When it comes to freight shipping, the Bill of Lading is one of the most important documents shippers use. However, making sure that it is both complete and accurate can get confusing. That's why we've addressed many common BOL-related questions below to help you feel comfortable and confident when booking your freight shipments. And, as always, GlobalTranz is here to help make sense of even the most complex shipments and help you focus on growing your business.
What is a Bill of Lading?
A Bill of Lading (BOL) is a legally binding document that details the value, measurements, quantities, and special considerations for a freight shipment. It is the most important document for freight shipments and provides the framework for all services, considerations and records for a shipment's delivery and beyond. It is vital that a BOL be both complete and accurate to ensure you have evidence of a contract of carriage, a receipt of goods, and a document of title for each of your freight shipments. A complete BOL should include:
- Names and addresses for both the shipper and the receiver (consignee)
- Purchase order or account numbers used between businesses
- Special instructions or requirements required for delivery (e.g. expedited delivery)
- Shipment pickup date
- Number of units being shipped
- Description of commodities including material type and common name, size of pallets and any additional identifiers
- Description of freight packaging (e.g. pallets, skids, boxes, etc.)
- Any important specifications for in-transit care (e.g. for refrigerated or hazardous commodities)
- NMFC freight classification
- Shipment weight and measured dimensions
- Declared value of shipment
Are there different types of BOLs?
Yes! Depending on which shipping mode you're using and what details you and your consignee have agreed upon, you may need to use a specific type of BOL. Here are the most common:
Straight Bill of Lading
A Straight BOL is a non-negotiable document that identifies the consignee as the designated owner of the goods. This is the typical BOL form you will see when shipping freight.
To Order Bill of Lading
A To Order BOL is a negotiable document that shows that the shipment has not been paid for in advance, meaning the end-used has not been specified.
Blind Bill of Lading
A Blind BOL is needed when the shipper and/or consignee are kept confidential and are not included on the Bill of Lading. The driver is given a separate and complete BOL with full delivery instructions.
Ocean Bill of Lading (OBL)
OBLs are used for international shipping via ocean.
Airway Bill of Lading (AWB)
AWBs are used for air transport service, and may be used for domestic or international shipments.
ProBills are used for ground transport service, also known as GTS.
What happens if my BOL is incorrect or incomplete?
A BOL with missing or incorrect information may cause inconvenient and costly issues, and may even cause your business harm. Make sure to double-check all your details to avoid negative outcomes, such as:
- Delivery to the wrong address, or failed delivery attempts due to inaccurate drop off detail
- Spoiled perishable goods from inadequate temperature control
- Damaged goods from mishandling or improper care in transit
- Loss of insurance coverage or limited liability
- Criminal prosecution for improper management of dangerous or hazardous goods
- Loss of customers due to dissatisfaction from damaged or incorrect goods
How are BOLs used in claims litigation?
A BOL is a legally binding agreement between a shipper and a consignee, so it can help in claims litigation as long as it has been completed properly. For example, when shipping commodities require special handling — think valuable and fragile items, perishables, dangerous and hazardous goods, etc. — the shipper should note the condition of the shipment at pickup on the BOL and have the driver sign as confirmation. This alleviates any question of whether the damage incurred was the fault of the shipper and places the burden of proof wholly on the carrier should a claim be submitted for damage or loss.
How can a 3PL help avoid mistakes on BOLs?
A reliable third-party logistics (3PL) provider can help you properly fill and file your BOLs in a variety of ways. At GlobalTranz, we offer a robust transportation management system (TMS) with autofill capabilities to help eliminate errors, and built-in file storage allows for easy safekeeping of all your important documents. Our innovative TMS technology can:
- Use the data entered to create an electronic BOL
- Autofill a BOL with frequently used data to minimize data entry errors
- Calculate and include the correct classification and NMFC codes, decreasing the chance for reweigh or remeasure costs
- Store BOLs for safe recordkeeping and claims documentation
- Retrieve stored BOLs for easy printing or sharing
3PLs can also guide shippers on the proper way to complete a BOL that will help reduce surcharges and can answer shippers' questions on packaging requirements and best practices.
Save Time and Money on BOL Shipping with GlobalTranz
At GlobalTranz, we pride ourselves on our ability to provide best-in-class support and award-winning solutions for our network of shippers across the nation. From helping rate and book shipments to ensuring your BOLs are complete and accurate, we're here to help kick your business shipping up a notch. Request a quote today to learn how partnering with GlobalTranz can save you both time and money on all your shipping needs.