What is a BOL?

A bill of lading is a very important legal document used in the shipping process within the trucking industry. You will always need a BOL (Bill of Lading). Signing the rate con or a packing slip is not acceptable. If a BOL is not provided by the shipper, the carrier must create one. In fact, it is required to move each and every freight shipment. The BOL is essentially the receipt for the freight shipping. Another way to look at it is as a contract between the freight carrier and the shipper as a document of title for the load. This legally binding document provides the driver and carrier with all the information required to process the shipment and appropriately get paid on a freight bill. For this reason, you will want to make sure there is a valid signature, among other important details.


What is in a Bill of Lading?

Name and addresses

The full name and address of the shipper and receiver need to be listed in a legible manner on this important document that is easy to locate.


Purchase order numbers or special reference numbers

Identifying numbers such as the purchase order or other special reference numbers need to be listed to allow the load to be released to be delivered and again to accept the load at the final destination.


Special Instructions

Any form of special instructions associated with the load needs to be included on the bill of lading for overall transparency and accountability. An example of this would be some debtors requiring that the driver circle all 3 signatures on the BOL.



The pickup date should be listed on the BOL as a reference for the load when reconciling invoices.


Description of items in a load

The BOL should include an appropriate description of the items included in the load, including the number of units, dimensions, and weight, as well as what the items are.


Packaging type

This will identify if the packaging consists of crates, pallets, etc.


NMFC freight class

The freight class needs to be included as it will impact the cost of the shipment. Freight classes are determined from 18 classes of freight types, including their weight, dimensions, density, storage capacity, handling requirements, as well as value and liability of the items.


Hazardous material designation (if applicable)

If the load contains any items that fall under the classification of HAZMAT or hazardous materials, this has to be listed for overall safety and transparency.



Most brokers require signatures. It is best practice to get three signatures. The shipper will sign and date, the receiver will sign and date, and the driver will sign and date at delivery. The driver should verify each signature is in the right place as well. If there are not 3 signatures, most factoring companies will have to verify, which means the carrier getting paid is at the mercy of the broker’s accounts payable department.


How Do I Know I Need a Bill of Lading?

A bill of lading is required for each shipment to be moved, whether you are a major carrier or a small business. Without an appropriate BOL, the truckload is not able to be moved.


Types of BOLs

Clean Bill of Lading

A clean Bill of Lading is issued by the Shipping Company or by its agents if there are no declarations of damage to or loss of goods during shipment to affect the freight charges.


Received for Shipment Bill of Lading

Received Bill of Lading is a document that is issued by a carrier as evidence of receipt of goods for shipment.


Through Bill of Lading

Through Bills of Lading is a document that permits the shipping carrier to pass the cargo through several modes of transportation or through several distribution centers from the supply chain.


Claused Bill of Lading

Claused Bill of Lading is issued when the cargo is damaged, not in good condition, or when the quantity goes missing.


Container Bill of Lading

Container Bill of Lading is a document that informs that the goods were delivered in a safe container or containers from one port to another.


House Bill of Lading

A house Bill of Lading is a document generated by an Ocean Transport Intermediary freight forwarder. It is an acknowledgment of the receipt of goods that are shipped which is issued to the suppliers when the cargo is received.


Master Bill of Lading

Master Bill of Lading is a receipt of transfer. The document specifies the terms that are required for transporting the freight, details of the consignor or the shipper, the consignee, and the respective person who possesses the goods.


Charter Party Bill of Lading

Charter Party Bill of Lading is an ocean bill of lading often used on an international shipment by an exporter as an agreement between a charterer and a vessel owner that the goods being shipped are on board the vessel.


Multi-modal Transport Document/ Combined Transport Document

A Multi-Modal or multimodal Transport Document or Combined Transport Document is a version of a Through Bill of Lading. Like an air waybill, this takes place when a minimum of two different modes of transport, land or ocean, are used.


Stale Bill of Lading

A Stale Bill of Lading is presented for negotiation after 21 days from the date of shipment or any other date/ number of days stipulated in the documentary credit.


Short-term/ Blank Back Bill of Lading

Short-term or Blank Back Bill of Lading is issued when the detailed terms and conditions of the contract of carriage are not given on the body of the Bill of Lading or on the back of the Bill of Lading.


Straight Bill of Lading

A Straight Bill of Lading shows that the goods are consigned to an individual without any negotiable documents or a negotiable bill free from the existing equities.


Order Bill of Lading

Order Bill of Lading is the bill that expresses words that make the bill negotiable.


Bearer Bill of Lading

A Bearer Bill of Lading states that the delivery will be made to the holder of the bill. These bills are specially created, or it is an order bill that does not nominate the consignee in its original form or through an endorsement in blank. A bearer bill is able to be negotiated by physically delivering it.


Surrender Bill of Lading

Surrender Bill of Ladings occurs if the importer does not make the payment to the bank until the maturity of the draft under the relative credit.


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