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). That’s why it is important to know how to generate an accurate 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.
Tips on Generating an Accurate BOL
1. Information should be accurate and clearly written
Make sure all of the dimensions, numbers, and weight are exact and correct. Describing the measures as approximate or estimated is unacceptable for a correct BOL. Also, make sure the address of the shipper and consignee are accurate. Provide the correct freight class code according to NMFC rules and 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. Additionally, make sure to put down all the details you want the carrier to know.
2. Use the same bill of lading form
If you are not shipping freight for the first time ever, the best way to avoid mistakes when completing BOL is to use the same form. This way, you can see what information you need to include. Additionally, this will save you time on collecting and organizing data. And, essentially, re-use of the sample will help not to make errors while filling out the document.
3. Refer to a TMS to decrease the chance of error
Today, most leading technology platforms or transportation management systems allow you to electronically complete the bill of lading. This not only requires less time, but it also increases accuracy. In addition, shippers, carriers, and 3PLs are notified automatically if any critical data fields are missing or incomplete. Technology makes filling out the BOL easy, convenient and quick. Through TMS technology, there’s less risk that the BOL will be filled out incorrectly, leaving you free of extra charges and headaches.
4. Eliminate risks by saving data online and prepopulating the fields
If you ship regularly, the good hack is to have a draft with saved information. Just as using a previous BOL, it will save you time and prevent losing important data on your way to arrange a shipment.
5. Double check information before submitting the BOL
Ultimately, you should thoroughly check the information before signing the BOL. Make sure all of the data is correct, otherwise you risk paying additional charges and face shipment delays. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so taking time to look at everything one more time won’t do any harm.
What should you NOT write in your BOL?
- 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 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.
- 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!