The USPS periodically adjusts the wording that their tracking system uses. Currently, they seem to be preferring verbiage that says, “In Transit to Next Facility.”
When the USPS’s tracking system marks a piece of mail as “In Transit to Next Facility,” it’s actually just a placeholder message meaning, “We don’t have a more specific scan today, but rest assured, it’s en-route.” It shows up once a day when there has been no other scanning activity within the last 24 hours.
It most commonly shows up on packages sent via Retail Ground (or Parcel Select, which is the equivalent ground service for commercial shippers), since trucks and trains can take several days to cross the country and move parcels from one hub (Processing and Distribution Center [P&DC] or Network Distribution Center [NDC]) to the next, so there can often be a couple days between scans. It can also happen with some Priority Mail shipments, since the USPS contracts with FedEx to fly Priority Mail between P&DC hubs, which can sometimes take 36 hours or so, and FedEx doesn’t scan individual USPS packages in the course of carrying USPS bags and containers around the country.
I suspect the USPS added logic to their system to automatically insert an “In Transit to Next Facility” record to assure customers that their items haven’t been lost or delayed and help to prevent frantic phone calls or emails to the USPS’s customer service line when a new tracking result hasn’t shown up for a day or two.
I ship a lot of items to and from Alaska via Parcel Select and Media Mail, and those items spend about 8 days in transit between the Federal Way NDC and the Anchorage P&DC, since they travel by barge. The system only shows three “In Transit to Next Facility” records before it resorts to radio silence, and then the package finally (usually) gets scanned at the next facility on the 8th day.
Of course, it can also happen with some mailpieces that get missorted or lost. It seems the USPS has added logic to only show three “In Transit to Next Facility” records before giving up. Here’s a screenshot of a First Class Parcel Service package that was sent to me from Cleveland that took a very odd and circuitous route
Under normal USPS routing practices, it should have gone straight from the Cleveland P&DC to the Kansas City P&DC (in a mail bag put either on a passenger carrier or FedEx) before heading to Ozark. Oddly, it seemed to bounce back and forth between Cleveland and Akron before arriving in Indianapolis—while Indy’s en-route between Cleveland and Missouri, First Class mail is usually flown directly from origin to destination and wouldn’t show up at an en-route facility like that.
Anyway, it then showed up in the Springfield, MO “Distribution Center,” which is a few miles from its intended destination of my home, but the Springfield P&DC was closed several years ago and its operations are now handled in Kansas City, so that was odd. Then it proceeded to disappear for nearly two weeks. You can see the three “In Transit to Next Facility” records between March 11 and March 13, which then stop until the package finally made it to the destination post office on March 23. I guess they figure that after three days, the jig is up, and you’re probably not buying that it’s still moving (and maybe they’re OK with you calling to complain if it hasn’t actually been scanned in three days).