Decode LTL Freight Tracking Lingo

January 13, 2019

You've dotted the i's and crossed the t's with your freight shipment - from arranging proper packaging and accurately filling out all of the necessary paperwork, to declaring the correct NMFC freight classification - now it's on its way and out of your hands. But don't worry, less-than-truckload (LTL) tracking allows for you to stay connected from point A to point B.

In this post, we cover what LTL freight tracking terms you should know, how they play a part in the tracking process and the benefits of tracking for any business.


How to track your LTL freight shipment

No matter how much you plan, sometimes things can be derailed in the transportation of goods. With LTL tracking in place, you can easily log onto your computer and adapt to unforeseen delays (like bad weather, accidents, or traffic) and adjust expectations.

While there are many ways to keep tabs on your items, one of the most efficient ways is plugging the bill of lading (BOL) number into your carrier or service provider's website. The BOL is also crucial to the LTL shipment process as a whole. It is required to move freight shipments and serves as a receipt of goods between a freight carrier and shipper.

A number of line items make up the BOL, including:

  • Shipper and receiver (consignee) names and complete addresses.
  • PO or special account numbers.
  • Specific handling instructions (as needed.)
  • Shipment dates, shipping units and measurements.
  • Packaging types (crates, pallets or drums.)
  • Description of goods.
  • Declared value of items.


However, if the BOL isn't handy, most major carriers and freight service providers have online resources to track items with other assigned numbers:

  • A transportation management system (TMS): a software that stores shipping information and also provides tracking capabilities. A TMS is designed to save shippers time and money through useful benefits such as simplifying the carrier selection process or making important routing decisions.
  • Pro number: the carrier assigns this unique identifier once the shipment has picked up. While located on the BOL, this number can be found on other shipping documents and used to trace items during transit. The Pro number is usually accepted as the industry standard LTL tracking number.
  • PO number: this key reference number, usually assigned by the purchaser, ties together all paperwork and communications regarding a specific purchase, including payment.
  • Shipment reference number: an identifier that shippers establish. The reference number could be a purchase order number, a customer number, a company name, a BOL number or even a phrase that distinguishes the package (i.e. gift for Mom or 5 crates.)
  • Shipment number: typically assigned with the creation of the freight shipment request.
  • Date range of pickup times: calendar window indicating the date that freight was picked up.


Other LTL documents to consider

Keep track of all the paperwork that goes into the shipping process for your records, since they can be valuable resources for future LTL shipments. Also, if there is damaged or lost freight - having these documents readily available makes freight claims much less daunting.

Things to note:

  • Quote summary: a breakdown of services.
  • Original invoice: details of price associated with the shipment.
  • Proof of delivery: enhanced tracking feature that allows you to know what time items arrived at their destination and who signed for them.
  • Lumper (loading or unloading) receipt: records truck number, driver name, business name, shipper and receiver locations, fees and required signatures.
  • Weight ticket: outlines freight descriptions, priority, ship quantity, purchase order, order number and customer contact.


Benefits of freight tracking

Plenty of customers take shipping into account before they make a purchase. A large part of what makes a shipping experience a good one is transparency.
Freight tracking allows the shipper to see where the freight is and communicate with the carrier. Shippers can then get a better estimate of how long their shipment will take to be picked up, be transported, arrive at the intended destination and whether or not they can expect delays along the way.
From there, it becomes much easier for shippers to alert customers as to where their shipment is. Having an up-to-the-minute, transparent conversation going will ultimately play a key role in shippers creating a positive experience for their customers.


Final thoughts

Being able to track shipments is incredibly helpful, and LTL carriers typically offer tracking capabilities throughout in-transit shipment phases including pick-up, stop-offs and delivery.

While there is a lot of lingo to learn and documents to understand, we hope this post helps you navigate the process of tracking LTL freight while your shipments are in transit. Tracking shipments is made easier with online tracking tools such as the ones Freightquote by C.H. Robinson provides.

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