Freight Tracking is one of the most important services we offer at FreightPros. Makes sense right? People want to know where their freight is, and as a full-service broker we handle all aspects of our customer's freight shipments, from claims to your bill of lading.
Once an order leaves your warehouse doors, a lot of things can happen to the shipment.
It can be damaged as it’s being handled. It can also be sent to the wrong address.
Your customer, meanwhile, might not buy from your online store again because their order never arrived or it arrived much later than they expected.
Thus, it’s important to provide tracking for your customer’s order. It’s a critical component of customer service because unlike in a brick and mortar store, your customer can’t get the product right after paying.
Hopefully, this article enlightens you on what freight tracking is, why it’s good to have it, and how you can implement it in your business.
What is Freight Tracking?
Freight tracking refers to the ability to locate a shipment in transit at any given time and allows the consignor and the consignee to monitor the progress of the delivery.
It works by assigning a shipment a tracking number or PRO number, which is recorded every time it passes through certain checkpoints in the shipping route.
Benefits of Freight Tracking
Here are a few good reasons why you should implement freight tracking in your business. Let’s go over through them.
Increased customer trust
Your customer wants to know when their order will arrive, regardless if they chose expedited or standard shipping. Their order might be urgent or it’s something very special to them and they tend to worry more because they’ve already paid for it.
So when you let them know where their shipment is, they are more likely to trust you. They’re also more likely to buy from your store again because of the high quality customer service you provided them.
Faster rerouting of shipments
The truck is exposed to traffic jams, prone to vehicle breakdowns, and faces many other risks as it travels to its destination. All of these cause delay and can be a source of additional frustration.
Freight tracking allows you to adjust immediately so you can still deliver shipments on time. You can also inform your customer that their shipment might be delayed, which they’ll appreciate because they can also adjust their expectations.
Be able to locate lost packages
A package could be wrongly sorted, misplaced, or delivered to the wrong address. Either way, these are legitimate reasons why your customer wasn’t able to receive their order .
But since the tracking numbers are scanned at terminals they went through, you can determine at which point the package lost its way. You narrow down the possibilities of what really happened so you can immediately find it.
Be able to optimize shipping-related costs
Freight tracking allows you to see patterns in your shipping operations. You can determine details like which freight carriers do you use most frequently and the routes they often use. And knowing these can give you negotiating power when dealing with shipping contracts.
You also can save costs in your customer service department because they can focus on other problems instead of having to constantly update customers about the status of their package.
How does Freight Tracking work?
Freight tracking works by designating a number or alphanumeric code to a package. Every time a package goes through a terminal or a port, the number is recorded to ascertain the package’s location.
The shipment can be traced by referring to one or more of the following numbers:
- Bill of lading (BOL) number. The BOL is a useful document for freight tracking because it contains a lot more details about the shipment aside from just the BOL number.
- Progressive rotating order (PRO number). Generally considered as the standard tracking number of the freight industry, it is a 7 - 10 digit number given to the package once it is picked up by the carrier.
- Purchase order (PO) number. This number is given by the shipper (which is usually the online store) and usually found in the receipt.
- Shipment reference number. This number is assigned by the shipper and it can either be the PO number, the BOL number, or even a phrase that describes the shipment.
It is also important to note that a shipment may come with more than one of these numbers. Either way, having more than one means you can track your shipment in more ways than one.
5 Ways to Track a Freight Shipment
Now that you’re familiar with the basics of how to track your cargo, let’s delve into the tools commonly used for this service.
Transportation management system (TMS) software
This software allows you to manage and track shipments and even helps you in choosing a freight carrier. It can track freight through several reference numbers and send status updates to customers. It can also send pick-up information to carriers when your freight is ready for shipping.
Overall, TMS software is a very versatile tool and there’s a reason why many e-commerce businesses use it.
A barcode is one of the most common methods for tracking shipments. It is actually a combination of the PRO number and the Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) unique to each carrier.
You simply print and attach it to an order and it is scanned at certain points along the shipping route. It also signifies how far has the shipment progressed until it reaches your customer.
However, one major concern when using a barcode is that it might not be read at a terminal. That’s because new labels are placed on the package when it changes hands and it can cover up the barcode sticker.
Still, a barcode is a very efficient and cost-effective way to implement freight tracking.
If you’re shipping with crates and pallets regularly, this is a simple and easy solution because GPS trackers can be bought off-the-shelf. You just attach them to the package or crate and you can also add GPS tracking to popular TMS software to monitor your shipment.
However, one concern you have to be aware of is that the cargo needs to be exposed to the open sky to clearly send a signal.
The carriers themselves also offer freight tracking through their website. Customers just have to input the tracking number to determine the status of their package.
So as the shipper, it’s very important that you let your customer know of the tracking number/s and the carrier so they too can track their order.