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Everything You Need to Know about Bills of Lading



When it comes to an industry as large and complex as freight shipping, there are all manners of documentation that ensure the safe and efficient movement of goods all across the world.

At the core of all of this is the Bill of Lading, or BOL.

Even the most novice freight shippers will have at least some experience with BOLs, and yet it’s easy to lose sight of just how important a role they play in the shipping journey.

With more and more ClickShippers utilizing LTL at Checkout, we thought it was time to dive into what a BOL is, and why it just might be the most important shipping document you use.


What is a BOL and Why is it Important for eCommerce Businesses?

A Bill of Lading (BOL) plays a crucial role in the shipping process for eCommerce businesses.

It serves as a legally binding contract between the shipper, carrier, and consignee, outlining the agreement for transporting goods from one location to another.

For eCommerce business owners, understanding the significance of BOLs and their contents is essential.


Key Information Found in a BOL

A BOL contains all the necessary information to ensure a safe and successful shipment. When examining a BOL, you can expect to find the following details:


  • Shipper and Consignee Information: The names and addresses of both the shipper (the seller) and the consignee (the buyer) are included. These details ensure accurate communication and delivery.

  • Shipment Date: The BOL specifies the date when the shipment begins its journey, allowing for tracking and coordination.

  • Description of Shipment Contents: Detailed descriptions of all the products being shipped, along with their quantities, weights, and overall value, are provided. This information helps verify the accuracy of the shipment and aids in inventory management.

  • Packaging and Handling Instructions: The BOL includes information about the packaging materials used and any special handling instructions required by the carrier. This ensures proper care and handling of the goods throughout the shipping process.



Source: Wikipedia


The Importance of BOLs for eCommerce Businesses

BOLs hold significant importance for eCommerce businesses due to their contractual nature. Here are three key reasons why BOLs are crucial:


  • Receipt of Goods: A BOL acts as a receipt, acknowledging the shipment of goods. This document provides evidence of the transfer and receipt of the products, ensuring transparency and accountability.

  • Service Contract: The BOL serves as a contract between the shipper and the carrier, defining the agreed-upon services. It outlines the responsibilities and obligations of each party, helping avoid disputes and facilitating smooth operations.

  • Document of Title: BOLs also function as documents of title, representing ownership of the goods being shipped. This becomes particularly important in legal or disputed situations, as a signed BOL serves as proof of liability.


In short, if your business sells and ships big-ticket goods via LTL, having a fundamental understanding of BOLs and their role in the freight shipping process will help you to reduce potential returns and provide a clearer shipping experience for your customers.



Source: Oxford Dictionary


International Considerations for BOLs

When dealing with international shipments, additional regulations apply to BOLs. To ensure compliance, consider the following points:


  • Timely Delivery: Sending an express bill of lading or a seaway bill in advance allows the consignee to settle the invoice beforehand. This facilitates prompt release of the freight upon arrival, accompanied by the original BOL.

  • Legal Compliance: It's crucial to adhere to the standards outlined in the consignee's country of operation. International shipping requires meeting specific requirements and regulations to ensure smooth customs clearance and delivery.

By understanding the importance of BOLs and their international implications, eCommerce businesses can optimize their shipping processes and ensure a seamless experience for both sellers and buyers.


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No matter how much you know about the inner workings of it, freight shipping can be a hassle.

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