What is a Bill of Lading (BOL)?

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A Bill of Lading (or BOL) is a written, legal and binding contract used in freight shipping. A BOL states what items are being shipped as well as details the size, weight, and freight classification of the items. A BOL also names the freight carrier who will be handling the freight, the shipper of the items, the consignee for the items, the services to be performed in either the picking up or delivering of the items, the name of the paying party, and just about every single detail regarding the shipment.

A shipment absolutely cannot travel without a BOL. A BOL is a legal documentation of a shipment’s transit life; making sure every single detail on it is 100% accurate makes the difference between a shipment that moves flawlessly and one that will encounter a number of problems.

BOL: What is being shipped?

There are several items that must be listed on a BOL as it pertains to the products in a freight shipment.

  1. The number of pallets and the number of items contained within those pallets
  2. The total weight of the shipment
  3. The length, width, and height of the shipment
  4. The density, freight class, and National Motor Freight Classification code for those particular items
  5. Any special handling instructions for those particular items (i.e. Hazardous Materials, Protection From Freezing, Fragility of the items, etc.)

Who will be handling the freight?

The BOL must state the name of the freight carrier who will be handling the shipment. It is important, especially as busier shipping locations, that the name of the carrier is listed on the BOL to ensure that the freight is given to the appropriate carrier. Also, the BOL often must include the carrier’s quotation number in the Special Instructions to make sure the appropriate price is given during billing.

The BOL must also state the name of the Third Party/Paying Party if one does exist. This is to ensure that the properly contracted tariffs are applied when doing the billing and invoicing of a shipment.

The Shipper & The Consignee 

Every BOL must state whom the shipper and consignee are as well as some other specific details. On the BOL, the name of the shipper and the consignee must both be listed. In addition, the correct address for the pickup and delivery must be stated as well as a working telephone number and name of contact person at each site. Lastly, the shipping and receiving hours for both locations must be listed.

Special Services & Accessorials 

On the BOL, there is a section to list any special services or instructions that might be required, such as listing any hazardous material information or handling instructions (Fragile, Handle With Care, Protect From Freezing). In addition to that, any accessorial services that are required must be listed, such as needing a lift gate at pick up, or a residential delivery. Anything that might be required to be done for the shipment must be listed ahead of time on the BOL and requested when getting the shipping quote from the carrier. Otherwise, those services might not be done or your charges may be drastically different from what you expected when you receive your invoice.

Here is an example of what a Bill of Lading looks like. 

SupplyPike-BOL example

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