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Bill of Lading Preparation: Leave it to Our Cleveland Warehouse Pros!

A bill of lading is a document that serves as proof a company or carrier received goods from a shipper. It’s a critical record that our Cleveland warehouse professionals know is essential to demonstrating the chain of custody from shipper to carrier. Beyond simple proof of cargo transfer, it establishes a contract between the two parties for the delivery of the goods to the purchasing party or next carrier. They’re often required for many types of land freight shipments, but can also be mandated for air and sea cargo as well. Failure to properly fill out these forms can be costly.

If you’re considering partnering with a Northeast Ohio warehousing and distribution to a third-party logistics company, it’s important to have a solid understanding of what bills of lading are and how they’re prepared. Chances are, it will be an aspect of your operations you’ll also want to outsource.

What Exactly is in a Bill of Lading (BOL)? 

Bills of lading, sometimes called BOL, are nothing new. In fact, they go all the way back to at least the 16th century, when they were routinely used to track ship cargo movements. Back then, it was pretty basic: An inventory check and the signatures of the shipper and carrier.

Today, the general idea is the same, but with all the various modes of transport, warehousing, and distribution (not to mention evolving technology), the particulars are quite a bit more involved.

A modern bill of lading essentially serves as a carrier-shipper contract describing the goods being shipped. It’s going to typically indicate things like:

  • Address of the shipper.
  • Address of the customer.
  • Shipping method.
  • Class, weight, rate.
  • Number of handling units.
  • Terms of delivery.
  • Special instructions.
  • Hazardous material information.
  • Charges for shipping.
  • Order information details.
  • Signatures of carrier and shipper representatives.

A bill of lading is usually needed as proof that cargo’s been transferred from a shipper to a carrier. It’s also the document of title to goods shipped and receipt of goods shipped. Each shipment will have its own lading number that is used to track it, most likely in a digital database. That number can be scanned throughout the shipment process so that it can be tracked in real time by our Cleveland warehouse and logistics team.

For some modes of transport, a bill of lading is legally required. Depending on the type of cargo, there may be federal and/or international laws that are applicable and possibly industry board or association standards. For example, Federal Regulations for shipping household goods requires bills of lading to be generated for interstate commerce if they’re transporting anything aside from livestock.

Where it isn’t tightly regulated or required, many industries make it a general practice anyway. For instance, bills of lading for air transport aren’t required by federal law. Yet most air shipping companies have found it’s smart business practice to keep bills of lading for each shipment.

A Cleveland Warehouse & 3PL That Handles Bills of Lading

Smaller operations may handle their own bills of lading, though it can be a tedious process even for them. Many find they can save time and money by outsourcing it all to a Cleveland warehouse & third-party logistics provider. This is especially true considering the potential consequences of incorrectly filling one out or not using one at all.

Lots of shippers have underestimated the importance of thoroughly, completely, and accurately filling out bills of lading. Forget one detail, and your freight costs can soar. Sometimes if shippers are on a tight deadline (or aren’t sure how exactly the records are supposed to be completed), they fill in just enough to have the goods shipped. However, the type, dimensions, density, and hazardous materials classification can all be extremely important, especially with certain transport modes like LTL. Fail to include key identifiers, and you could be charged the highest rate applicable under National Motor Freight Traffic Association standards.

It’s also important to include freight payment responsibility and released value of shipped items. Special instructions are also imperative, particularly if your goods are fragile or sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Some will note that such services can be requested after the fact, but it’s generally a good idea to have it in writing.

Bottom line is any piece of information that is missing can possibly cost you. Preventing class, freight responsibility, and accessorial charge errors can be as simple as working with a trusted 3PL Cleveland warehouse team. This has the added benefit of allowing you to focus on your core operations and stay competitive. Let us handle the details of your bill of lading and other warehousing and distribution requirements.

Request a quote today to learn more about how we can help keep your goods moving – intact, on time, every time.

Contact On Time Delivery & Warehouse by calling (440) 826-4630 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:


More Blog Entries:

Outsourcing Ohio Warehousing & Distribution Saves Dollars, Makes Sense, July 15, 2021, Cleveland Warehouse Blog

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