What is a Tracking Number?

From well-known couriers to low-cost parcel delivery services, tracking is becoming more common than not nowadays.

Having a tracking number is essential if you want to track a delivery that is either headed your way or one that you send to someone else. This article explores how a tracking number works, where to find it and how to use it efficiently. 

How Does a Tracking Number Work?

Tracking Number

A tracking number is a unique Identification number (also known as a tracking ID) given to your goods when you ship or mail them. 

It makes it simpler to track your package’s location and shipment status. As the package travels through multiple hands as it moves from where you drop it off or have it picked up – such as a US post office, FedEx, or UPS store – until it is delivered, from the person who loads the box onto a truck to the person who delivers it to the receiver. The bar code is scanned at each station, capturing the product’s exact location.

A confirmation email is often delivered to your mailbox after you purchase from an online store. This email usually contains summary details about the item you just purchased, the price, and other details, but most importantly, it contains the tracking number. Simply click the provided link in the confirmation email to access it. If you cannot locate your tracking number or never received one in the first place, contact the customer care department and inform them of the situation.

You can also find the tracking number as a bar code on the shipping label, which anybody with a smartphone or bar code reader may scan. The United States Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx are a few of the carriers that use tracking numbers in the United States. The United States Postal Service and the European Postal Service employ the S10 (UPU standard) for international mailings.

How Many Digits Does a Tracking Number Have?

Each courier provider has a distinct format for the tracking number. In fact, each company has its own set of codes that are a combination of letters and numbers. 

Although unusual, it’s possible to encounter hyphens or blank spaces between the letters and numerals. Every character has a distinct significance; for instance, the initial digits may indicate the courier service, subsequent numbers may indicate the location, etc. The tracking numbers typically range in length from 8 to 40 characters.

Here are a few examples of the format of tracking numbers for several international courier services:


The UPS tracking numbers typically include 18 characters and begin with “1Z” most of the time. The UPS tracking numbers for international air waybills and air shipping documents do not begin this way.


FedEx Ground tracking numbers often have 15 digits, whereas FedEx Express tracking numbers typically have 12 tracking digits. There aren’t any letters in both cases.


DHL tracking numbers typically consist of 10 or 11 digits without any letters. Only 10 digits makeup DHL Express tracking numbers, such as 1234567890, or starting with “000,” “JJD01,” “JJD00,” or “JVGL” (e.g., JD0166666666).


USPS tracking numbers are often longer and consist of 20 to 22 digits only. The USPS Express Mail tracking numbers are made up of 13 characters that begin with two capital letters and end with the letters “US.”

Bonus Tip: Packages are given tracking numbers by postal providers as well. A few of them have tracking numbers that are pretty easy to recognize. For instance:

  • The tracking numbers for Singapore Post end with the capital letters “SG.”
  • The two letters “CN” at the end of each tracking number identify it as belonging to China Post.

How to Use Tracking Numbers

In essence, your tracking ID is what you need to monitor the whereabouts of your package at any given time. Are you trying to locate the tracking number for your package? There are a few options:

Look for it on your digital receipt after making a purchase, in your email, or in your text messages.

You can use your tracking number to determine the status of your delivery in two ways.

  • Call the delivery service’s customer support line. When you make that call, they will ask you for your tracking ID so they can help you figure out where your delivery is. Package tracking statuses are often as follows: departed, in transit, at the warehouse, delivered, and so on.
  • Make the most of your favorite online tracking tool to determine the location of your item in real time. You can quickly determine the whereabouts of your box with a reputable service, whether it be a stand-alone application for tracking FedEx parcels or an advanced all-in-one web tracker. Simply enter your tracking number, and a map will pop up indicating the precise location of your package.

If I Cannot Locate the Tracking Number, Is It Possible to Track a Package with My Name?

You could be wondering if you can track a package with your name since you misplaced your tracking number or haven’t received one yet. Unfortunately, not many courier services allow you to track your package using a name. Even if you have all the relevant extra information, tracing a package without a tracking number is sadly impossible if you only have the name.

While many people may know your real name, they do not know your address. There is a good chance that further personal information may be divulged if the courier services permit tracking a package by name.

Although the tracking ID is a unique number intended solely for you, it is not necessarily extremely secret information; so you should not post it on internet forums or other public spaces. Sharing the tracking ID may have some adverse effects, and you may not want to put yourself in such a predicament.

In Summary, Here’s How Tracking Numbers Work:

  • Your package has a distinctive barcode, just like every other package.
  • The package will pass through many transit points before reaching its final location.
  • It is going to be scanned at each point. This updates the tracking system and lets you know where your package is at any given time.
  • Due to how these tracking systems operate, issues may arise without affecting your delivery.
  • Ideally, tracking a shipment with a tracking ID works wonderfully, but occasionally issues arise. However, it doesn’t always mean that your package is lost or damaged if you don’t know where it is currently.

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