Bill of Lading: Do’s and Don’ts

Shipping freight is a complex process, and sometimes the paperwork can be a headache. When you are ready to ship, the last thing you want to do is have issues and overpay due to incorrect paperwork.

Essentially, the cargo transportation process involves many documents. One piece of documentation is more important than the others, and that is the Bill of Lading (BOL).

Providing accurate and correct information while completing a BOL may seem too evident, yet penalties for wrong data in the document are very common. There are many things that can happen if you don’t fill out a BOL correctly, and today we want to help highlight some of the major do’s and don’ts of the Bill of Lading form.


  • Make sure all of the dimensions, numbers, and weight are exact and correct
  • Make sure the address of the shipper and consignee are accurate
  • Mark whether your bill is prepaid, collect, or a third party bill to ensure the invoice is going to the right place and payment won’t be delayed
  • Make sure to put down all the details you want the carrier to know
  • Provide an accurate freight class code according to NMFC rules

While the above recommendations may seem familiar or obvious to you, take the time to read what you should NOT write in your BOL:


  • Describe weight or dimensions as “approximate” or an “estimate.” Before stating/writing down any numbers, you have to check the accuracy and put only concrete information that you know is correct
  • State general or uncertain freight descriptions. For instance, “details” or “parts” does not give a full image of what you’re shipping. Use “steel details for drilling equipment” or “auto parts” instead of uncertain examples
  • Not being specific on a freight count. Make sure you accurately defined how many items are actually listed.
  • Not specifying the carrier or party. If you don’t include that in a form, the general contractor will choose the carrier instead of you.
  • Not listing any contacts. It is highly recommended to leave at least one cell number to be in touch with a carrier in case of emergency or for proper updates
  • Not calling your carrier. It’s better to call 1-2 days prior and remind them about the pickup, shipment details and booth number.
  • Missing some fields of BOL. Make sure that every single section of the bill of lading is completed.

Ultimately, everything goes down to triple-checking all the information in your BOL. Before you sign the document, make sure you won’t regret signing it later. With these steps and precautions, you are ready to ship freight successfully!