Every air waybill includes a unique tracking number, and individuals can enter this number into the carrier's online shipment tracking tool for updates on a shipment's status. Carriers assign air waybill numbers to each shipment.
The air waybill number tracks goods shipped to domestic and international locations, but the shipper's reference number sometimes serves as an alternative tracking number when the waybill number is unavailable. Waybills also provide documentation that helps international shipments pass through customs.
When shipping an item, the sender needs to create a unique number to include in the reference section of the waybill, which the shipping company uses for its records. The shipping carrier records the tracking number during each stop along the route, and shipment senders and receivers are able to follow the movement of a shipment in real time during standard business hours. Generally, carriers keep a record of tracking numbers for around 90 days after the shipment leaves its destination.
Senders using carriers to ship goods must accurately complete several sections of an air waybill including account numbers, names, address and a detailed description of items being shipped, including quantities and weight. Every air waybill must include the signature of the sender along with a current date.