Insider Blog

How can PRO number API tools aid supply chain visibility throughout the shipment lifecycle?

Recently, a representative from a large 3PL confessed to a visibility challenge: PRO number availability was giving him headaches when trying to track his freight.

Shippers and 3PLs use PRO numbers to track goods through the supply chain, but when carriers pick up shipments, these identification tags haven’t historically been automatically generated at the point of dispatch. In some cases, shippers might not receive the much-needed PRO numbers until hours or days after the shipments start their supply chain journey. When they do receive the PROs, the numbers are sent in a big batch. Customers must spend hours of time and energy to pair up PROs with shipments before they begin tracking those goods. 

The 3PL representative was facing this exact problem. He said his company has a large staff that works all day solely to match PRO numbers with shipments and track freight.

“And we’re automated as much as we can be,” he said. Mentioning the wasted time and money, he wistfully added, “If we could redirect half of that …”

Over the past few years, consumers have been demanding greater visibility into their shipments, and real-time visibility accessibility has become job number one for transportation providers. The timely transfer of PRO numbers from carriers to shippers has constrained visibility growth.

“The challenge is essentially that the PRO number is not established until well after pickup – usually when the freight gets back to the carrier that night. There is no visibility into the shipment once the initial dispatch is sent,” according to Kevin Springer, SMC³’s vice president of sales. “You may lose visibility for half a day, maybe a full day, trying to match PRO with shipment.”

With third-party PRO number assignment tools, 3PLs and shippers can automatically start tracking shipments as soon as they are picked up because these solutions automatically request identification numbers from carriers ahead of time. PRO number tools can also easily be integrated into existing transportation management systems so users can achieve complete transparency for each shipment. The best advantage of all, though, might be that the third party manages PRO numbers for the customers, eliminating the maintenance of matching PRO numbers to shipments and requesting identification tags from carriers.

“There’s no manual matching,” Springer said. “If the customers have the PROs on the front end, and a third-party manages them that eliminates a lot of manual processes.”

Third-party PRO number management is a win for carriers as well.

“The PRO number assignment tools save carriers time and money,” Springer said. “They won’t have to field visibility and PRO-matching calls from their customers.”

SMC³’s PRO number assignment API joins the company’s best-in-class suite of automated LTL pricing, visibility and execution solutions. Contact SMC³’s Logistics Support team at to achieve complete, and timely, visibility for your shipments.

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Categories: Product, Transportation