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?
- 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]