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What Information Is Included on a Bill of Lading?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 17, 2024
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A bill of lading (BOL) contains detailed information concerning cargo that is typically being shipped by plane, truck, boat or train. The name of the shipper, as well as the name of the shipping agent, is often on the top of a bill of lading. Other pertinent information includes such features as the number of pallets the load contains, the type of product that is being shipped and the estimated or exact value of the shipment. Shipment details, such as the name of the company that is transporting the load, the date of shipment, and the trailer, ship or box car number that is carrying the shipment, are usually present on a bill of lading.

When a load of merchandise or freight leaves a warehouse or factory, the owner of the freight has one primary method for proving ownership and tracking the shipment of the product: the bill of lading. This small document lists the specifics of the freight that is being shipped, such as the type of freight, the number of items and the shipper or owner of the freight. The receiver of the freight is also represented on the bill of lading, along with the names of the individuals who loaded the freight and the name of the driver or the driver's company that is moving the freight.

Insurance companies and other agencies must be able to properly track the many types of merchandise that are being shipped all around the world. This task is made possible through the use of a bill of lading. The bill not only shows the exact time that the freight was loaded onto the shipping vehicle, it also documents exactly what time the freight was off-loaded and delivered. The weight of the load, as well as the value of the load, are also documented for logistic and legal reasons.

Special delivery instructions, directions to the delivery address and a (BOL) message are also included on the bill of lading. A BOL message gives specific instructions to the shipper of measures that need to be taken to be sure the freight arrives safely, such as items requiring refrigeration or delicate handling. Comments also address other handling issues, such as strapping the boxes to the pallets to protect the load. There is also a specific location for the receiver and the shipper to describe any broken or damaged items if they are discovered in the load.

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Discussion Comments
By hamje32 — On Feb 29, 2012

@NathanG - I think the shippers are supposed to take care of customs and stuff like that. After all, they are insuring the goods so they have to make sure they arrive at their destination safely.

I don’t know what took your shipment so long. I know a guy who imports furniture from overseas on a regular basis and he sells it here. He regularly gets shipments on a scheduled basis and has access to a standard bill of lading to keep track of his shipments. I think it would be cool if they put this stuff online like they do with regular U.S. freight shipments.

By NathanG — On Feb 28, 2012

Well I am not a commercial shipper but I have seen what a short form bill of lading looks like. I used to live overseas for several years, and when I returned to the States I asked that a bunch of my furniture be shipped to America.

That was no easy task. It took several months! Anyway, it all came, pretty much intact, and I was presented with a bill of lading showing me the basic shipping information and the contents and so forth.

It’s not something that I’d recommend unless you have to do it for a living but I got all my imported furniture. I bet customs had something to do with the delay.

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