Package Tracking Sucks

All the major package carriers, even the USPS, offers some form of package tracking. They all work slightly differently, and all have their plusses and minuses, but they all suck. Why? It doesn’t have to be that way, if only they’d make an effort to provide more visibility into routing information that most of them already have.

I think in part it has to do with consumers not demanding more information. While within minutes of a failed delivery the online trackers are updated, there’s this huge black hole from the time a package is loaded onto a truck and when delivery is attempted. Last year I read an article on how UPS uses computerized routing to help increase efficiency. Everything from the truck loading order to the exact route to take to deliver packages is pre-determined. If a package is missed, the driver is notified.

So why can’t this information be provided to people tracking packages? A spokesperson in the article says a residential delivery should take 30 seconds, steering wheel to steering wheel. Combine that (or even a fudge factor) with the number of packages loaded on the truck on scheduled before the specific one being tracked, and you have the “non-driving delay”. Factor in an approximate travel time between stops, which it would surprise me if they didn’t already know down to at least a 5 minute window. Update periodically throughout the day, especially since successful and failed deliveries are already being reported back with a time of (non)delivery. Now, instead of just knowing that your package is “Out for Delivery” as of 6:35 AM, and having it be delivered randomly between 11:30 AM and 8:00 PM, you can now see that your package has an “expected delivery window” of 4:00-6:00 PM.

Am I picking on UPS? No, they just happen to be the one that I remember reading about having the type of infrastructure that could handle this with probably just changes to their web interface. FedEx, DHL, and maybe even the USPS (though it’s more likely they show up at a specific time every single day) could implement the same thing. In fact, I’d be surprised if FedEx and DHL didn’t have similar automated routing and planning systems1 already in place. As all three major carriers seem to be able to update quickly in the event of a delivery or failure to deliver, it’s not even an issue of adding more equipment to the delivery vehicles.

Online package tracking used to be a differentiator between services, but now everyone does it. Is a finer-grained view of when the packages are expected to be delivered the next step?

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  1. Though FedEx seems to have completely separate facilities for Ground, Express, Home, etc. Having basically bought other delivery services to get into the various markets, this makes some degree of sense, unless you’re a customer trying to pick up a package, and discover “the” FedEx facility you’ve been to several times isn’t the one that your package has been sitting at for several days… And that the facility it is sitting at is inexplicably not listed at all on the FedEx site. No, I’m not still slightly annoyed about that in the slightest.[back]

7 Comments

  1. Heh, should have known that the USPS would be behind the curve. It’s not really surprising, now that I think about it, since they have a LOT more vehicles and locations to have to worry about upgrading. And come to think of it, USPS package tracking in general seems a lot less useful, as I think every single time I’we tried their tracking, nothing’s been available at all until after the package was delivered… View all comments by emag

  2. Got some USPS stuff coming in and trying to track them. It appears they only tell me when the stuff is picked up and when it leaves that areas postal hub. West coast to East coast, in the farmland, the so-called flyover country, in the corn rows, who knows where the stuff is. . .

    And they wonder why I’m not around to accept delivery. View all comments by itpdude

  3. I’ve worked at a FedEx Ground facility in Orlando, Florida. Their tracking is excellent, at least in theory. Whenever it moves on a conveyor belt its scanned and automatically sorted. Trucks are loaded and unloaded by hand, and I’d have to say, I’ve watched them lay a carton labeled “Fragile” “Glass” flat and stand on it to load other things into the truck, not once, but pretty much religiously. All those spoofs you see as a comedy bit are pretty much accurate, short of beating the stuff with a baseball bat. Actually, its rated as the country’s worst facility and if you’re there for more than 2 weeks, you’re already working on seniority. That said, I also looked into the UPS facility, and its not that much different. The facility was so dark and there’s so many head injury and trip hazards that the workers should be wearing one of those mining helmets with the light on them. And while they do appear to be far more cautious than FedEx as far as package handling, I’ve seen them drop an few items off the back of their cart and keep going.

    Couple distinctions between UPS and FedEx, FedEx drivers are all contractors, and UPS only hires them and most if not all other positions from the inside, and pretty much any new hires start off as package handlers. Also, you can only work at UPS once, so if you quit leave or w/e, don’t expect to come back, or at least that’s what they claim. View all comments by Dude

  4. One day I was getting a package from FEDEX it never came. I check online delivered to some one that don’t even live in the area. They must have delivered it to some one walking by my door. I never see that item again. an other time I will was waiting for a package. When I came home from work and I check online and it said delivered. I still did not got my package. So I knock on every body door and nothing. One guy came out of his house almost getting ready to fight me because I knock on his door asking about a package. Then I call, they said there is some thing wrong with the FEDEX computer. Great!!! They said it had gone back to the sender and an other time I came home to find my neighbor kids play with my package. What the F*CK!!!!! And my other package on the floor in the office were any body can take and it take two different FEDEX Driver to delivery two small package in one day. So I call them and they said if your don’t home they will give your package to your neighbor or office with out you knowing about it. View all comments by Fedex Sucks azz

  5. Yeah, none of them are any good. I currently have a package coming my way via UPS. It had five status updates on May 5th between 6pm and midnight alone. Since then there has been nothing and today is the 8th.

    So either the tracking info is totally uneven and unreliable or my package has been waylaid in Washington state for several days. I don’t like either of these possibilities. View all comments by Max

  6. I ordered a PC from Dell on February 5th and FED EX indicated that the PC was shipped on the 6th. As of today (Feb. 11th) their site indicates it is still in Texas, although the delivery date to South Carolina on February 12th. This isn’t the first time I have encountered this problem. They are as bad as the USPS. View all comments by Doc

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