FedEx offers the opportunity for shippers to track just about every package as it moves across the globe. The vast majority of those packages — some 98 percent in 2017, even during peak season — arrive on time. Shippers and customers alike can use a tracking number to watch packages travel from one fulfillment center to the next. They can even get a notification when the package is on its way to the customer’s door.

But sometimes FedEx tracking doesn’t work as well as it’s supposed to. In these cases, a shipper or customer uses their tracking number to try to check the status of a package. But instead of the information they’re used to, they see a note about a “shipping exception.”

A variety of things that happen during shipping can trigger these “exceptions.” Sometimes it’s simply a mistake. But at other times, it should alert shippers to potential late deliveries and other situations they should communicate to their customers.

What is FedEx Tracking and How Does it Work?

FedEx tracking looks very similar to tracking offerings from its competitors. Each parcel is assigned a unique tracking number and barcode. The parcel is scanned each time it arrives and leaves a FedEx facility. (If you’re using SmartPost, the FedEx-USPS joint service, you’ll see its arrival at the post office too.) After delivery, FedEx will upload an image of the recipient’s signature, a copy of the FedEx Freight Bill of Lading, or another document proving delivery.

The shipper can use the tracking number to find out exactly where the parcel has been and how long it was there. Large shippers can track shipments by purchase order numbers or reference numbers. Government shippers can use their Transportation Control Number. FedEx provides updated estimated delivery times throughout the process.

FedEx offers a mobile app option for tracking on the go. The company also offers InSight, which allows higher-volume shippers to monitor the tracking details of inbound and outbound shipments without tracking numbers. InSight includes downloadable data about shipment status and shipment content, which can be helpful for future planning. Additionally, InSight alerts shippers “of critical events that affect your shipments,” the company says. If a shipment is delayed, the shipper will get a notification and can contact their customer if necessary.

Both basic tracking and InSight are free, so there’s no reason not to experiment with them. But if you’re notified of a delay or a change you don’t understand, it’s important to know what your options are.

FedEx Tracking Help

What if FedEx is Late?

A small percentage of packages arrive late, no matter what. It’s rare enough that you may not have experienced it as an e-commerce customer, but common enough that you’ll almost certainly experience it as a shipper.

If FedEx delivers a package late — even just by a few minutes — your contract most likely says you are entitled to a refund. Read FedEx’s refund policy in detail and note blackout dates and exceptions. To receive credit from FedEx, shippers must file requests for refunds within 15 calendar days (not business days) of the date on their invoice.

This is why it’s essential that every shipper creates a process for reviewing your invoices regularly: So you can collect refunds every time.

How Long is a FedEx Tracking Number Good for?

FedEx keeps tracking information available for 90 days after delivery for FedEx Express, Express Freight, Ground and Custom Critical shipments. FedEx Freight shipment information remains available for two years after delivery.

FedEx does recycle tracking numbers, so if you want to download shipment data linked to a given tracking number, make sure to do it within that window.

Can you Track a FedEx Package Without a Tracking Number?

Yes. You can track the status of FedEx shipments using your account number and references that you assign to shipments yourself. These packages still have tracking numbers, but the shipper has the option to rename them in a way that they find more useful.

FedEx InSight is a tool for FedEx customers that allows you to track your shipments from a centralized portal, rather than looking up parcels one by one by tracking number.

If a shipment includes many individual pieces, FedEx assigns each parcel a tracking number, but makes one of those the “master tracking number.” You can use that number to track all associated pieces of the shipment.

How to Call FedEx Tracking Number Lookup Service

If you know your shipment’s approximate ship date, destination postal code, and the reference you assigned to the shipment, you can track it without a tracking number or an account number. If you have an account number, you can use that to track shipments as well. InSight also allows tracking without having to keep track of tracking numbers.

How can you Talk to a FedEx Representative?

No one likes to call customer service. And often, you don’t need to. For example, if you see that an exception code has been assigned to one of your shipments, look at the “scan activity” section to figure out what it means. Packages that are undeliverable because of an incorrect address, damaged barcode, or a need for a signature often trigger exceptions. So do major weather events. Typically FedEx is able to manage these problems and deliver the package within a day or two — and your time is best spent filing a claim for any refund you’re owed.

If you do want to talk to FedEx directly, you can use the virtual assistant at www.fedex.com/en-us/customer-support.html or call 1-800-463-3339.

Can you Contact FedEx Drivers?

Generally speaking, no, it is not possible for a shipper to contact a driver directly. And in most cases, the driver probably wouldn’t have the answers you’re looking for — they’re simply completing their route as efficiently as they can.

The Importance of FedEx Shipping and Tracking

Although the majority of FedEx shipments arrive on time with no problems, sometimes delays do happen. And when they do, you should be able to communicate what happened and why to your customers. Remember, they’re as used to super-reliable shipping as you are — and are likely tracking their orders themselves too. If something goes wrong, they’ll want to know almost as quickly as you do.

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