Time to talk the ever important bill of lading. Anytime you prepare a less-than-truckload (LTL) shipment, you’ll also prepare a bill of lading (BOL). This document forms a legally binding contract between you and the shipper. That makes it important for the BOL to be up-to-date and accurate.
For the longest time, bills of lading have been paper-based and not standardized. There have been recent shifts to make bills of lading electronic, known as eBLs, electronic bill of lading. Adopting eBLs will enable the trade industry to benefit from faster transactions, cost savings from the reduced administrative cost of cargo holding and document processing, and lower fraud risks through the use of digital authentication systems.
Here are some best practices for preparing an LTL bill of lading, whether that be paper-based or electronic.
And if interested in seeing what an actual bill of lading looks like, check this out.
Bill of Lading: Best Practices
Prepare the Bill of Lading in Advance
When preparing an LTL shipment, make it a point to have the BOL completed in advance. This gives you time to verify the details about the shipment, go over any special instructions, clauses, or details, and verify that the consignee has rendered payment and is able to receive goods.
Double-Check the Information for Accuracy
Always make sure the BOL contains all necessary information, including:
Also, make sure you verify that the BOL accurately reflects the type and quantity of the shipment and that any shortages have been recorded on the BOL.
Note Any Discrepancies
If the bill of lading doesn’t accurately reflect the shipment, you can note this on the form.
For example, if you don’t know the weight or quantity, you can simply list “unknown” next to each item. And if there’s a discrepancy between the amount loaded versus delivered, both quantities should be noted, in addition to any potential damage.
Check for Any Clauses
Sometimes, a BOL will include clauses that specify terms, conditions, and exceptions that may apply to the freight.
This can be important, as some clauses may relate to the delivery time and payment details. The BOL will serve as a legal trail confirming that the shipper heeded these clauses and instructions during shipment.
Use Original Documents
Again, since a bill of lading is a legal document, only the original should be used. Consignees should never accept a faxed or photocopied version of the BOL. By the same token, shippers should never attempt to use a copy of the BOL during shipping.
Ensure that BOL Is Visible on the Shipment
The shipment itself should be prepared so that all labels regarding handling requirements and the bill of lading are easily accessible. This will allow shippers and the consignee to easily access, scan, and cross-check the shipment against the details in the documentation.
Follow the Instructions of the Freight Carrier
The carrier may have additional instructions regarding the preparation of the BOL or additional instructions on how shipments are packed and arranged for LTL shipments.
Assuming the carrier’s instructions don’t contradict the above guidelines, follow them carefully. Doing so will ensure that your shipments arrive on time and that the consignee can verify the quantity and condition of the items.
Never Release Goods with Outstanding Payments
Before you release the goods to the final recipient, ensure that there are no outstanding invoices or payments. Even incomplete paperwork may be a reason not to release the shipment. Cover these details in as much depth as possible with the consignee or customer prior to preparing the shipment.
Why a Bill of Lading Is Important
A bill of lading is an important piece of the LTL shipping process. Knowing how to use a BOL can ensure accurate deliveries and protect businesses in the event that a shipment is damaged or arrives with missing freight.
A bill of lading (BOL) is a crucial document in the supply chain for several reasons. First and foremost, it serves as concrete proof that the goods have been received by the carrier for shipment. This document includes essential details such as the date of shipment, the names and addresses of both the shipper and the consignee (receiver), and a comprehensive description of the goods being transported. This documentation is indispensable for both the shipper and the carrier to verify that the goods were indeed handed over for transport, establishing accountability from the outset of the shipment.
Additionally, the BOL can have a significant financial impact on the supply chain. In many cases, it is a negotiable document, meaning that it can be used as evidence of title and ownership or as a receipt for the goods. This aspect of the BOL is pivotal in trade and financial transactions, as whoever possesses the original BOL is typically recognized as the rightful owner of the goods, which can have substantial implications for payment and financing arrangements.
Furthermore, the bill of lading is often a legal requirement in various jurisdictions and international trade agreements. Failing to provide a BOL when necessary can lead to legal complications, delays, and disputes within the supply chain. Customs authorities frequently mandate its submission for cross-border shipments, as it aids in verifying the nature, quantity, and value of the goods being imported or exported, ensuring compliance with trade regulations and tariffs.
If you have additional questions about how to prepare or interpret a bill of lading, contact a shipping provider or consider using a third-party logistics (3PL) provider, like R2 Logistics, to handle your shipments.