Helpful information on how mail tracking works, terminology, reports, TrackMyMail™ products and much more.
How Mail Tracking Works
What is the Intelligent Mail® barcode and how does that enable mail tracking?
The Intelligent Mail® barcode is the next generation of USPS® barcode technology. It is used to sort and track letters, flats and periodicals. Intelligent Mail® barcode technology, along with other data, combines the capabilities of the POSTNET™ barcode and the PLANET Code® barcode into one unique barcode.
PrecisionTrack™ uses the power of the Intelligent Mail® barcode to track every piece of mail to its unique destination, even when there are multiple recipients at a single address. Every piece in a mailing will have its own unique tracking number, a “license plate,” that identifies it.
At what point does the USPS® scan mail?
Mail is scanned at various points as it travels through the mail stream. TrackMyMail analyzes this scan data and creates reporting that includes in-process scans as well as projected in-home delivery dates.
Does each mailpiece have a unique IMb?
TrackMyMail will assign a unique 9-digit tracking ID (also referred to as the Serial Number) for each mailpiece. We will also provide the correct Service Type Identifier (STID) and a TrackMyMail Mailer ID (MID) as part of the IMb.
Will every piece of mail with an Intelligent Mail® barcode (IMb) be scanned?
While scan rates of 100% are unlikely, letter size mail consistently scans at around 90% or better, while flat size mail performs at an overall average of around 70%. Please note that flat scans often vary, depending upon the sort level of the mailpieces and the availability of equipment at USPS facilities.
What is Stop-the-Clock?
Stop-the-Clock is a type of USPS® Operation Code. Operation codes indicate the specific sort operations being performed by the USPS®. When a mailpiece is processed with a Stop-the-Clock code before 10:00 a.m. it is likely that it will be delivered the same day. TrackMyMail utilizes Stop-the-Clock codes as part of the algorithm to determine the projected in-home date for a mailpiece.
How does TrackMyMail determine the in-home date of the mailpiece?
The estimated in-home projection is based on:
- The type of mail
- The time and date of the scan by the Postal Service™
- The type of scan (Operation Code)
As mail travels through the Postal Service™, Intelligent Mail® barcoded pieces are assigned an Operations Code that relates to the different levels of sort operations performed. These operations codes are provided to TrackMyMail as part of the scan tracking data we receive at the mailpiece level. To determine an estimated in-home date, our system applies an algorithm to the scan data that identifies Stop-the-Clock operation codes, and considers the time and date of the scan as well as the type of mail.
How do I create the IMb?
There are several options in creating an IMb. If TrackMyMail has assigned your IMb, we will provide the components of the barcode (i.e. the STID, the MID, the range of tracking ID’s) or we can build each IMb for you and return it in an encoded file. The file will contain both the numeric version (up to 31 digits) and the 65-character letter string. Because the IMb is not human-readable, we recommend a printed sample be sent to TMMCustomerService@pb.com and/or your local postal facility for review before mailing.
If your software or addressing system has an IMb encoder installed, the numeric version provided can be used to create the barcode. If you need direction in creating your IMb’s, please contact TrackMyMail Customer Service at any time for assistance at (888) 444-9972, Option 1 or email us at TMMCustomerService@pb.com
Do I need to use my mailing software to create my IMb’s?
No. There are a number of choices with TrackMyMail to facilitate creating IMb’s. You can use the job creation function on www.trackmymail.com Or it is also acceptable to incorporate the assigned barcode values, create the IMb and generate a Mailing Detail file using third-party mailing software or your own methodology for IMb management.
Do I need to upload or download files?
No. A Mailing Detail file is not required, but is recommended, in order to enhance the reporting available in your PrecisionTrack™ job.
I have a number of jobs I need to track. Are there any tools to make it easier to create multiple jobs?
Yes! TrackMyMail has multi-job and multi-version options to make your order entry on multiple jobs easier.
Do I need to track every mailpiece in my PrecisionTrack™ job or can I sample a portion of the job?
Sampling is available if you create your own IMb’s. Be aware that when you choose to sample you lose the forwarded mail and UpdatePro™ capabilities for all untracked pieces.
Where can I find technical documentation on how to use the service?
Go to our Resources page or contact Customer Service at TMMCustomerService@pb.com.
Types and Classes of Mail Tracked
What types and classes of mail can I track?
The classes of mail that can be tracked are First-Class Mail®, Standard Mail® and Periodicals. Both letters and flats can be tracked. TrackMyMail does not track parcels.
Can I track carrier route-sorted mail using Intelligent Mail® barcodes? How about non-automated mail?
Scan results can vary for mail that is presorted at the carrier route level and depends upon the postal facility’s established processes for handling this mail. Destination scans on carrier route mail are more likely as origin facilities will most likely not remove the individual pieces for scanning. We advise testing your carrier route mail to determine how well it will scan.
Non-auto mail prepared with an IMb can be scanned. Depending upon the “Job Creation” method you are using with Trackmymail, a minimum of five digits for the POSTNET™ value may be required for the IMb.
Can I track Bound Printed Matter using TrackMyMail?
Bound Printed Matter (BPM) is a subclass of Package Services. TrackMyMail does not track packages or this subclass of packages.
Reports and Data Available
How current is the tracking data displayed on TrackMyMail?
The Postal Service™ transmits updated tracking results to TrackMyMail electronically on a continuous hourly schedule. Most scan data is delivered throughout the evening beginning at 10:00 p.m. EST and finishes around 11:00 a.m. EST.
How long will my mail be tracked?
A mailing will be tracked for 45 days from the mail date you provide when the order is placed. Detailed USPS® scan data is kept for 90 days.
How long can I view the results?
Scheduled or On-Demand reports are available for 45 days. The USPS® data download and single piece look-up function is available up to 90 days from your mail date. After 90 days, single piece look-up, single piece reports and the USPS® raw data download is unavailable. Job summary reports by in-home date, State, SCF and all other online views are available for two years. Contact us at (888) 444-9972 Option 2 to speak with your Sales Representative about other options if you need to retain job summary data for a longer time period.
What types of reports are available?
TrackMyMail offers a variety of reporting options for both inbound and outbound mail. Contact us at (888) 444-9972 Option 2 to set up a demo with your Sales Representative to view and discuss how the available reports can benefit your organization.
What are daily scan notifications?
“You’ve Got Scans” is a daily email notification that will let you know which jobs of yours are receiving final scans. Email notifications are sent daily after all of of our scan updates have been processed. This report will show last scans in addition to cumulative scans for all active jobs selected for the current day.
“You’ve Got Scans” notifications are only sent for individual jobs when the notification option has been selected during the Job Create process. Other reports include the Critical Jobs report and the Late Mail report.
The Map of Results isn't color-coded and I am unable to view percentages by state, etc.
The map colors and percentages by state represent the percentage of pieces with scan activity compared to the mail quantity for the state. For calculations and colors to display, a Mailing Detail file is required to be uploaded to TrackMyMail (name and address details are not required for this feature).
What is the Forwarded/Returned Mail report?
Depending upon the class of mail and/or instructions provided via an endorsement on the mailpiece or the Service Type ID of the barcode, the USPS® may forward a piece of mail or return to sender. When this occurs, the routing information in the IMb will change, but the tracking ID will remain intact. When PrecisionTrack™ sees this, the mailpiece is labeled as forwarded and will be included in the Forward Mail report. If the mailer has provided TrackMyMail with the ZIP+4™ of the return address, those pieces being routed back to the sender will be identified as Returned Mail.
Will I get the address to which the mail was forwarded like I do with Address Change Service?
No. The Forwarded Mail report will only provide the updated POSTNET™ portion of the IMb if available. Address corrections are available through TrackMyMail’s UpdatePro™ service, although not all forwarded mail will necessarily get a correction.
Why do the records listed in the UpdatePro™ report differ from those listed in the Forwarded Mail report?
The updated address information in the UpdatePro™ report is based upon address change notifications filed with the Post Office™. The TrackMyMail Forwarded Mail report simply reports any departure from the original reported POSTNET™, and does not necessarily indicate that a change of address has occurred. Forwarded Mail reports DO NOT require Address Change Service on the mailpiece.
I've received returned pieces—why aren't there any results displayed in the Forwarded Mail report?
The return ZIP+4™ must be populated in the job details in order for returned pieces to be identified as returned. Without the return ZIP™ entered for a job, all forwarded and returned pieces will be displayed as forwarded.
In the Forwarded Mail report, why are only POSTNET™s listed under the "old address" but the other fields are blank?
The Forwarded Mail report populates these fields based on the data contained within the upload (Mailing Detail file). If name and address information is not included in the uploaded file, the only information available for display is the POSTNET™.
Which columns of my upload are required to utilize the Forwarded Mail report?
The Customer Unique Identifier and POSTNET™ columns are required fields.
I've tracked my mailing and I'm unhappy with the delivery time, and/or it appears that some pieces have not been delivered. What recourse do I have?
While the Postal Service™ does have service standards it tries to meet, it does not guarantee delivery within any particular timeframe. If you are unhappy with the delivery time, contact customer service at your local Post Office™, or have your mailing service provider make contact for you. Most TrackMyMail reports can be printed to provide information on delivery results that can be helpful if there is a problem.
UpdatePro™—Address Change Service
What is OneCode ACS® and how does it work?
OneCode ACS® is a way for customers using the Intelligent Mail barcode® to receive automated address corrections. The type of address correction desired is encoded in the Service Type ID (STID) of the IMb. As the mail is being processed by the USPS® and an updated address is identified, pieces that include ACS™ instructions are forwarded, returned or destroyed (depending upon the STID used) and an electronic record with the new address is sent to the ACS™ subscriber.
What are the differences between the available ACS™ options with TrackMyMail?
Please refer to the following link from our Resources page—Address Correction Service (Options and Endorsements):
NOTE: Placing an endorsement on the mailpiece not specified in the instructions provided by TrackMyMail may result in unexpected results, including additional charges.
The option to select Address Change Service (ACS™) for my mailing isn't available.
Please contact Customer Service for assistance at (888) 444-9972, Option 1.
What are the available export formats for UpdatePro™ reports?
CSV and Excel formats are available.
Full Service Option
Am I ready for the Full Service option?
TEM testing (USPS® Test Environment for Mailers) must be completed before you can begin using the Full Service option. If you haven’t yet completed the testing, the Basic Option will be used.
In addition to TEM Testing, approval of all of the USPS® guidelines for submitting a Full Service mailing must be met before a mailing can be submitted using the Full Service option. These USPS® guidelines can be found at: USPS Intelligent Mail Guides and Technical Specifications
When you are ready to begin using the Full Service option, you will be given Account/User permissions by TrackMyMail to select Full Service options in the PrecisionTrack™ system.
Can I use my own Mailer ID?
Yes, you may use your own six-digit MID and assign the IMb’s to be tracked by TrackMyMail. However, this option is limited to Full Service participants until January 22, 2012. Please contact Customer Service at TMMCustomerService@pb.com to learn more.
How is IMb uniqueness managed for Full Service?
To meet the requirements for Full Service, the IMb's uniqueness is determined by a combination of the MID and the tracking ID (Serial Number) within a mail class. The 15-digit MID/Serial Number combination must not be repeated in mailings of the same mail class within 45 calendar days of the mailing date. Mailpiece uniqueness is not enforced across mail classes, meaning a piece of First-Class Mail® and a piece of Standard Mail® could carry the same 15-digit MID/Serial Number combination within the 45-day uniqueness period. However, two pieces of First-Class Mail® must not have the same 15-digit MID/Serial Number combination if the pieces are to qualify for the Full Service option. It is important to utilize the values assigned by TrackMyMail for each IMb in order to comply with this requirement for uniqueness.
How many digits are in the IMb and what do they mean?
The IMb generally contains 31 digits, although it may have as few as 20. This is okay—the encoder will always turn it into 65 bars.
The elements of the IMb are:
- Barcode Identifier
Digits 1-2: Except for flats using an optional endorsement line, these first two digits are typically “00”. Please refer to our Resources page for additional USPS information on the intelligent mail barcodes.
- Service Type Identifier
Digits 3-5: Indicates the type of mailing (i.e. Full Service or Basic, with or without Confirm®, instructions for ACS™, etc.)
- Mailer ID
Digits 6-11: The MID is an assigned identification number from the USPS® (example "000874")
- Serial Number or Tracking ID
Digits 12-20: This is the unique mailpiece identifier.
- Routing Code
Digits 21-31: An IMb can be created with 0, 5, 9, or 11 digits in the routing code. A minimum of 5 is recommended and required for some TrackMyMail job creation methods. Please keep in mind that delivery point requirements for USPS® automation standards still apply.
How do I determine where the Intelligent Mail® barcode should be printed?
Click here to see diagrams showing acceptable placement of the IMb. Additional postal requirements and information about IMb placement can be found at: USPS Intelligent Mail Guides and Technical Specifications
Do I still need to print a POSTNET™ barcode?
No. If you are using an Intelligent Mail® barcode the routing code portion of the barcode is used by the USPS®.
Is there a check digit in the IMb?
No. The error detection is built into the encoder.
Are there framing bars on an IMb?
No. The IMb may start with any of the four types of bars.
I can read a PLANET Code® or POSTNET™ code manually. Can I do the same with the IMb?
The IMb is not a human-readable code. A barcode scanner is required to interpret the barcode.
How can I check to be sure I’ve printed my IMb correctly?
We suggest that mailers purchase a hand scanner for quality assurance purposes. There are a number of models that will read the barcode. TrackMyMail Customer Service will be happy to make suggestions. We also encourage you to submit a PDF sample with your initial IMb to TMMCustomerService@pb.com and consult with your local USPS facility.
How do I submit sample mailpieces for approval?
TrackMyMail will be glad to provide a test scan on sample Intelligent Mail® barcodes. We also accept scanned images sent to TMMCustomerService@pb.com. When submitting samples, it is critical that you provide:
- The Job ID and Job Title.
- Contact information so that we can call or email you with results
In checking your samples, we will use a hand-held scanner to scan your barcode for readability only and will provide the resulting barcode number components to you. If you provide all of your Intelligent Mail® barcode values or your Job ID in the email sent to Customer Service, we will also verify that the printed values are also the assigned values.
NOTE: We cannot assure that other characteristics such as background reflectance and barcode placement will be in compliance with USPS® regulations. A successful scan indicates that the Intelligent Mail® barcode can be read by our scanners. TrackMyMail does not assume responsibility for barcode issues which occur in production, or those that might impact scan results. Our goal in scanning a sample barcode is to be certain that the correct process has been followed in order to print the assigned TrackMyMail barcode values. Other barcode quality issues should be confirmed with your Mailpiece Design Analyst.
If an IMb scans correctly with a hand scanner, does that mean it can be scanned by the USPS®?
Not necessarily. Hand scanners will generally only confirm that the numbers are correct. They have much greater tolerance than USPS® testing and processing equipment. Your local USPS facility will be able to provide approval for your barcodes.
How do I create a PrecisionTrack™ Account?
Log onto www.trackmymail.com and click “create an account” at the top of the page. Complete the online registration and create a new user ID and password.
How do I create a PrecisionTrack™ Job?
PrecisionTrack™ provides you with a variety of options for working with the IMb, depending on what level of detail you want and how much of the process you want to do yourself. The basic steps when using our Job Create function are as follows:
1. Download and install the 4-state font from the resources page of TrackMyMail. It is a TrueType font. Make sure your addressing equipment is compatible with this font. You will be printing it in a 16-point type size.
2. Log onto www.trackmymail.com using your PrecisionTrack™ user ID and password.
3. Click on the “Create New Job” tab.
4. Select the client from the client drop down window.
5. Choose the type of tracking that is needed.
6. Select the job type and click on the “next” tab.
7. Type in the following mailing details:
a. Job ID: (For example, internal job number and/or mail date are often used as job ID descriptions)
b. Job title:
c. Total Pieces Mailed:
d. Tracked Pieces:
e. Date Mailed:
f. Class & Size of mail:
g. Return Address - ZIP +4™: (used for Forwarded Mail report) The value entered in this field will need to be the same as that in the return address of the mailpiece (you must enter a minimum of the 5-digit ZIP™). When this field is populated in the job details, it will be used to report mail that is not deliverable as addressed and that the USPS® will return it to the Return Address on the mailpiece. If this field is left blank, all mail (forwarded and returned) will be reported as forwarded mail.
h. In-home Date Start and In-home Date End:
These are not required fields, but can be used for the Critical Date report.
8. Click Next
9. Select Reports. Checking these boxes will enable you to receive Daily Scan reporting, the Late Mail report and the Forwarded Mail report.
10. Verify your billing information and click on the “next” tab.
11. Review and verify the mailing details. If any adjustments need to be made, click on the “previous” tab. If not, click on the “Submit Job” button and the job will be created.
The next screen is your job confirmation screen where you have two options:
Option 1: If you have chosen to have TrackMyMail append your IMb’s, the screen will prompt you to upload your file. You can do it when you create the job or return to it later. Click here for the required file structure. After you have uploaded your file, you will receive a confirmation that your upload has been successful. You have now created your PrecisionTrack™ job.
When your file has been processed and the IMb’s are assigned, you will receive an email with a link to retrieve your file. You must be logged into PrecisionTrack™ when you click on the link. You can now download or save your encoded file. Click on the link for the encoded file format.
Option 2: If you have chosen to create your own IMb’s, you can now download a file which will contain the first 20 numbers of the IMb for each record. You will add the routing ID or POSTNET™ to this number to complete the IMb. In no case should any of the tracking ID’s you assign be greater or smaller than the values shown in your job. Please contact Customer Service if you are not certain of how to use these ranges with your software. For more details on creating your own IMb’s please refer to our Resources page and select the option How to Upload Files to Precision Track.