HomeKnowledge CenterGlossaryBill of Lading (BOL)

Bill of Lading (BOL)

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Definition

Bill of Lading

A bill of lading (BOL) is a document that is issued by a carrier or their agent that serves as acknowledgement of receipt of cargo to the person or company consigning the goods. In addition to serving as a receipt, it is a legally binding document that provides the driver and the carrier with all the information required to process the shipment and create an invoice for services. Ultimately it serves as a billing document for the carrier/trucker so that they may be paid (Typically, by the shipper).

Historically, the BOL was specifically used for ocean or sea transport, but today it is common for other delivery modes such as over-the-road, less-than-truckload, truckload, air cargo, and ocean.

BOL Information

BOL information may include:

  • Complete names and addresses for the shipper and the receiver, plus any third party
  • Purchase order numbers and/or additional reference numbers
  • Additional delivery instructions
  • Pickup dates
  • Weights
  • Description of items being shipped
  • Packaging type
  • NMFC freight class
  • Hazardous material designation and handling rules and requirements, if applicable

A typical bill of lading includes three copies, one for the shipper, consignee, and broker, banker or third party.

BOL Document Format

Bills of lading exist in several formats, which may be required for specific transactions, including a straight, order, bearer, multi-modal or combined, and port-to-port bill of lading.

Bills of lading can also be produced, distributed and maintained via electronic means to reduce paper and sore data for extended periods of time.

For over-the-road (OTR) less-than-truckload (LTL) or truckload (TL) deliveries, a straight BOL is commonly used. The VICS ( (Voluntary Inter-Industry Commerce Standards) bill of lading format is also commonly used. The BOL can be automatically generated by your multicarrier shipping system if it handles parcel, LTL and TL shipments. The InfoShip®/VX shipping system generates both the standard and VICS bill of lading format.

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