Where’s my LTL shipment? A step-by-step guide to tracking your LTL freight
Anyone who’s placed an online order for household goods is familiar with the standard package tracking process: You receive an e-mail notification when your item ships that provides a tracking number for your delivery. Through the carrier’s website (FedEx, UPS, USPS, etc.), you can enter that number and see where your item is along every step of its journey, all the way until it reaches your door.
But what about tracking a much bigger delivery—say, less than a truckload of goods? LTL freight tracking is a lot more involved than following a single Amazon package. Your goods often travel on multiple trucks, leaving you unsure of their exact location at a given moment. Many carrier tracking systems are unequipped to follow specific parcels or pallets on a given truck. Plus, weather, accidents, terminal delays, and other unforeseen circumstances can cause delays on route from the warehouse to the delivery’s final destination.
You need a reliable way to track LTL freight to be able to plan for and accommodate these kinds of events. Here’s a step-by-step guide to LTL shipment tracking, so that your next LTL delivery is smooth sailing.
1. Register with Your Shipping Partner
Unless you typically handle your freight bookings over the phone, it’s likely that you created some sort of online account when you quoted or booked your LTL shipment. If not, this is the time to make sure you’re set up in your partner’s system so you can receive an account number, PRO number, or other such identifier to use when your shipment begins its journey.
2. Complete an Accurate BOL
In LTL shipping, your bill of lading (BOL) is your first and last defense against lost or mis-delivered freight. It contains specific identifying information about your shipment, including:
- The shipper’s and receiver’s names
- The origin and final destination addresses
- The shipment’s weight and dimensions
- Packaging information
- The freight’s declared value
- A detailed description of the included items
All of these details act as bread crumbs along the trail your delivery makes from its first load to its last unload, which is why an accurate bill of lading is critical for tracking freight. If any items are wrong, your goods can get lost and it may be difficult to track.
You should also make sure you have the original quote summary and invoice for the shipment, as well as copies of its weight ticket, in case your BOL becomes lost or damaged.
Pro Tip #1: The Flock Platform creates an accurate, downloadable BOL straight from the info you input for your shipment… so you don’t have to stress about costly mistakes!
3. Attach GPS Tracking Beacons (Optional)
Most carriers’ tracking information is actually freight truck tracking, rather than individual parcel tracking. Your pallet is logged when it enters and leaves the truck, but there’s no way for you to know where it sits on the truck, or where it’s being stored at a terminal until its next travel leg.
If your cargo is especially high value—or you simply want absolute clarity on where your items are at any given time—consider investing in individual freight tracking beacons. Attached to your pallets, they’ll ride along with your cargo to every terminal, providing an accurate picture of your specific freight’s location.
These LTL freight tracking devices often have weeks’ worth of battery on one charge, so it’s unlikely you’ll need to worry about losing power. One downside to consider, though: Depending on your relationship with the receiver, these may end up being one-time use. Though they’re relatively inexpensive, if you’re unable to retrieve your GPS freight tracker, make sure your budget can absorb the cost.
4. Track with Your PRO Number
Once your items have left your loading bay, let the LTL shipping tracking begin! While some carriers may use the information taken from your BOL, such as an account number, most will provide a specific freight tracking number, called a PRO number. This will be your easiest ticket to find information about your shipment.
Using your carrier-provided PRO number, log into their platform and retrieve details about your freight’s whereabouts. If your carrier doesn’t offer online tracking, you may be able to email your account manager or a customer service department. If needed, you can also call your carrier directly.
Lost your PRO number? Depending on your carrier and the system they use, you may also be able to use information such as your:
- Purchase order number
- Customer reference number
- Shipment reference number
Pro Tip #2: The Flock Platform provides up-to-date freight tracking information plus a dedicated account manager and customer support team to get you the tracking information you need ASAP.
Avoiding Delivery Delays
One of the main reasons why LTL freight tracking is so important is due to the large possibility of delays delivery that’s inherent with less-than-truckload shipping. Because your items are constantly shifted from truck to truck, with frequent offloads and waiting periods at terminals, you’re at a higher risk of slowdowns and missed deliveries.
One way to avoid this is the more expensive full truckload (TL) shipping. But what if you could ship via TL and still pay LTL rates? Enter: FlockDirect.
FlockDirect is our premium shipping service that pools your LTL freight to provide full truckload service at the same competitive LTL rate. Our algorithm identifies the most efficient route and matches you with the right carrier to customize your service. And since your goods travel directly to its destination, tracking is especially easy—no offloads or delays at terminals to worry about.