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What Does USPS “In Transit Arriving Late” Mean?

What does the USPS “In Transit Arriving Late” status update mean? You just received this alert and now you’re wondering where your package is and how late it’s going to be.

Could USPS be more specific? And what do you do now?

Let’s take a look…

What Does “In Transit Arriving Late” Mean?

lots of clocks in the sky

As far as tracking updates go, this one is at least quite descriptive of the situation at hand.

An “In Transit Arriving Late” status alert means that your USPS package has been delayed and will not be delivered in time.

Unpacking it further, the “In Transit” means that the mail item is within the USPS infrastructure at least.

“Arriving Late” means that the package is going to miss delivery in line with either a scheduled delivery date or the estimated delivery window offered by the level of service used.

The main question you might have after receiving this update, however, is when will the package arrive and what caused the delay.

Why is My “In Transit, Arriving Late” Package Delayed?

frustrated woman

There are a number of reasons your package might be delayed. Everything from peak seasonal disruptions to Covid-related short-staffing can have an impact.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.

1. Bad Weather

In Transit Arriving Late

Incremental weather has a widespread impact due to the various elements of logistics it can affect.

Bad weather can cause traffic congestion on the roads, accidents, and technical failures, and limit access to and from facilities, post offices, and addresses.

No matter how far your package has to travel, incremental weather can have a detrimental impact any step of the way.

2. High Mail Volumes

packages on a conveyor belt

An expected increase in mail volumes will disrupt the flow of deliveries and cause delays. Again, this singular issue has a knock-on effect throughout many areas of logistics.

Whether it means the package not fitting onto a scheduled truck or plane and having to wait for the next one, to bottlenecks in the sorting facility, disruptions in the flow of packages due to high volumes will cause delays. 

3. Customs Clearance Delays


If yours is an international package, delays in the customs clearance process will often impact delivery times.

There are so many variables involved with the customs process (read one of our guides here), that to cite them all here is beyond the scope of the article. Needless to say, if your package is held up in customs there will be a delay.

That being said, any USPS customs clearance issue should be communicated via specific tracking updates.

4. Technical Issues

packages on a conveyor belt

Technical issues cover everything from packages not being scanned, (labels applied incorrectly or a mis-scan at a facility), to the breakdown of equipment or vehicles.

Tracking updates will very rarely alert customers to the specifics of the technical issue. The impact, once again, will be a delay in the delivery time.

5. The Pandemic

covid mask delivery man

Although the impact of the pandemic is finally abating, staffing levels, lockdowns, and disruptions along the whole length of the logistical supply chain have been a factor in delays over the last 2 years.

The current war in Ukraine may also start to have an impact on deliveries to and from Eastern Europe.

How Long Until my “In Transit Arriving Late” Package Arrives?

How long In Transit Arriving Late USPS

So we’ve covered some of the reasons why your package is stated to arrive late. The important question now is how long should you expect to wait before it arrives?

This obviously varies.

An issue with customs clearance can involve the need for more information from you or the shipper.

Extra paperwork or tax/duty may be due. You will not receive the package until this has been resolved.

An item that has been scanned incorrectly might still arrive on time.

Once the USPS system has been updated with progress from the next completed scan it could be that the item is on its way to you within the suggested delivery window.

Delays caused by weather or technical issues will vary in length and seriousness.

Essentially, it is difficult to predict how long you will have to wait. It is important to pay attention to the tracking updates for information, however.

What Should I Do if I Receive an “In Transit Arriving Late” Tracking Alert?

girl frustrated on computer

When you first receive the update we recommend that you simply wait. The fact you have been sent the alert in the first place shows that USPS is aware that a delay is occurring.

In many cases, time will resolve the issue. You will either receive a later update with an adjusted delivery date, or the delay is resolved and the package will still arrive within the original delivery window.

As mentioned above, while you wait it is a good idea to keep an eye on the USPS tracking information to see if there have been any other updates.

These will hopefully keep you posted on progress, (with the news being positive and the package being on its way to you.)

What to Do if the Alert Remains Stuck on “In Transit Arriving Late”?

In Transit Arriving Late

If several days pass and your tracing status remain on “In Transit Arriving Late”, you should get in touch with USPS Customer Services or go online and complete a Help Request Form.

Cite your tracking number and along with other details and postal staff will start looking into what might have happened to your package.

Filing a Missing Mail Search Request

Missing Mail and Lost Packages USPS

If after 7 business days after submitting the online help request you still have no package, you can begin a “Missing Mail Enquiry Request”.

This involves providing all the information you have about the missing package (see details in the screenshot above) and making an online submission.

The submission process involves creating a free USPS customer account. USPS will then begin a formal investigation into what happened to the package.

Your USPS Missing Mail account is the best way to remain updated on progress. USPS will inform you of the final resolution via this and through direct email.

If the package is not found you can begin looking into recourses such as a claim and compensation.

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