In the world of LTL (less-than-truckload) and TL (truckload) shipments, the shipping PRO number, short for Progressive number, is an order identifier that becomes a vital piece in the tracking and chain of custody process from shipper to consignee.
Three elements or identifiers make up the tracking numbers that specifically identify the shipment, the order and the carrier involved in a transaction:
1. Bill of lading number (BOL)
2. Pro number
3. The SCAC carrier code
These codes make up the vital elements for tracking and tracing in the LTL and TL world.
The BOL number identifies the specific bill that was used in a specific carrier transaction. The pro number is used to identify and then track a specific order tendered to a specific carrier. Unlike small package shipments where each package has its own tracking number, in the LTL and TL world each “order” is assigned a pro number or tracking number.
These 7 to 10 digit numbers are typically paired with a SCAC code to form a complete tracing mechanism that is equivalent to a tracking number in the small parcel world. As a note, SCAC codes define the carrier who is transporting the shipment and is defined by the National Motor Freight Classification or NMFC.
Companies who ship a large volume of LTL and TL shipments and are using an enterprise multi-carrier shipping system like InfoShip/Vx, may be using the system to store a large pre-assigned group of pro
numbers from the individual carriers used at that company. These shipping systems will have a block or range of PRO numbers from their various freight carriers stored in the transportation management system (TMS) system, rather than contacting the carriers each time they have a shipment and need to get a pro number assigned by the carrier, as is typical.
This allows for quicker shipment execution, rather than manually creating a PRO number each time they
have a shipment. PRO numbers can also be pre-printed on a sticky label and placed on each pallet that is
being shipped and also stuck to documentation like the bill of lading for identification, storage
and later review.