The bill of lading is one of the crucial documents in the shipping industry. The BOL acts as a contract between the shipper, the carrier, and consignees. Because of the critical nature of the BOL, information must be filled out accurately every time. Many shippers use the same BOL form template to avoid making mistakes, however, it can be complicated for new shippers to understand all the intricacies of this process.
Why Is the BOL Important?
The bill of lading represents one of the most important shipping documents that verify the evidence of shipped items. With BOL, you can list and briefly describe all the shipped goods so that their quantity and quality are controlled throughout the transportation process. Besides, the BOL can prevent you from completing unnecessary manual operations or leading additional paperwork.
The contract between carrier and shipper
A bill of lading serves as a contract between the carriers and shippers, stating evidence of carriage between all involved parties in order to transport the freight. It is a legal document that outlines all the most important details about the shipment and protects it.
Receipt of the goods
The BOL is issued by the carrier to the shipper in exchange for the receipt of the shipment. Essentially, this document is proof that the carrier has received the goods from the shipper in supposedly good condition.
Document of title to the goods
A document of title means the freight can be transferred to the holder of the BOL. Now, the holder of the BOL has the right to claim to transfer the goods to another.
Types of BOL
Since the bill of lading is commonly used in terms of transportation of goods, it is necessary to fill out the correct BOL form. Generally, there are two prevalent types of BOL you need to be familiar with. A straight bill of lading implies delivering goods to a designated party, while an order bill of lading involves consigning the items to the order of a named party. The difference between these two types of BOLs is that straight BOL is not negotiable, and order BOL can change its status depending on the shipper and customer agreements.
According to the transportation features, there are several types of bill of lading.
- Ocean Bill of Lading (OBL) gives you permission to ship your items via ocean transportation services.
- Airway Bill of Lading (AWB) allows transportation of goods by air freight.
- ProBill (GTS Bill of Lading) is mainly required for ground transport delivery.
- Multimodal Bill of Lading is a contract of carriage you can use to move the cargo by various transportation means, sequentially or simultaneously.
Who Issues the Bill of Lading?
Traditionally, the freight carrier issues the BOL to the shipper of goods. In some cases, brokers can also issue the bill of lading to consignees, but primarily this is a carrier’s function. You should provide the document to the carrier at pick-up or arrival. Later, the carrier passes the BOL to the receiver or consignee at delivery. It provides the driver and carrier with all necessary information to process the freight shipment and create an accurate invoice. The BOL must specify any and all details of the shipment.
What Information Is on the BOL Form?
To correctly fill out the BOL, make sure you’ve collected all the required information. Traditionally, the bill of lading includes:
- Shipper and receiver (or consignee) names and complete addresses
- The date of the shipment
- The number of shipping units
- The freight classification
- The exact weight of the shipment – if there are multiple freight units, each item’s weight must be listed
- Type of packaging, including cartons, pallets, skids, and drums
- A description of the items, including the material of manufacture and common name
- PO or special account numbers used between businesses for order tracking
- Special instructions for the carrier
- Note if the freight is classified as hazardous by the DOT
- The declared value of the freight
- BOL form example
- A picture of generic BOL
- Completing BOL form
Today, most transportation management systems or online shipping platforms like GoShip allow you to complete the bill of lading online. This not only requires less time but also increases document accuracy. Additionally, shippers, carriers, and third parties are notified automatically if any critical data fields are missing or incomplete. Here at GoShip, we offer an automatic bill of lading generation. While it simplifies the process of completing a bill of lading and reduces the chance of error, it is still a shipper’s responsibility to make sure that information is accurate and precise. Without correct data on the document, shippers risk paying additional charges or experiencing shipment delays.