Bills of Lading and You: a Fundamental Guide to Understanding the most Important part of your Paperwork.

Bills of Lading, also known as BOLs, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes but should all have similar information. This guide will break down the parts of the BOL so that you can be positive that you are looking at the correct information when you pick up a load.

  • Date: The date of the BOL is almost always the date the paperwork was printed. While most often this date is the same as the pick-up date, sometimes, it can be the day before.
  • Bill of Lading Number: This number is usually for the shipper reference to that they can keep track of the freight on their dock. This is often used as a pick-up number as well.
  • PO Number: This is the purchase order number and is used by the shipper and consignee to reference the shipment in their inventory system.
  • Shipper: This will be the address of the company you will be picking up from. Sometime there will be a phone number for this location as well but is not requires and often not on the BOL. Also can be noted and the “Ship From” or “Pick Up”
  • Consignee: This will be the address of the company you will be delivering to. Sometime there will be a phone number for this location as well but is not requires and often not on the BOL. Also can be noted as the “Ship to” or “Delivery”
  • Freight Charges: There will be 3 options checked here. The shipment will be marked:
  • Prepaid: Shipper is paying the freight charges
  • Collect: Consignee is paying the freight charges
  • 3rd Party: A third party is paying for the freight charges

PLEASE BE AWARE! If the company giving you the freight is a broker, the freight charges could be marked for any of these options. You will be sending your invoice to the broker unless they tell you otherwise.

  • Quantity: Be very careful when reviewing this part of your paperwork. Shippers can put the number of pallets, the number of cartons, or both. Also, just because a BOL will have a number of pallets on it, that doesn’t reflect how much space it takes up on the trailer. The skids could be stackable or oversized, and that will change how much space the freight actually uses on your truck.
  • Weight: The total weight of the shipment. Some BOLs will have several weights on it for varying item numbers but there should be a total weight on the BOL. Usually at the end of the item list.
  • Description: This should be a generic description of the product. The shipper might also have an item number listed here. Pay close attention to this. If you are told to pick up a load of steel and they load you with light bulbs instead then the shipper might be giving you the wrong freight.
  • NFMC: In the United States, each commodity or type of product is assigned a National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC). This code indicated to the DOT what type of freight you are hauling.
  • Class: The class of a piece of freight determines the overall density of the freight. This is commonly used by common carriers to determine how much space something takes up.
  • Signature lines: There should be 3 signature lines on the paperwork:
  • Shipper Signature: Signed by the shipper who loaded the truck. Will be dated with the date it ships. This will verify the freight shipped. If the driver is picking up at a location other than the shipper, this date might vary.
  • Driver Signature: The driver will sign this to verify they picked up the freight.
  • Consignee Signature: The consignee will sign and date this to confirm that the freight is delivered. The consignee is also responsible for added notes about any damaged or missing items on the shipment.

This is the basic information you can find on your BOLs. Keep in mind that BOLs are not all standard and come with a variety of information. If you don’t see at least this information on your BOLs then you should contact the company that gave you the freight and try to get more information.

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