Everything You Need to Know About Tracking Freight With A PRO Number
Freight shipping moves fast. You need to source quality carriers to deliver your freight. You also need to monitor their progress, ensuring your freight arrives on time and without damage. But with so many shipments going out every day, it’s tough to keep an eye on everything. Lose track of one and it could cause big headaches for your supply chain.
It’s time to get on board with better data. Want better insight on your transit times and shipment status? Track your shipments with a PRO number.
Often shortened to just “PRO” in freight jargon, most consumers have actually used a PRO number without realizing it. PRO numbers are used to track the status of a shipment from start to finish. If you’ve ever ordered a package from Amazon and tracked it, you’ve seen PRO numbers at work.
What is a PRO number?
Depending on who you ask, PRO is short for “progressive rotating order” or “progressive number.” It’s a 7-10 digit number that carriers use to track and organize shipments. Shippers like yourself use the PRO to view pickups, stops, and deliveries.
It’s the best way to get a high-level view of where your freight is and when it’s expected to be delivered. In fact, most LTL shippers use PRO and it’s considered the industry standard for tracking. Some carriers use bill of lading numbers (BOL) or pickup numbers, but by and large, you can expect your carrier to use PRO.
Technically speaking, the PRO number isn’t your tracking number. It’s a component of the tracking number. It’s paired with a Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) to form a longer tracking number or barcode. Every carrier has a unique four-character SCAC, which is set by the NMFTA. It not only identifies the shipment, but the carrier transporting that shipment.
You use the PRO and the SCAC code to form a barcode. This is the scannable code that carriers place on pallets before shipping. To update the tracking status, they simply scan the code and the online tracking system sends you an update from start to finish. Simple, right?
Why do we use PRO numbers?
But why do we bother with PRO numbers? Can’t everyone create their own tracking numbers? While you’re generally free to set up your own tracking system, standardization with a PRO number benefits your shipping operation.
1. Standardize and simplify
No one is saying you have to use a PRO number, but because so many LTL carriers and shippers use PRO, it’s beneficial that you use it, too. It cuts down on miscommunications and eliminates the need for you to track multiple tracking numbers. That’s a recipe for confusion.
PRO numbers simplify everything. And because everyone recognizes them, you’ll eliminate a lot of friction during the freight shipping process.
2. End to end transparency
Where’s your stuff? If you don’t have a tracking number, you’re relying on blind faith that your carrier will push the freight through on time with zero problems. This likely isn’t your first rodeo, so you know how quickly things can go awry in freight shipping.
PRO number tracking gives you more transparency into the shipping process. Instead of sitting back and feeling helpless, you can view the shipment status at any time. It’s the easiest way to manage expectations and check on your freight.
3. Improved communication
What if bad weather delays your carrier? With a PRO number, you’ll know that there’s been a delay in your freight delivery. This gives you time to communicate with your supply line, making adjustments before you have a full-blown catastrophe on your hands.
How to use a PRO number
The best practice is to use a PRO number when you ship LTL freight. Never used a PRO number before? Here’s how the process works.
1. Creating the PRO number
Your carrier will create the PRO number and pair it with their SCAC to create a barcode. They’ll share that PRO number with you for your records, too.
2. Placing the PRO number
Once they generate the PRO number, the carrier places it on the bill of lading and shipping labels. They usually place the PRO number on the outside of a pallet for easy scanning as it goes from point A to point B.
3. Consolidation (if needed)
But what happens if you have multiple pallets with different PRO numbers? If that happens, for the sake of clarity, your carrier may assign one PRO number that’s used just for tracking purposes. After all, scanning 50 different PRO numbers at every stop is tedious. One number simplifies things.
You can now use that PRO number to track your shipment. You can do this through your carrier’s web portal, email, text, or through your TMS.
Process PROs like a pro
Always know where your freight is going. Understand the ins and outs of PRO numbers and how shippers can use them to increase shipping transparency.