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LTL shipment tracking

01.07.2020 | By AJ Todd | 5 min. read

Where’s my LTL shipment? A step-by-step guide to tracking your LTL freight

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Anyone who’s placed an online order for household goods is familiar with the standard package tracking process: You receive an e-mail notification that provides a tracking number for your delivery when your item ships. Through the carrier’s website (FedEx, UPS, USPS, etc.), you can enter that number and see where your item is at every step of its journey, 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 shipments often travel on multiple trucks, leaving you unsure of their exact locations at any given moment. Many carrier tracking systems are unequipped to follow specific parcels or pallets. Plus, weather, accidents, terminal delays, and other unforeseen circumstances can cause delays between the warehouse and 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 identifiers to use when your shipment begins its journey.  

2. Complete an accurate BOL

In LTL shipping, the bill of lading (BOL) is your first and last defense against lost or misdelivered freight. It contains specific identifying information about your shipment, including:

  • The names of the shipper and receiver
  • The addresses of the origin and final destination
  • 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 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: The Flock Platform creates an accurate, downloadable BOL straight from the information 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 actually accounts for freight-truck tracking, rather than individual parcel tracking. Because carriers log your pallet when it enters and leaves the truck, there’s no way for you to know where your freight sits in the trailer or where it’s 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 ride along with your cargo to every terminal, providing an accurate picture of your shipment’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, freight-tracking devices may end up being one-time use. Though they’re relatively inexpensive, make sure your budget can absorb the cost if you’re unable to retrieve your GPS freight tracker.  

4. Track with your PRO number

Once your items have left your loading bay, let the LTL shipment tracking begin! While some carriers may use the BOL information, such as an account number, most will provide a specific freight-tracking number called a “PRO number”. This is the easiest way for you to find information about your shipment.

Using your carrier-provided PRO number, you can log into the 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 the customer service department. If needed, you can also call your carrier directly.

Lost your PRO number? Depending on your carrier and its system, you may also be able to use your:

  • Purchase order number
  • Customer reference number
  • Shipment reference number

Pro tip: 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 that LTL freight-tracking is so important is the large possibility of delivery delays that are inherent with less-than-truckload shipping. Because carriers constantly shift your items 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 forking over more money for truckload (TL) shipping. But what if you could ship via TL and still pay LTL rates? Enter: shared truckload service.

Flock Freight® is the only logistics provider to guarantee shared truckload (STL) service, also known as FlockDirect™️. When you book our shared truckload solution for shipments that measure 10-44 linear feet and under 36,000 pounds, our proprietary algorithms pool your freight into one truckload with other shippers’ goods that are moving in the same direction, giving you TL service at a fraction of the cost. Our algorithms identify the most efficient route for your shipment to travel on and match you with the right carrier for your service. And since your goods travel directly to their destination, tracking is especially easy — no offloads or delays at terminals to worry about.


Shared truckload service: the key to increased tracking

As we explained before, shipments that move through the LTL network suffer from very poor visibility. TL shipping, on the other hand, has much better visibility because electronic logging devices can locate trucks (and, therefore, shipments) throughout their entire journey. Flock Freight’s shared truckload solution boosts visibility and tracking for LTL-size loads by keeping freight on one truck during transit — the way TL shipping does — and skipping hubs and terminals entirely. 

With the enhanced tracking of shared truckload service, you’ll always know where your shipments are and be better prepared to manage delays should bad weather or other unpreventable circumstances arise. The ultimate benefit? Having the information you need to guarantee on-time delivery for every shipment.

Get better tracking with shared truckload service to deliver on time, every time.