Bill of lading (BOL): What you need to know.

April 19, 2019

In the world of freight, you must have every detail of your shipment laid out. Every last specification should be clear to all involved in order for your process to run smoothly. This is where a bill of lading (BOL) comes in.

The bill of lading can act as a legally binding document between the carrier and shipper that specifies all of the details needed to process a freight shipment. In essence, the BOL acts as an invoicing receipt in the shipping world. Whether it is in the form of a tangible piece of paper or digital, the BOL is the single most important document of any given shipment. And for smaller businesses, it’s especially important that all documentation is completely accurate and ready to go.

Since there are a lot of parts to the BOL, we'll highlight some key things you need to know. Let’s take a look at what a BOL is and what’s one entails.



Of course it may seem like a no-brainer, but the accuracy of your shipment’s address is hugely important. This simple step is crucial to your shipment. If you do not have the correct address listed, your rates and transit time could be impacted, so make sure you're accurate. Include the shipper's and receiver's full names and addresses.


Packaging type.

The BOL should also include a brief description of the packaging type in the shipment - whether it's cartons, crates, pallets and/or drums. It is important that you properly prepare your shipment in order to avoid freight damage. If you have not properly labeled the packaging type of the shipment, you could be hit with an extra charge.


NMFC freight class.

If you are shipping LTL, freight classes may influence the cost of your shipment. The 18 freight classes are based on weight, dimensions, density, storage capability, ease of handling, value and liability. Make sure you understand each one of them so you’re able to include the most appropriate one.


Description of goods.

You will need to include a thorough description of the shipment with details including: material of manufacture, common name and the exact weight of the shipment. This will help everyone who comes into contact with the freight ensure that they are dealing with the correct shipment.


Special instructions.

If you are shipping hazardous materials or anything requiring special care, you must include specific directions on how to handle these goods during transit. If a shipment that needs specialized services is not properly labeled as such, you could end up with accessorial fees tacked onto your bill.


The bottom line.

There are a lot of things to weigh out when it comes to the BOL, but the extra preparation and homework you put into it at the beginning of the freight shipping process will save you time (and sometimes money) in the long run (two important factors for small businesses).

If you need an extra hand in the BOL process, feel free to get started here at Freightquote by C.H. Robinson. We will help to get your freight strategy off the ground in no time.



 Get Free Quotes

Image Credit: iStock