What is a bill of lading (BOL) form?

Learn how to create your own bill of lading forms, and discover why they’re necessary for the secure transportation and delivery of goods.

A close up of a woman's hands signing a bill of lading form for a package on a tablet.

What is a bill of lading form?


A bill of lading (BOL) is a legal agreement that covers the shipping of goods and products. This document is used by the shipper of the goods (consignor), the receiver of the goods (consignee), and the shipping carrier that transports the goods. Like a bill of sale, it includes details about the goods and the recipient’s information, but it also contains the delivery destination.


Since bill of lading forms are legally required to successfully transport goods from one location to the next, manufacturers, sellers, and trucking and freight companies regularly use them. Many large organizations work with logistics companies to generate, track, and manage their bill of lading forms.



Why a bill of lading is necessary.


A bill of lading is actually two documents that contain the same information. These copies are signed by both parties when the shipment is delivered, and the driver signs on the carrier’s behalf. If you use paper forms, you’ll have two physical copies of the document. If you use an electronic document, you’ll only need to sign once.


A bill of lading can serve several purposes.



Receipt and title


A bill of lading serves as a receipt for the goods being shipped. It also represents the contract of carriage between the carrier and shipper. Plus, it serves as a document of title (DOT) for the goods in transit. In short, it legally protects everyone involved in the shipping process and helps keep track of goods in transit.





Bill of lading forms can also outline the freight charges, fee terms, and invoicing for a shipment. Some shippers are prepaid for their goods, while others accept a down payment on goods, and then outline a Collect on Delivery amount (COD amount). If that’s the case, the bill of lading can outline those charges and direct the carrier in accepting payment on behalf of the shipper.



Liability limitation


Bill of lading forms can protect everyone involved in the shipping process. If the goods are delivered in good order and proper condition, a bill of lading simply serves as a receipt. But if goods are lost or damaged in transit, bills of lading, along with liability waivers, can help resolve issues and disputes and outline who’s responsible for the shipment.


Keep in mind, the kind of bill of lading form you use will impact the liability of each party. For example, a straight bill of lading (short form) is a non-negotiable bill of lading, often used for delivering prepaid shipments.

Three white package delivery trucks parked outside a white warehouse building by the loading bay.

What to include in your form.


Since bill of lading forms are legal documents, they vary for domestic and international shipments. But all of them include the same components.



Basic information


Note the names, addresses, and phone numbers for the shipper and receiver. Also add the date of the shipment and the bill of lading number.



Freight classification


The National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) system simplifies and streamlines freight categorization and pricing. This classification is calculated based on the weight and density of the shipment, its value and security requirements, its loading and handling specifications, and its stowing capacity. With less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping, for example, shippers pay for a portion of a carrier’s truck.



Shipment details


Outline the number of shipping units and the exact weight of the shipment. If there are multiple freight units, then each item’s weight should be listed.


Add a detailed description of the goods being shipped. Specify the type of packaging, including cartons, pallets, and drums, and the name of the manufacturer.


Add the declared value of the property and the total cost of shipment, and include any special account numbers either party uses for tracking the order.



Special instructions


If the goods are fragile, or if there are specific handling instructions, make note of them in your bill of lading.



Hazardous material


If your freight includes items considered hazardous by the Department of Transportation or items that could harm the public or the environment, add that information to your BOL.

A bill of lading form on a tablet with a close up of an electronic signature against a red background.

Save time with digital documents.


With the rise in mobile work and digital record-keeping, the tools in Adobe Acrobat Pro can help you save time and money while completing bill of lading forms. E-signatures, powered by Acrobat Sign, allow shippers and carriers to transfer bill of lading forms between one another and fill and sign the forms quickly and securely.


Plus, you can create and customize your own bill of lading templates to use over and over again. Drivers, managers, and shippers can easily exchange secure documents faster than ever.


Draft your own bill of lading form

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