The mass adoption of eCommerce technologies has added stimulus to the retail industry. With a strong presence in the B2B and B2C environments, digital shopping platforms enjoy many takers. Resultantly, we are witnessing a large-scale and high-volume movement of goods across geographical regions.
In this context, the Bill of Lading has become a common feature in all settings. In fact, an everyday customer may have seen a Bill of Lading without even realizing that it is a Bill of Lading! So allow us to discuss the Bill of Lading in detail and explore ways to automate the same.
What is a Bill of Lading?
A Bill of Lading (abbreviated as BoL, BL, or B/L) is a legally binding document issued by a carrier for a shipper.
It contains all the details related to the type, quantity, and nature of goods being transported. As such, it is the document of title for all the goods described in the BOL. It also doubles as a shipment receipt and indicates its place of origin and destination. Furthermore, it also contains all the terms and conditions of the transportation of the goods.
Since it is required to move the freight shipment, the Bill of Lading must accompany the shipment at all times irrespective of the mode of transport.
How to make a Bill of Lading?
You can follow a standard template or create a custom BoL. If you were to opt for the latter, make sure that your Bill of Lading contains:
- Contact details of the parties involved - Full name, physical address, telephone number, email ID of the individual or business shipping the goods and the intended consignee designated to receive the goods.
- Order tracking number or purchase order number to track or refer to the shipment.
- Order/Shipment pickup date (for record creation and maintenance purposes).
- A brief description of the goods, number of units, state of the goods, shipment weight, and any other identifying information.
- Type of packaging used, such as cartons, pallets, drums, etc.
- Special instructions (if any) regarding the shipping and handling of goods by the freight carrier.
- DOT or NMFC freight class.
- In case the shipment contains any dangerous or hazardous material, the BL must clearly state this fact explicitly.
Who issues a Bill of Lading?
There are no well-defined global policies on who can issue a bill of lading. The prescribed issuing authority varies from country to country, and in some cases, region to region!
Typically, the carrier or the shipping company issues the bill of lading. In some cases, the local regulations may dictate that the issuer be registered with relevant organizations or bodies.
BOL issuance signifies that the freight company is in possession of the goods, and the item is now in the shipment process.
How to fill out a Bill of Lading?
The cargo company may issue a BoL to the seller and request them to fill it out before scheduling the pickup. Alternatively, they may fill it out in your presence.
Here are the steps detailing the process of filling out a BL:
- Begin by indicating the date (and time - optional) when you are creating the document.
- Next, input your BOL number and apply a barcode.
- Enter the ID, PO (purchase order), or reference number.
- Print the complete physical address of the shipper along with their contact details. Do the same for the receiver as well.
- Include the names of any third-party players who are paying for the shipment.
- Add the special shipping, handling, or delivery instructions.
- Indicate the guaranteed date and time of delivery, wherever applicable.
- Incorporate whether the shipment is COD (Cash on Delivery) or Prepaid. In the case of COD, indicate the amount to be collected at the time of delivery.
- Create a list of the goods present in the shipment and their respective quantities.
- Describe the items, the packaging type, unit measurement, NMFC and DOT categorization, class specification, etc.
- Document the dimensions (length, width, height) and weight of the shipment.
- Declare hazardous materials, if any. In case of transporting dangerous goods, indicate an emergency contact number.
- List the value of the goods for tax and customs purposes.
- Get an authorized agent to sign the BoL.
How to read a Bill of Lading?
Reading a Bill of Lading is simply interpreting and understanding the elements listed by the shipper. While the positioning may vary from one BL to another, here is an overview of the main sections:
1. Shipment ID or Reference Numbers
In most cases, the shipment ID/purchase order or any reference number will be available at the top of the BoL.
2. Shipper Section
This section contains the shipper-specific information, such as the company’s name, physical address, contact details. It may also include additional information such as the scheduled pickup date and time, shipping and handling instructions, packaging details, etc.
3. Consignee Section
The consignee section contains details of the final delivery destination. It also includes the receiver’s details such as their name, address, contact details, delivery schedule, etc.
4. Carrier Details
Wherever 3PL logistics partners are involved, the B/L may also contain carrier information such as the carrier name, intermediate shipment reference number, and any such crucial details.
5. Freight Information
The freight details section adds value to the BOL by covering a wealth of information including (but not limited to):
- Total number of items
- Item details
- Total weight of the shipment
- Height, length, and width of the goods
- Freight class
- Shipping and handling instructions
- Packaging instructions
- Special handling specifications
6. Declared Value
It is the deemed value of the freight. This information is extremely vital for insurance purposes in case the shipment is lost, damaged, or stolen. The settlement or compensation will be in accordance with the declared value.
7. Pricing and Payment
The pricing and payment section primarily deals with the cost of transportation of the shipment from source to destination.
8. Signatures and Dates
All the parties involved in the shipping process must sign and acknowledge their role in collecting, handling, transporting, and delivering the goods. Such a consideration introduces transparency and accountability.
Once you have nailed the basics, creating a foolproof bill of lading becomes a piece of cake. And since the subsequent actions are primarily routine and recurring in nature, automating this process could be a smart move.
DocSumo makes tracking, tracing, and archiving your bills of lading simpler.
With its AI-powered engine, you can create, store, or access BL documents in a span of a few minutes. DocSumo’s ability to unify and standardize the process addresses any issues or discrepancies caused by the involvement of multiple players. It also mitigates any expensive dispatch and invoicing errors.
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