A BOL number and a PRO number are numbers that identify LTL (less-than-truckload) and other types of freight shipments. What's the difference between them?
What Is A BOL Number?
A "BOL" or "Bill Of Lading" number is a number created and assigned by the shipper of an LTL or other type of freight shipment. Ideally, a shipper's BOL numbers are unique so only one shipment can be identified with the number.
A BOL number is assigned to a shipment when the Bill Of Lading document is created. The Bill Of Lading document is usually one or more US Letter sized pages that provide pertinent information about the shipment, such as where the shipment is coming from, where it is going to, and details about the contents of the shipment. The Bill Of Lading number will appear on the Bill Of Lading document.
What Is A PRO Number?
A PRO number is assigned to a shipment by the shipping provider that is responsible for moving the shipment. The PRO number is unique to a shipment. It is used to track and report on the shipment status and to identify the shipment on the shipping provider's invoice.
When a PRO number is assigned to a shipment varies. Sometimes the PRO number is assigned to a shipment when the Bill Of Lading is printed. Sometimes the PRO number is assigned when the shipment is picked up by the shipping provider. In other cases, the PRO number is assigned after the shipment arrives at the terminal of the shipping provider that was responsible for making the pickup. Which one of these methods is used to assign the PRO number usually depends on the technology and processes that are in use by the shipper.
A shipment's PRO number will appear on its Bill Of Lading. The PRO will appear on the Bill Of Lading when the Bill Of Lading is printed if it was available at that time. If not, the shipping provider will affix a sticker to the Bill Of Lading that contains the PRO number. The sticker will be added to the BOL at the pickup location or the pickup terminal, depending on the shipping provider's process in these cases.
What Is The Difference Between A BOL and PRO Number?
The primary difference between a BOL and PRO number is who generated it, the shipper or the shipping provider.
The shipment tracking experience can be different depending on whether you use the BOL or PRO number. Tracking a shipment with its PRO number is pretty reliable. Using the BOL number may not be, particularly if the shipping provider hasn't updated the shipment data in its tracking system to add the BOL number.
Conversing with the shipping provider's customer service department can also be a challenge if the BOL number hasn't been entered into the provider's systems.
As a general rule, use the shipment's PRO number when talking to the shipping provider or other outside parties that have an interest in the shipment. Reserve use of the BOL number to internal communication where it is more likely to be relevant and recognized.