Delivering your products cannot be done on blind faith alone. That’s why it’s important to work with a company that allows for reliable, transparent, and frictionless freight tracking.

Companies with well-oiled supply chains are better positioned to meet consumer demands, especially during times of crisis. Surveys show that during times of crisis, consumers will buy from any brand that can supply essential goods.

Transparent, effective freight tracking helps ensure a positive shipping experience which generates repeat customers – and ultimately benefits your business.

How Does Freight Tracking Work?

In a nutshell, it’s safe to assume a package needs to move from Point A to Point B.

  1. Order confirmation. Shippers pick an established, trusted carrier to move their shipments. These can be a third-party logistics (3PL) provider, broker, or carrier directly to move their freight. After establishing the lowest shipping rate, the shipper will confirm the order with the shipping company.
  2. Order Numbers. After order confirmation, the carrier assigns each package a Progressive Rotating Order number (PRO) – perhaps the most important element in the tracking process.
  3. Bill of Lading. The carrier adds the PRO number to the shipment’s Bill of Lading (BOL). The BOL is a document that contains all of the shipment’s information, including the shipper and receiver’s names, pickup and delivery addresses, dimensions and weight, packaging information, value, and a description of the goods.
  4. Generate shipping labels. The carrier combines the PRO number with its Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) to form a scannable barcode. Carriers place these shipping labels on the outside of each pallet for easy scanning.
  5. Freight is ready to ship.

Depending on whether freight moves via less-than truckload (LTL), truckload (TL), or shared truckload (STL) service,

Once loaded, the shipment will either travel directly to its destination or make multiple stops along the way depending on the the method: less-than truckload (LTL), truckload (TL), or shared truckload (STL) service.

Every time the carrier loads or unloads the shipment, the shipping label is scanned. This updates the freight’s location automatically within the carrier’s tracking system, which allows shippers to track freight from pickup to delivery.

Essential Freight Tracking Terminologies

It’s helpful to understand what each delivery update actually means. Here’s a quick shipment tracking glossary for you.

  • Estimated delivery: When providing a rate quote, the shipping company gives you an estimated delivery date by estimating the delivery date according to the scheduled pickup date, and the distance to the freight’s final destination.
  • Ordered: You (the shipper) have confirmation and agree to use a particular company to transport your shipment.
  • Dispatched: The carrier is on its way to the agreed pickup location.
  • Picked up: The carrier has successfully picked up the shipment!
  • In transit: This lets you monitor your shipment’s last known location, allowing you to watch its progress from pickup through delivery.
  • Out for delivery: The shipment is out for delivery, and will arrive that day.
  • Delivered: The carrier has successfully unloaded the shipment and delivered it to its final destination.
  • Shipment delayed: This could happen for any number of reasons, and may be within or outside of your control. Investigate the cause of delay, then inform the rest of your supply chain partners so they can prepare for a change of plans.
  • Refusal by consignee: Again, there can be several reasons for a consignee delivery refusal. For instance, the consignee may require a delivery appointment (which should have been noted), or may require a liftgate (and the delivery truck lacks one).

The Differences Between TL, LTL, and STL Tracking

If you fully understand LTL and TL shipping methods, it may be immediately apparent why TL tracking is more accurate than LTL shipment tracking. If not, more:

LTL

Despite low costs and its appeal to shippers that aren’t able to fill a complete truck with their freight, standard LTL shipping is a bit convoluted.

LTL freight travels through the hub-and-spoke system on its way to delivery, stopping at multiple hubs and terminals and trans-loading at each one. The very nature of this method increases the risk of damage along what can be a convoluted route.

In context, LTL tracking is about as complex as the network it travels through.

TL

TL shipping is also known as “Exclusive Use”, from the fact that the truck moves freight from a single shipper without shared delivery space.

TL shipments are load-to-ride, meaning once a package enters the truck, it doesn’t exit until it reaches its the final destination.

Because the freight is only handled at its origin and destination, the risk of damage for exclusive-use shipments is far less than that of LTL shipments. TL tracking is also much more accurate than LTL tracking thanks to minimal number of stops and parties involved.

Ever since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandated the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) back in 2015, tracking truckloads is more accurate than ever.

ELDs automatically record and upload truck locations to carriers’ fleet management software, helping dispatchers stay on top of truck status in real time.

With this accurate tracking technology, locating TL freight (which never leaves the trailer) is easy, especially when compared to pinpointing freight moving via LTL service.

STL

Shared truckloads move LTL freight using the TL method, meaning packages only load and offload once therefor avoiding trans-loading at terminals.

Because shared truckload shipments skip the hub-and-spoke system entirely, they’re much easier to track than LTL shipments.

Final Thoughts On Freight Tracking

As you can see, freight tracking requires a significant amount of expertise and technology. As a business owner though, a better understanding of the landscape, and the pros and cons of its methodologies, will ultimately help you make better, qualified decisions.

At Brimich Logistics, we dedicate ourselves to providing our shippers with the best, most frictionless experience possible. Contact us today for a quote!