
For signature packages, tracking numbers are valid for two years. This means that you can view the package tracking information can be viewed during that particular period.
In addition, shippers can purchase USPS Tracking Plus for a small fee. This gives them extended access to the package tracking history for an additional period of 6 months up to 10 years.
When a tracking number’s validity period has elapsed, you will no longer view the tracking information of the package that was associated with it.
The US Postal Service can use the same tracking number more than once.
Since only a finite number of 22-digit combinations and millions of packages are processed and shipped daily, USPS can reuse and recycle tracking numbers once they have passed their validity period.
How Long Before a USPS Tracking Number is Reused?
Most USPS tracking numbers expire after 120 days. This means you can no longer view any tracking information about the package once this period has passed.
It takes a minimum of 4 months before a USPS tracking number is reused.
Because there are millions of packages being shipped daily by USPS, you can expect a tracking number to be used more than once in a span of one year.
If the volume of packages being processed and shipped is quite high, then a tracking number can be reused more than once.
This means that a tracking number can be assigned to 3 different packages within the same year.
Can Two USPS Packages Have the Same Tracking Number?
Every USPS tracking number is unique, wherein two packages cannot have the same tracking number at a time. However, two packages can still have the same tracking number if they are shipped at least four months apart.
Since tracking numbers are only valid for up to 120 days, they can be reused and recycled.
The USPS tracking number that was assigned to your package can now be assigned to a different package at least four months later.
If you have a tracking number for a package that you sent last year, it may be assigned to a different package now.
So if you enter it into the USPS website, it will show tracking information that no longer corresponds to your package but to a more recent shipment.
What Happens When the Same Tracking Number is Reused?
It’s normal for USPS tracking numbers to be reused.
With the high volume of packages being shipped daily and the limited number of tracking numbers that can be assigned to them, you can expect that the US Postal Service reuses these numbers.
When a USPS tracking number is reused, then the old tracking data associated with it is overridden once the postal service scans a new package with that same tracking number.
Any old data assigned to that tracking number will be wiped clean. Then it will be replaced with new data that is associated with the new package.
So if you try to look up an old tracking number from a package that you sent months or years ago, you shouldn’t be surprised to see tracking information on a newer package that was assigned with the same tracking number.
What To Do If a Tracking Number Corresponds to Another Package?
While the US Postal Service reuses and recycles tracking numbers, you are unlikely to get a tracking number for your package that would also correspond to another package.
No two packages would have the same tracking number simultaneously.
All tracking numbers are unique because a single tracking number will never be assigned to two packages simultaneously. This has never happened in USPS, and it is unlikely to ever happen.
Tracking numbers are recycled at least after 120 days or four months. This is when their validity period has passed, and you can no longer view the old tracking information assigned to them.
If you do have an issue with a package that you shipped through the US Postal Service, it is best to contact your local post office by phone for a quick resolution.