Freight Shipping Documents 101
07/22/2014 — Scott Frederick
If you're new to freight shipping, there are a few documents you will come across frequently that you may be wondering what they are, why they are used, and what the differences of each are. For instance, what's the difference between a freight bill and a bill of lading; what do BOL and POD stand for; and what is a weighing-and-inspection report? Knowing these documents and their purpose can help avoid misunderstandings that might undermine an otherwise mutually beneficial business relationship between you and your third party logistics provider, carriers, suppliers, or even customers.
What is a Bill of Lading?
The bill of lading, or BOL as it often called, is a required document to move a freight shipment. The BOL works as a receipt of freight services, a contract between a freight carrier and shipper, and a document of title. The bill of lading is a legally binding document providing the driver and the carrier all the details needed to process the freight shipment and invoice it correctly. The BOL also serves as a receipt for the goods shipped. Without a copy signed by the carrier, the shipper would have little or no proof of carrier liability in the event the shipment was lost or destroyed.
When you schedule a shipment through PartnerShip, the BOL is automatically generated based on the shipment details entered during the quoting and shipment creations process. You are welcome to use our BOL or you can use your own if your order system already generates one. Either way, the BOL should be provided to the carrier on pick up and will be delivered to the consignee on delivery.
When composing a BOL, it is important to provide weight, value, and description of every item to be shipped. The BOL spells out where the freight will be collected, where it will be transported, and any special instructions on when and how the freight should arrive. Traditionally, the BOL also serves as title to the goods thus described; in other words, it can serve as an official description of loan collateral.
What is a Freight Bill?
Freight bills, or freight invoices, are different from bills of lading in that they do not serve as a key piece of —evidence' in any dispute. The freight bill is the invoice for all freight charges associated with a shipment. While freight bills should match up closely to their BOL counterparts, they can also include additional charges (such as accessorials), information, or stipulations that serve to clarify the information on the BOL. When you are looking for an —invoice' to examine as part of a shipping analysis, you will generally use the freight bill rather than the original BOL since it will have the freight cost information on it.
In effect, freight bills are similar to other invoices for professional services your business might collect. Although they may seem less important during the freight shipping process, they should be retained long term. Because PartnerShip both automatically audits every one of our customers' freight bills, we have been able to avoid many cases where human error or carrier mistakes would have led to erroneous charges on your freight bill. PartnerShip customers can easily access copies of their freight invoices online at PartnerShip.com.
What is a Proof-of-Delivery?
A proof of delivery, or POD, is a document that is used when a shipment is delivered. The consignee signs this document to confirm delivery. Some carriers will have the consignee sign the BOL as confirmation of delivery, in other cases, carriers will use their own delivery receipt (DR), or even a copy of the freight bill. The consignee, when accepting delivery of the goods, should note any visible loss or damage on the delivery receipt (or whatever is used as the POD). It is your right as the freight shipper to request a copy of the POD at any time. PartnerShip is available to help customers retrieve PODs upon request, and we'll soon provide access to carrier PODs through our own PartnerShip.com website.
What is a Weighing and Inspection Report?
A weighing and inspection report, or W&I report, is a document you may encounter less frequently. The W&I report comes into play as part of a carrier's process to inspect the freight characteristics of a shipment to determine that it accurately matches the description that is on the BOL. If the actual shipment weight is different (i.e., weighs more) than the weight that is shown on the BOL, then a W&I report is completed noting the change.
When a customer receives a freight bill with charges greater than what was originally quoted, often times this is due to this sort of weight discrepancy. The customer has the right to request a copy of the W&I report from the carrier if needed to confirm the re-weigh was performed and is valid. Again, PartnerShip is available to help customers retrieve W&I reports upon request, and we'll soon provide access to these carrier documents (pending carrier availability) through our own website.
What is a Cargo Claims Form?
A cargo claims form, or simply claims form, is a document that carriers will require a customer to complete if there is any sort of shortage, loss, or damage "claim" with a shipment. A claim is a demand in writing for a specific amount of money that contains sufficient information to identify the shipment received by the originating carrier, delivering carrier, or carrier in which the alleged loss, damage, or delay occurred within the time limits specified in the BOL.
Claims should be filed promptly once loss or damage is discovered. Time limit for filing a claim is 9 months from date of delivery, or in the event of non-delivery, 9 months after a reasonable time for delivery has elapsed. If a claim is not received by the carrier within this time, payment is barred by law. A claim may be filed by the shipper, consignee, or the owner of the goods. Be certain to clearly show the name and complete address of the claimant. If you need help filing a claim with a carrier, feel free to contact PartnerShip and we'll help you the process to ensure your best interests are protected. Claims forms are available online at PartnerShip.com for most of our freight carriers.
PartnerShip is here to help
I hope this brief freight document primer was of some help to you. As always, your friends here at PartnerShip stand ready to help our customers every step of the way through the shipping process. We know you have a business to run, that's why you can count on PartnerShip to help you get the best shipping rates, the best carriers, and the best service for your LTL freight, truckload, expedited and tradeshow shipping needs. If you need access to any blank forms or documents for shipping, such as a bill of lading (LTL or Truckload), cross-border documents, or carrier claims forms, be sure to check out our Shipping Forms on PartnerShip.com (under the TOOLS menu).