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A bill of lading, also known as a BOL or BL, is a legal form that is required when shipping freight. It is a mutually agreed upon document between the shipper and carrier that outlines important shipment details. These details include the quantity of goods being shipped, classification of the products, and destination of the shipment. Bill of lading forms are used for all modes of transportation and serve three main purposes.
The main purposes of a bill of lading are:
For the above reasons, it’s essential that a bill of lading is included with freight shipments and that it’s completely accurate.
According to Title 49 U.S. Code 14706, a Bill of Lading or receipt is required when a carrier provides freight transportation services. This is true for all modes of transportation, not just goods shipped by truck. As noted above, the BOL contains critical information related to the shipment for all parties involved.
Without a BOL, the liability in case of damage or loss is not established. Ownership of the goods being shipped is also unclear when a BOL isn’t available to note when the property changes hands. While the code does indicate that a receipt can also be used, a bill of lading is strongly preferred. This is due to more information being provided on a bill of lading when compared to a simple receipt.
Freight carriers are responsible for issuing a bill of lading. This occurs after a shipper has provided the information that’s needed to prepare and issue a bill of lading. Once shippers have done this and agreed to allow the carrier to ship their goods, the BOL is issued by the carrier.
For shippers working with a freight broker or freight forwarder, the process doesn’t change much. The information needed for the BOL is still provided by the shipper. In this case, it’s given to either the freight broker or forwarder who then arranges the shipment with a carrier. The broker or forwarder provides shippers with the BOL in these situations.
There are some carriers that provide shippers with a blank BOL form and have them fill in the information. Even in this situation, the completed form is still reviewed and issued by the carrier.
If you are tasked with filling out a bill of lading, there is information you’ll need to provide. The information required can vary from company to company, therefore the form can look different. However, there are a few details that are universally required to complete a bill of lading.
When filling out a bill of lading, you’ll need to provide:
If you’re having difficulty filling out a bill of lading, your carrier or freight broker should be willing and able to assist you.
The specific details of your shipping situation will determine the type of bill of lading that is used. While most shipments will use a straight bill of lading, it’s worthwhile to be aware of some of the other kinds you may come across.
Common types of bill of lading include:
If you’re new to freight shipping and have this question, you’re not alone. Most carriers and brokers will explain this to shippers, but if not, we can help you.
A PRO number is a tracking number placed onto a bill of lading that is then attached to individual unit containers of freight. This is most commonly used in LTL/LCL shipments in which freight from numerous shippers is grouped and shipped together. For example, a freight shipment that contains 20 pallets for 20 different shippers can have a unique PRO number placed on each pallet or other type of container. This allows each shipper to track their individual products through the transportation process.
When a shipment departs, the PRO number is given to the necessary parties involved in the shipment. As the shipment is loaded and unloaded throughout the process, the barcode attached to the PRO number is scanned. This sends an update to the carrier or broker’s tracking system. Individuals with access to the number can then check the status and location of the shipment within the carrier’s provided system.
Another number that you’ll find on a BOL that can lead to confusion is the NMFC number. NMFC stands for National Motor Freight Classification and is an established grading system that classifies freight based on it’s transportability. The system is maintained and managed by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA).
The NFMC number that a BOL refers to actually consists of a couple of different numbers.
The two elements of an NMFC number on a bill of lading are:
Providing the correct NMFC number and freight class is important when utilizing LTL shipping. The rate for LTL shipments is partially determined by the NMFC number and freight class of the goods being shipped. Providing an incorrect number can lead to a reclassification and possible increased costs.
Full truckload rates are priced differently. Most carriers establish a base truckload price and adjust accordingly based on factors such as weight, additional services, mileage, and more.
Shippers having trouble locating or correctly identifying their freight, should speak to the logistics company they’re working with.
If you’re looking to ship truckload freight, R+L Global Logistics can help you. We’re an industry leader in truckload shipping services and fully stand by our service. Our fully vetted and qualified carrier network ensures that we’ll be able to move your freight quickly and at an affordable rate. So, whether you need refrigerated shipping, truckload shipping, or expedited shipping, we’ve got you covered.
In addition to our freight shipping services, our full-service 3PL offerings make it possible to simplify your supply chain. We make it possible to manage all of your transportation and logistics needs in one place.
Our 3PL services include:
When you’re ready to receive a freight shipping quote, contact one of our transportation and logistics specialists at (866)353-7178. We’re ready to get your freight moving quickly and safely.
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