FAQ About Shipment Tracking

Sep 12, 2018

Tracking packages and shipments lets the sender and the intended recipient follow the items virtually through the transportation process. Using a unique series of digits assigned to the shipment, the sender and intended recipient can follow its travel via an automated telephone system or the carrier’s website. Some online retailers offer tracking within their e-commerce site.

Problems can occur though. Shipments get lost. Sometimes they get misdelivered. This set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) provides information and potential resolutions to shipment tracking issues that could arise.

1. What are the main US shipping firms?

A: In the US, the main package shippers include: Dalsey Hillblom Lynn (DHL), Federal Express, United Parcel Service (UPS) and United States Postal Service (USPS). Freight shippers and marine carriers are not as succinctly named since hundreds of companies offer truck hauling and marine shipping, also known as container shipping. Some of the largest container shippers include NYK, Evergreen Marine and CMA-CGM. Each of these firms uses its own proprietary shipment tracking system. Some systems use a mix of letters and numbers, while others use only numerals. To track a package online, visit the appropriate carrier’s website.

2. What is the difference between a freight or shipping broker, a freight forwarder and a motor carrier?

A: These three compensated positions or firms each perform a separate duty in the shipping process. A freight or shipping broker makes transportation arrangements for another entity’s property using motor carrier services. The broker does not take responsibility for the property or move it themselves.

A freight forwarder provides transportation for property. It assembles, consolidates and distributes shipments using motor, rail or water carriers. It does take responsibility for the property during its transport from its shipment location to its destination.

A motor carrier provides actual transportation of passengers and/or property. By using a motor carrier, an individual may accompany the property transported.

3. What does it mean if the package tracking number shows no movement for a few days?

A: If a package seems to have stopped at one point in its delivery travels, it indicates a delayed or lost package. Check for potential delays first. Carriers usually update their websites with weather delay updates or transportation issues, such as delayed planes. If the site doesn’t discuss a weather or other delay, phone the carrier. It can place a trace on the package within its system. This often includes a human searching the package processing area in which the tracking number was last logged.

4. What if the tracking number shows that the package was delivered, but it’s missing?

A: Shipment tracking isn’t infallible. An incorrectly entered track number at any point in the process can lead to a lost or delayed package. It only takes one wrong digit to cause an issue. The same applies to the drivers who are only human. Simply reading a house number incorrectly can result in a package delivery a few blocks off from its intended location. Phone the carrier to determine to what location the package was actually delivered.

5. What if the customer has no tracking number?

A: It is often possible to still track a package or shipment without a tracking number. Use the shipper's reference number instead. This is a unique identification mechanism that may include both letters and numbers. It could be the purchase order number. If the carrier cannot track the shipment using this information, contact the company that shipped it to obtain the tracking number using the shipper’s reference number.

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