UPS is a prominent name in the logistics industry, specifically parcel deliveries, with an expansive network of more than 550 distribution facilities. These distribution centers play a crucial role in storing and organizing products before they embark on their final journey to their intended destinations.

Despite UPS’ best efforts, there are instances when packages may end up being misrouted. This can result in sortation delays, which is a status on UPS’s tracking feature, and could ultimately delay the delivery.

A sortation delay on UPS means that your package has accidentally been misrouted and UPS is in the process of resolving it. UPS resolved this issue by returning the package to the right distribution center, where it will undergo thorough re-sorting before being rescheduled for delivery to its intended address.

You will know that your delivery has been affected by a sortation delay if you see the following message on the UPS tracking page “We’re sorry this package has experienced a sortation delay. The package has been rerouted to the correct destination”. This message signifies that the package you are tracking has encountered a temporary setback in its sorting process.

Reasons UPS May Face Sortation Delays

Sortation delays with UPS can arise due to a variety of reasons, primarily stemming from either human error or system error. These errors can lead to packages being assigned to the wrong truck or distribution facility. Let’s delve further into these issues to gain a better understanding of how they occur.

Human Error

Human error is more likely to occur, especially during peak seasons when there is a significant increase in the volume of packages being processed and moved by UPS. The high-paced nature of operations during these periods can contribute to operational oversight. Let’s explore some specific instances of human error that can lead to sortation delays.

  • Incorrect loading, sorting, or storage – In the fast-paced operating environment of a distribution center, packages may be loaded onto the wrong conveyor belts, placed in the wrong bin, or stored in the wrong location. Due to this, packages may get assigned to the incorrect truck or facility, causing delays in their delivery.
  • Mishandling of packages – Occasionally, packages may be mishandled during the sorting process. This can involve rough handling, dropping packages, or improper stacking, leading to damage or misplacement.
  • Illegible labels – Packages with illegible or damaged labels pose a challenge for the sorting personnel. If the barcode or address on a package is unclear or unreadable, it becomes difficult to accurately scan and route it. As a result, these packages may need to be manually inspected, slowing down the sorting process and causing delays.

System Error

While less common than human error, system errors can occasionally occur within UPS’s automated sorting systems. These errors can disrupt the accuracy of routing and sorting packages, leading to sortation delays. Here are some specific instances of system-related errors.

  • Incorrect scanning – UPS relies on barcode scanning technology to identify and track packages throughout the sorting process. However, there are instances where scanning errors can occur. For example, a barcode may be smudged, damaged, or not properly aligned for scanning, resulting in incorrect package identification. 
  • Server issues – UPS operates a vast network of servers that facilitate the communication and coordination of package information. Occasionally, technical issues or server malfunctions can occur, impacting the seamless flow of data between different systems. This can lead to delays in package tracking updates or cause disruptions in the sorting process.
  • Software glitches or system malfunctions – Like any complex technology, the systems UPS uses are susceptible to glitches or malfunctions. Software bugs or system failures can disrupt the accurate sorting and routing of packages, requiring manual intervention and causing delays until the issue is resolved.

Why Is My Package Being Rerouted?

If you find that your package has experienced a sortation delay and has been rerouted, it means that during the sorting process, it was directed to an incorrect location or facility.

The reason for rerouting is to ensure that your package reaches the correct UPS facility that can service your area before it can ultimately be delivered to you. UPS then takes the necessary steps to return the package to the correct distribution facility.

From there, it is rescheduled onto another truck that is specifically bound for your delivery location. This process ensures that your package is rerouted correctly and can proceed toward its correct destination.

What Actions Can I Take to Resolve This Issue?

UPS package delays are typically resolved within a reasonable timeframe. However, it’s worth noting that certain circumstances, such as peak seasons or labor shortages, may result in additional delays or, in very rare cases, even package loss.

If you notice that your package has been through a sortation delay for longer than a week, it is advisable to take proactive action by reaching out to the UPS customer support team.  

How Can I Minimize UPS Sortation Delays from Occurring?

Unfortunately, sortation delays are beyond the control of both the sender and the receiver. The sorting and routing of packages are solely handled by UPS and are complex operations that involve various logistical aspects.

However, while you may not have direct control over the sortation process, there are some best practices that can be employed to increase the likelihood of a smooth and timely delivery of your package.

Tips for Recipients

If you’ve ordered something online or are expecting a package from someone, there are a few actions you can take to minimize potential delays. 

  • Plan Ahead  – If you are purchasing from an e-commerce platform, it is advisable to plan ahead, especially during peak seasons such as the holidays or major shopping events to minimize UPS sortation delays. By ordering your items earlier than you actually require them, you allow for additional time to account for any potential delays that may occur during the sorting and delivery process.
  • Use Alternative Shipping Methods – If you require your packages urgently and want to minimize UPS sortation delays, consider using alternative shipping methods that offer faster transit times. UPS provides services like UPS Next Day Air or UPS 2nd Day Air, which prioritize expedited delivery. These services typically have shorter delivery windows and may be more reliable, especially during peak shipping periods.

Tips for Senders

There are also various actions that shippers can take to ensure a smooth and timely delivery. Let’s explore these in more detail.  

  • Package & Label Packages Correctly – It is crucial to package and label your packages correctly. Proper labeling and packaging can help avoid sortation delays and ensure the smooth flow of your shipment through the sorting processes.
  • Offer Multiple Carriers Choices – If you are a seller on any platform, offering multiple carrier options to buyers can be an effective strategy to minimize UPS sortation delays and provide a more tailored shipping experience. Different carriers, such as USPS, DHL, FedEx, and others, have their own unique strengths, processing capabilities, and delivery schedules. By providing a range of carrier options, customers can select the one that aligns best with their preferences and requirements.

When Will My Package Arrive After A Sorting Delay?

The arrival time of your package after a sorting delay can vary depending on various factors. Once a sortation delay occurs, UPS will typically work to reroute your package and you should typically expect your package in about 3 to 5 days.

It’s important to mention that there are instances where UPS will require more time to resolve this; for instance, if it was misrouted to a location that is further away. If you are experiencing delays beyond this time frame, it is recommended to reach out to UPS directly to inquire about the new expected delivery date.

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Gerrit Poel

Co-Founder & Writer
at freightcourse

About the Author

Gerrit is a certified international supply chain management professional with 16 years of industry experience, having worked for one of the largest global freight forwarders.

As the co-founder of freightcourse, he’s committed to his passion for serving as a source of education and information on various supply chain topics.