How to Fill Out a Bill of Lading

How to Fill Out a Bill of Lading

Last Updated June 24, 2024

Imagine a manufacturing company preparing to ship a significant order of products to a retailer across the country. To ensure the carrier legally acknowledges receipt and agrees to transport the goods to the designated destination, a bill of lading (BOL) is created.

This document details the shipment’s specifics—such as product quantity, weight, value, and special transportation instructions—and is the foundation of a smooth shipping process.

This guide will offer instructions on how to make a bill of lading.

What Is a Bill of Lading?

A bill of lading (BOL) is a fundamental document in the world of shipping and logistics. It serves as a contract between the party shipping the goods and the carrier. It details the type, quantity, and destination of the goods being shipped. Beyond its role as a contract, it also acts as a receipt issued by the carrier once the cargo is in their possession and a document of title that can be used to transfer ownership of the goods.

Which Parties Send and Receive a Bill of Lading?

The primary parties involved in the issuance and receipt of a bill of lading include:

  • The Shipper: The individual or company that is sending the goods. This party is responsible for accurately filling out the BOL before handing the goods over to the carrier.
  • The Carrier: The entity that physically transports the goods from the origin to the destination. Carriers are responsible for issuing the BOL as a receipt once they take possession of the cargo.
  • The Consignee: The recipient of the goods. The BOL is often required to claim the shipment upon arrival, serving as proof of the right to receive the cargo.

These parties rely on the BOL to ensure clarity and agreement on the specifics of the goods being transported, making it a cornerstone of trade and logistics operations.

What Goes On a Bill of Lading?

The bill of lading contains several key pieces of information vital to the shipping process, including:

  • Shipper and Consignee Information: Names and addresses of both the sender and the receiver of the goods.
  • Carrier Details: Information about the transportation company moving the goods, including contact details.
  • Description of Goods: A detailed account of the cargo, including type, quantity, weight, and any other relevant details that describe the shipment accurately.
  • Packaging Type: Information on how the goods are packaged, e.g., pallets, boxes, crates, etc.
  • Freight Class: Determined by the nature of the goods, their weight, and dimensions, impacting the cost of transportation.
  • Special Instructions: Any specific handling or delivery instructions that the carrier needs to know.
  • Hazardous Material Indications: If applicable, a declaration of any hazardous materials within the shipment for safety compliance.
  • Terms of Carriage: Details about the shipping terms agreed upon, including payment terms for the freight charges.
  • Bill of Lading Number: A unique identifier for the document and the shipment it represents.
  • Date of Shipment: The date when the goods were handed over to the carrier for transportation.
  • Signature: Legal authentication by the shipper (and sometimes the carrier), affirming the accuracy of the BOL details.

How to Fill Out a Bill of Lading

To fill out a bill of lading correctly, take a step-by-step process to ensure legal compliance and efficient transportation of goods.

1. Add the Shipper, Carrier, and Consignee’s Address and Business Information

Begin by detailing the names and full addresses of the shipper, carrier, and consignee. Include business information such as contact numbers and email addresses. Double-check the accuracy of each piece of information.

2. Describe Your Cargo Information

Provide a detailed description of the goods being shipped. This includes the type of items, quantity, weight, and any identifying marks or numbers. The accuracy of this information is important for customs, carrier handling, and insurance purposes.

3. Include the Value of the Goods

State the total value of the goods being shipped. This is important for insurance claims in case of loss or damage during transit. It helps determine the level of liability and compensation.

4. Denote the Freight Shipping Class

Identify the freight class of your goods based on the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) system. The freight class affects the shipping charges and is determined by factors such as density, stowability, handling, and liability.

5. Include the Shipping Terms

Specify the terms of shipping, such as who is responsible for freight charges (prepaid or collect) and any other contractual terms between the shipper and the carrier. This clarifies the financial responsibilities related to the shipment.

6. Add Freight Charges

Detail the total freight charges if known at the time of shipping. If the charges are to be collected from the consignee or a third party, indicate this clearly on the BOL.

7. Warn for Hazardous Materials (if Necessary)

If the shipment contains hazardous materials, clearly mark this on the BOL and include the necessary hazard classifications and emergency contact information. This is very important for safety and regulatory compliance.

8. Denote the Bill of Lading Number

Every BOL has a unique number for tracking and identification purposes. Make sure this number is clearly written to avoid any confusion or misplacement during the shipping process.

9. Add Driver Instructions

Include any specific instructions for the driver or carrier that are necessary for the safe and accurate delivery of the shipment. This could involve delivery schedules, special handling requirements, or delivery locations.

10. Double-Check for Accuracy

Before finalizing the BOL, review all entries carefully to ensure the accuracy of the information provided. Errors or omissions can lead to delays, legal issues, or additional charges.

11. Sign and Date the BOL

Finally, the BOL must be signed and dated by the authorized shipper representative and, in some cases, by the carrier. The signature legally binds the parties to the terms of the BOL and acknowledges the receipt and condition of the cargo.

In Summary: How to Create a Bill of Lading

Creating a bill of lading is a vital step for the smooth transportation of goods. It acts as a link between the shipper, carrier, and consignee. By outlining the specifics of the shipment, the BOL ensures legal compliance and clear communication among all parties. Before you review and sign the document, double-check every step to certify accuracy and then set the shipping process in motion.

How to Fill Out a BOL FAQs

What information is required on a bill of lading?

A bill of lading must include the shipper’s and consignee’s names and addresses, carrier details, a thorough description of the goods (including type, quantity, and weight), the total value of the shipment, freight class, shipping terms, freight charges, and any special instructions. If applicable, hazardous materials must be clearly indicated. A unique BOL number for tracking, along with the signature of the shipper (and sometimes the carrier), is also required.

What date should be entered on a bill of lading?

The date entered on a bill of lading should be the date when the goods were handed over to the carrier for transportation. This date marks the start of the carrier’s responsibility for the cargo and can affect the shipment’s delivery timeline.

Where can I get a blank bill of lading copy?

Blank bill of lading forms can be found online from the carrier’s website, third-party logistics providers, or shipping supply companies. Many of these sources offer downloadable templates that can be filled out electronically or printed and completed by hand.

Can I create my own bill of lading?

Yes, you can create your own bill of lading, provided it includes all necessary information required for shipment, legal compliance, and recordkeeping. Many businesses use customized BOLs that are tailored to their specific needs, often created with the help of templates or specialized software to ensure accuracy and completeness.