Bill of Lading Form

A bill of lading is a form that documents items being shipped from one location to another through a freight carrier. It documents the description of each sort of item as well as how many of each item is included. Since freight shipping often involves multiple changes, the companies involve often check the bill of lading against what they receive and sign off on the document if it is correct.

What is a Bill of Lading (B/L, BoL)?

A bill of lading (also referred to as a B/L or BoL) is a legal document that details goods being transported from a shipper or seller to the recipient via freight carrier. The B/L will include various information including the type of goods included in the shipment, the number of shipping units, the destination address for the transaction, and the carrier name. This document should always be included in a transaction involving shipped products because it acts as a transport document.

The B/L should be frequently signed at various points throughout the delivery process. First, it will be signed by the seller, or the people who is shipping the goods. It will also be signed by a representative of the shipping company. Then, when the package is delivered, the B/L will be signed by the recipient.

This important document protects the seller, the shipper, and the recipient. It helps ensure that all the products are successfully delivered. If there is a problem, the B/L can help you figure out where the problem occurred. In fact, if a claim is filed for compensation related to the goods, a B/L must be provided.

The document may be negotiable or non-negotiable. When a B/L is negotiable, it is often used for credit transactions; it could be used as a letter of credit. It can be bought, sold, or traded. It can even be used as collateral on which to borrow money.

Bill of Lading Definition 

A bill of lading (BOL) is used during the shipment of freight. It acts both as a contract between the business or individual shipping the goods and the contracted freight carrier. It’s an important document not just as a contract. It’s also important because it gives the freight carrier and subsequent delivery company information to verify they have the full shipment as well as where it came from and where it is going. 

When to use a Bill of Lading

A bill of lading is most commonly used for specific purposes. The first being to prove that there is a contract between the business or individual shipping the goods and the freight carrier who agrees to transport the shipment to a specific location where it may then be picked up by a delivery company. The second common use for a bill of lading is to act as proof of receipt between the freight carrier and the business or individual shipping the goods. The goods are inspected and their condition is noted as to whether it matches the condition listed by the shipper. Then, the document is signed. Both the shipper and the freight carrier keep a copy of the signed BOL.The third common use of a BOL is to document ownership of the goods. It has the name of the business or individual who is to ultimately receive the shipment. Thus, the BOL can be used to prove legal ownership of the goods. The fourth most common way a BOL is used is to act as proof of delivery. Throughout the period of time that the goods make their way to the receiver, the BOL is signed. These signatures notate proof of when and where the shipment was moved all the way through the final delivery process. 

What are the main sections of a Bill of Lading?

The main sections of a bill of lading include:

  • Contact information of the parties. The full name and address of the business or individual shipping the goods and the receiver (often referred to as the consignee) for the goods. When possible telephone numbers should also be included. 
  • A purchase order number or other reference number for the shipment. The receiver and the shipper may need this information for tracking or confirmation purposes. This number is often generated by the shipper. 
  • The date of pickup. The pickup date helps the shipper and the receiver maintain their internal records related to the shipment. 
  • Description of the goods. The description should include, but is not limited to, the number of shipping units for each type of item shipped, the description of each item, the weight of each item, and other identifying information. It should also list the condition of the items shipped. 
  • The type of packaging used. General packaging types include crates, pallets, drums, or cartons. 
  • NMFC freight class description. The NMFC freight class description must also be included. 
  • Instructions for the freight carrier. If there are special instructions about how to handle the freight, it should be listed in this section. Special delivery instructions may also be included. 
  • DOT hazardous material designation. If the shipment contains any type of hazardous material, it must clearly be listed. There are special requirements that must be followed for the shipping of anything considered hazardous. 

Bill of Lading Example

UPS, one of the world’s most trusted freight carriers, has an excellent bill of lading form available as a PDF.

Types of Bills of Lading

When it comes to shipping and trade, a B/L is one of three official documents used to guarantee proper accounting of shipments. A template helps ensure that people or businesses receive the merchandise they pay for. It also ensures that the seller receives proper payment for their goods. The template provides clarification and accountability for both parties, particularly in international trade.

When shipping or receiving goods, it is critical that a B/L be part of the process. In fact, free forms are available online to make the process easier. A template has three major roles. First, it acts as proof that the shipping line promised to carry the goods. Second, it acts as a “receipt” – proof that the merchandise listed was received and is in good order. Third, it is proof of ownership of the goods, an original bill.

There are two different types of templates. The first is known as a straight bill of lading. It is used when payment was made before  the freight ships. The second type, an order bill of lading, is used when payment will be made after shipment. Essentially, it withholds transferring legal ownership of the freight until payment is made.

Adjustments can be made to explain different things on a B/L. For instance, it might be noted “received for shipment." This would indicate that merchandise was received, but may not yet be in transit. A “shipped on board” note indicates that the merchandise was physically loaded and is in transit. Merchandise that is transported by sea often requires a “port to port” notation on the B/L. This limits the carrier’s responsibility for the merchandise to only that time that it is physically on the vessel. Thus, origin and ultimate delivery should not be mentioned.

An adjustment to the bill of lading can also indicate the condition of the merchandise at the time of receipt. A “clean” B/L lets people know that the merchandise was in good condition when it was received. A “foul” B/L means that some or all of the merchandise was damaged upon receipt. This type of B/L may also be called a “claused” B/L. These types of notations can be highly important to both parties later on.

Bills of Lading vs Charterparties

A bill of lading documents a purchase of merchandise. The parties are primarily the seller and a buyer. It may document the items shipped (including the quantity), the condition of the items, the item number, list the freight forwarder, mention special rules for handling the goods, and is signed by those who handle the items while they’re being shipped.

A charterparty is a document that outlines the relationship between a shipowner and the charterer. So, it is the agreement between the seller and the shipowner who will transport the goods. The owner of the boat may or may not act as an agent on behalf of the seller. It usually lists the freight charges.

Common Uses for a Bill of Lading

By FormSwift Editorial Team
August 14, 2018

The most common use of a B/L is a cargo receipt. Usually, someone (often a business) is importing items that must be shipped in via ocean. It is often used for customs or insurance during the shipping process. However, it ultimately acts as a contract between the seller and the buyer.

Components of a Freight Bill of Sale

The components of a B/L include:

  • The full name and address of the seller (often referred to as the shipper or consignor) and the buyer (often referred to as the receiver or the consignee)
  • A purchase order (PO) number or a special reference number to help identify the shipment
  • Any special instructions the carrier must abide by
  • The pickup date
  • A description of the items (including the type of items, the quantity, the weight, and the material used to create the item)
  • The type of packing used (such as pallets, crates, cartons, or drums)
  • NMFC freight class (may also be called an NMFC item number)
  • Department of Transportation (DOT) hazardous material designation

How to Fill Out a Bill of Lading

The B/L will be completed by the seller. They may receive a template from the cargo company they plan to use. Below, you’ll learn how to fill out a B/L, but keep in mind that it may slightly vary depending on the shipper and their template.

  1. Start by adding the date that you’re creating the document.
  2. Enter a bill of lading number.
  3. Apply the appropriate barcode.
  4. Enter any necessary ID number or PRO number provided by the shipper.
  5. Enter your PO or reference number.
  6. Print the full address where the goods are sent from as well as the full address of the receiver. Make sure to include the phone number for both parties.
  7. List any third-party who may be paying for the shipment. This should include their name, address, and phone number.
  8. Add any special notes such as internal account numbers or a secondary PO number provided by the buyer. You will also list any special instructions for delivery.
  9. If applicable, enter a guaranteed delivery date and time.
  10. If the B/L is for cash on delivery (COD), that information should be documented.
  11. Include the amount of the COD that must be collected before releasing the merchandise.
  12. Mention whether the purchaser may pay a COD with a company check.
  13. List how many items are being shipped and whether the shipment is secure.
  14. Describe the type of packaging (such as cartons or pallets).
  15. If you’re shipping individual pieces, list the number that will be shipped.
  16. List how each unit is measured.
  17. Document whether the product is a DOT hazardous material. Hazardous materials must be shipped in a certain way.
  18. Describe the items.
  19. List the NMFC.
  20. Use the correct class specification.
  21. List the proper weight of the products being shipped. The weight of the items should be listed separately.
  22. Document the length, height, and weight of the shipment.
  23. Provide an emergency contact number if you’re shipping hazardous materials.
  24. List the person responsible for shipment charges and if they are prepaid or need to be collected.
  25. List the declared value of the goods for customs.
  26. Sign the B/L in the proper place if the shipper isn’t responsible for collecting shipment charges.
  27. Have the authorized agent sign the B/L.

Download a PDF or Word Template

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Sample Bill of Lading

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Sample Bill of Lading

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