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Parcel tracking number

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Postal operators and delivery services use a unique parcel code, a tracking number (postal identifier), or a tracking number to identify the parcel. This number is given automatically at the point of postal registration. Let's discover why a tracking number is so significant, finding all the information about it.

What is a tracking number?

A tracking number is a unique number or numbers, letters, or symbols combination identifying a package. One can easily recognize who sent the parcel, from which country it was sent, the country of destination, and information about the recipient using this number. The tracking number is given at the point of the parcel registration, not being changed through one mail operator.

Types & Formats of Tracking Numbers

The tracking number may consist of numbers, letters, and combinations thereof. There are four types of number formats:

  • Simple;
  • Complex;
  • Informational;
  • Combining.

Simple tracking numbers are consecutive numbers' or letter combinations, not containing additional information. Generally, this is a sequence of digits where a new number discrepant from the previous one is assigned to a new parcel. 1. For instance: # 00001 will be followed by the numbers # 00002, # 00003, and so on. A simple format is not secure.

Complex tracking numbers are not consecutive numbers' or letters' combinations being set according to the algorithm, and numbers do not contain any additional information. Such a format only allows you to find the following package number if you know the specific algorithm for generating tracking numbers. This format is more secure than a simple format, and it’s more difficult for scammers to pick up a tracking number to simulate sending fake goods. For instance, there is a format depending on the parcel registration time; it can also be attributed to various complex forms of tracking numbers—example of complex numbers: # 10000 following # 10010, # 10021, # 10033, etc.

Tracking information numbers are tracking numbers containing an information component. For instance, the number may indicate the package type, destination country, registration time, abbreviation, or name of the postal operator. For example: #2019-09-27-00001, # TNT12345678

Combining tracking numbers are numbers combining several formats' types. Generally, combining tracking numbers are used by all postal operators. For example, UR651776700CN (CN - country of departure China), EE509691436US (US - country of departure USA, E - express delivery).

How to find out the parcel tracking number?

The sender is the first one to know the data on the parcel number since the tracking number is formed when the parcel is sent. Full information about it must be indicated on the receipt or check:

  • Receipt number;
  • Tracking number (can be a QR/Barcode for quick scanning);
  • Sender (surname, address, country, phone number);
  • Recipient (surname, address, country, phone number);
  • Overall size & weight;
  • Description of the package contents;
  • The estimated cost of goods forwarded;
  • Contact details of the postal operator;
  • Additional requirements for the package.

Each postal operator can supplement the receipt with data at its discretion. An assembled receipt view is shown in the picture below:

Example of a postal receipt with a tracking number

The parcel sender must inform the recipient of the parcel tracking number. It is desirable to ask the sender for a scan of the receipt to make sure all the parcel data are correct.

The tracking number will appear automatically in your account after the goods are sent if the product was purchased at the trading platform (like AliExpress, eBay, Amazon, etc.). For instance, go to the "My AliExpress" > "Order List" section for AliExpress. Each of your purchases has an Order ID, a unique number for your purchase. There is a "View Detail" link next to the number, clicking on which all the complete information about the parcel will be available. The tracking number can be viewed in the "Logistics Information" section.

Generally, online stores track packages, notifying about changes in the corresponding status. But we advise tracking packages on our PostTrack website. You can add/import all your parcels from various online stores to the Parcel Manager. It is a guarantee your parcels will not be lost, being kept in one place. Unfortunately, you won't have to remember where and in which online store you ordered the goods.

Why may it be challenging to track the parcel by tracking number?

To determine the reason why it is impossible to track the package, you need to know:

  • Precise tracking number;
  • The postal operator to whom the package has been sent.

Common reasons why it is impossible to track the package:

  • The parcel has not yet been registered in the operator’s database (registration may take several days from the moment of its sending);
  • Error in entering tracking number (typos, excess or missing characters);
  • The parcel was deleted from the database after the term expiration;
  • An order number was mistaken for a tracking number;
  • Non-existent tracking number (scammers sending fake packages).

The parcel can only be found if the tracking number is entered correctly. Could you check the entered data's correctness for missing and extra characters? Typos are also often possible - the O letter can be written instead of zero. The T9 prompt system can replace characters when entering data, leading to incorrect spelling of the tracking number.

Postal operators and courier services are introducing new transportation services; your parcel can be sent and registered under a unique tracking number format that has yet to be used en masse. For such cases, you must select the postal operator or delivery service in the Carriers section, tracking the parcel specifically for this postal operator.

Suppose you encounter a fraudulent scheme when purchasing a product on a trading platform (AliExpress, Amazon, eBay, etc.) and receive a fake tracking number from the seller. In that case, you'll need to contact the trading platform support with a complaint about the seller, asking for a refund.

How to track the parcel by following the number without being aware of the delivery service?

If you are unaware of the delivery service to which the package has been sent, you can use the PostTrack service - an online package tracking system. PostTrack automatically detects carriers by tracking number, determining package location and status. The system allows you to save up to 40 items in the Parcel Manager for registered users. You will automatically receive information about the parcel location via e-mail, allowing you to control the process from purchase to receipt.

Why does my parcel have multiple tracking numbers?

Several delivery services can agree and conclude a cooperation agreement on mutually beneficial conditions. They create Various logistics routes according to their infrastructures as part of this cooperation, saving money and time during goods' transportation.

When sending a parcel by one postal operator, the recipient will receive it from another operator as part of this cooperation. In this case, the package is transferred from one delivery service to another, the number can be saved, or another one is registered in the second operator's (intermediary) system. The double tracking number comes from here. There are many cases when the country's national mail trusts the address delivery of international correspondence to local delivery services, which leads to the parcel registration with the second operator and the emergence of the following tracking number.

There are complex cooperation schemes where one package can have more than two tracking numbers, and PostTrack allows you to track packages with multiple tracking numbers. We identify the referring or following tracking numbers of the parcel, providing an opportunity to maintain sight of it while moving to the recipient.

Universal Postal Union (UPU) S10 standard for tracking numbers.

The Universal Postal Union is a specialized UN agency that unifies state postal operators from almost all countries. The Union has developed a standard for the S10 tracking numbers format, being compulsory for all Union members. This standard helps both to simplify and systematize international mail.

According to the S10 standard, the tracking number combines four components:

  • Prefix (2 characters);
  • Serial number (8 digits);
  • Verification number;
  • 4. Suffix (2 characters).

S10 Track Number Example: LL694649116CN.

S10 Track Number Example

The prefix (service indicator) is a combination of 2 Latin characters. Additional information about the package depends on the characters' variety. Here are some combinations for example below:

C*The package. CV - the package is insured.
E*EMS (Express Mail).
H*Sending e-commerce.
L*Trackable letters.
M*Letters.
V*Insured letters.

A complete list of prefix notations can be found in the official S10 Identification of Postal items. Identification of postal items official document.

If referring to the LL694649116CN number, then L* - means a letter with the opportunity to be tracked.

A serial number is a combination of 8 digits accepting values in the range from 00000000 to 99999999. If using the LL694649116CN example, the serial number is 69464911.

A verification number is one digit resulting from the verification algorithm, and the input to the algorithm is a serial number. A verification number is used to verify the tracking number while the package moves from one post office to another. Thereby, it is possible to detect an error promptly in case of the man-rating input protractions. UPU S10 tracking number validator

The algorithm is based on the weight factor of each digit in the serial number and the 11-weighted module. The weight factor is constants 8 6 4 2 3 5 9 7. The following is an example of the algorithm for the LL694649116CN tracking number, where 6 is the verification number.

Serial number:

69464911

Weight:

86423597

The product of both weight and digits of the serial number according to the category:

6x89x64x46x24x39x51x91x7
48541612124597
  • Summarizing the numbers
    48 + 54 + 16 + 12 + 12 + 45 + 9 + 7 = 203
  • Dividing the resulting number 203 by the weighted module 11.
    203 / 11 = 18, and the remainder is 5.
  • Subtract the remainder of 5 from the weighted module.
    11 - 5 = 6

The verification number is 6, (6 = 6) the number has undergone a checkout.

The suffix or country code is a two-character country code according to the international standard ISO 3166-1 from which the parcel or letter was sent.

Postal operators should generate unique tracking numbers that must be kept from being repeated within 12 calendar months. According to the standard recommendation, this period is 24 calendar months. But there are incidents when one tracking number refers to two packages sharing less than a year. In this case, you'll need to identify your parcel correctly. PostTrack will help you track packages even if the same tracking number links two packages.

Denys Sokolov
Hi Everyone. I'm Denys Sokolov am owner of Logic.Cool, a developer of Universal Parcel Tracker project and other online applications and mobile games. Please write me with any suggestions for improving the parcel tracking and management service.