Simple Tips for Creating an Effective Bill of Lading

Date of Publication: December 21, 2021

When it comes to shipping and receiving products, even the smallest details are of the utmost importance. If details are inaccurate or incorrect, it can cause delays and other costly complications at any step of the process. Luckily, a bill of lading helps ensure that all necessary details are included and accurate.

What is a BOL?

A bill of lading (BOL) is a legally-binding document that lays out all the details needed for processing a freight shipment. The BOL should be signed at varying points of the process, such as when the shipment is sent out and when it is received by the shipping company or final recipient. In this way, a BOL ensures that all parties are aware of key details, which makes for a smoother transaction and a simpler process. It also acts as a receipt, so if there is an issue like a delay or lost cargo, it can help pinpoint where the issue occurred or who was potentially responsible.

A BOL can take many shapes, and some parties may use paper documentation while others use a digital BOL. However, a BOL generally includes:

  • Contact information for the shipper, including their full name and address
  • A description of the goods, including details such as the manufacturing material and the weight of the shipment
  • A description of the packaging used in the shipment, like a specification of whether it includes pallets, cartons, or crates
  • NMFC freight class details, when applicable
  • Any special instructions, like if the package contains hazardous materials or other materials that require specific handling or care

Ensuring a Smooth Process

When filling out a BOL, keeping these basic tips in mind can make the process easier for everyone by ensuring that the BOL is accurate and detailed.

  • Include Specifics. When filling out a BOL, don’t forget to include specific details like product weight, the number of goods in each container, and the number of containers being shipped.
  • Double-Check the Details. Once a BOL has been filled out, reviewing it to ensure all details are accurate is an important but simple step.
  • Communicate Needs. If there are additional needs or specifications that a carrier should be aware of, these should be included on the BOL. Being up-front and direct about special needs ensures that they will be met without causing delays or other complications.

This content is intended for informational purposes. Due to the generality of this content, the provided information may not be applicable in all situations. We encourage the reader to review the most up-date-regulations directly with the U.S. government’s source on BOL documentation, which can be found here.