What is a Bill of Lading?

Posted by Justin Bates on August 10, 2016 - 1:25 PM
ABF Freight BOL

Bill of lading definition

If you’re shipping anything, you need to document the journey of your cargo from start to finish. That’s why you’ll need to fill out a bill of lading. A bill of lading, sometimes referred to as a BoL, is a vital form issued by a carrier to a shipper. It acts as a contract or trade agreement of the movement of goods between the shipper and the consignee, and it can also detail the method and payment of the shipment.

What to include on bills of lading

Consider a bill of lading like an airline ticket — you must present it before your shipment can be picked up for delivery. And just as the attendant checks your ticket for accuracy, your driver will need an accurate bill of lading to process your shipment and invoice it correctly. Bills of lading require:

  • Shipper information. A standard bill of lading includes the shipper's name, physical address, phone number and email address, along with space for the signature and date of the shipper and the carrier.
  • Consignee information. Your BoL will include the name, physical shipping address, phone number and email address of the consignee/receiver and space for their signature, along with any special instructions that either the consignee or driver might need to know about the shipment.
  • Carrier information. The BoL will also list the carrier's name and contact information.  
  • Commodity information. Be as detailed as you can about the contents of your shipment. Include the description of your freight, the exact number of pieces, and the height and weight of the package.
  • Payment information. Specific details of the method of payment along with the declared value of the shipment must be included in the BoL. Indicate whether the shipment is prepaid, paid through a third party (TPB) or if payment is due on delivery (collect). 

Additional BoL recommendations:

  • Include the shipment’s dimensions, quote ID and NMFC number
  • Indicate whether there are special handling requirements such as time-critical, curbside or white glove
  • Indicate if the shipment is fragile or hazardous
  • Indicate if a liftgate is required for pick up or delivery

This information is important because it helps guarantee accountability between you, your carrier and your customer.

Additional uses of a bill of lading

In addition to providing a list of the shipment's contents, a bill of lading also establishes the value of the cargo in the event of a loss. And, should an issue arise between the carrier and shipper, the bill of lading can act as a legally binding document that provides the details of the shipping process.

Bills of lading also can act as:

  • The receipt of shipment. The carrier and the receiver or consignee may use the bill of lading to serve as a receipt when goods are transferred from carrier to consignee.
  • Transfer of ownership. The bill of lading may serve as the shipment's title, giving the party in possession ownership. Once the shipment is complete, the goods and their ownership are transferred to the consignee.

ArcBest® has service representatives available to help you with any questions about bills of lading or other information related to your shipping needs. To get in touch with us, call 800-610-5544 or email customersolutions@arcb.com.

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