Does UPS reuse tracking numbers?
Maybe you’ve made an order and the tracking seems to be giving you strange information.
Are you seeing details of an old UPS shipment? Is that possible?
Let’s take a look…
Summary: Does UPS Reuse Tracking Numbers?
Yes, UPS does reuse tracking numbers. The tracking numbering system currently does not have enough characters (i.e isn’t long enough or contains a sufficient mix of numbers and letters), to provide unique identifiers for all shipments since the UPS tracking database began. Because of this, expired tracking numbers are reused.
Does UPS Reuse Tracking Numbers? – Guide
As the summary above explains, UPS does currently reuse old tracking numbers.
This is due to the fact millions of shipments have been sent since the UPS tracking database began, and the system does not contain enough unique identifiers for every single package.
However, only expired tracking numbers are used, (i.e tracking numbers belonging to past shipments that have long since been delivered), so there is never any confusion over a package currently processing through the delivery network.
That being said, you may be alerted when your shipment is tagged with a reused tracking number because the details at the beginning will seem completely wrong.
- Related Content: UPS Tracking “Package Transferred to Post Office”
What Happens When Your UPS Package Has A Reused Tracking Number?
Essentially, when you first receive the reused tracking number, it may still contain the details of the original, expired shipment.
This is because UPS tracking numbers can be assigned before the package has actually entered the delivery network.
Before that first scan takes place, the old tracking number you have received will show the details of the previously delivered shipment.
So, you should only see the wrong details for a very short time.
In some cases, the sender may even warn you about this.
However, as soon as the current shipment is underway, (i.e has been physically scanned into the UPS network), the details will be updated and the tracking number will correspond to the correct order.
A Costco FAQ page even directly explains the potential issue, with an apology for any confusion that it may cause.
- Related Content: UPS: “Due to Operating Conditions, Your Package May be Delayed”
What Should you do if You Have a UPS Reused Tracking Number?
UPS recycled tracking numbers are a perfectly normal part of the network, and will not hinder the delivery of your item in any way.
In most cases, you will only know that it is recycled if you are checking the tracking from the very beginning of the shipment, (or the sender has informed you of such).
Your package will flow through the UPS delivery network just the same as if it were using a completely original and unique number.
In short, you have nothing to be concerned about.
- Related Content: “Departure Scan” – UPS Tracking Guide
How Long Before UPS Tracking Numbers are reused?
Tracking numbers are typically recycled between 18 to 24 months after the expiry of the previous shipment to use the same number.
However, the amount of time will vary on package volumes flowing through the UPS delivery network.
- Related Content: Why Does UPS Take So Long?
I’m a 25 year veteran of USPS. I’m retired now, but as the editor of Mailbox Master, I can’t quite remove myself from the carrier industry just yet. 🙂