Carrier's Guide to Bill of Lading (BOL)

Updated on February 09, 2024 by Mike Foster

bill of lading guide

Have you ever thought about the hidden paperwork that goes with all the products in stores? Let's talk about a Bill of Lading (BOL) – it's essential for moving stuff around, especially when using land vehicles.

According to a recent report from Virtue Market Research, the global market for digital documents and Bills of Lading was worth about $799.5 million in 2023. They expect it to grow significantly, reaching around $3,405.29 million by 2030.

So what is a Bill of Lading, and why should we care?

Think of it as a travel document for your package. It helps ensure your items go where they're supposed to without problems. 

We will look into what a BOL is and how it is in shipping things from place to place, helping those carrying goods understand just how critical it is. 

The purpose and importance of BOL: exploring the functions and vital roles

The Bill of Lading (BOL) is essential for shipping things. It does more than handle papers; it ensures that moving items from one place to another goes smoothly.

Knowing what a BOL does is key for anyone who works with sending or receiving shipments.

bill of lading example

Some other ways you can use a BOL include:

Confirming goods receipt

The BOL helps to confirm that the carrier has received the items from the person who sent them. It's like a checklist that ensures everyone agrees on what was sent, how much there was, and what condition it was in.

Acting as a contract

The BOL isn't just a list but an official deal between the sender and the carrier. It lists the essential rules about how and where to transport things, including who is responsible if something goes wrong.

Proof of ownership

The BOL acts as proof you own the goods being shipped. If you have this document, you can claim your cargo when delivered. This is especially useful when working with different people or companies to ensure everything ends up in the right hands.

Exploring different types of BOL

Let's look at the different types of Bill of Lading (BOL) types and see how they are different.

1. Standard bill of lading

This is a common paper used when sending shipments, which acts like a receipt for your items; it shows who owns them and has the rules for moving the goods from one place to another.


  • Common type in shipping.
  • Serves as a receipt, document of title, and contract of carriage.
  • Negotiable, allowing transfer to others.
  • Crucial for trading and financing.
  • Includes detailed information on goods, quantity, and destination.


A manufacturer in Country A ships a container of electronics to a buyer in Country B. The standard BOL issued includes details of the shipped goods, their quantity, and the destination port. The buyer can negotiate or transfer the BOL to another party if needed.

2. Straight bill of lading

A straight bill of lading is unique because you can't just give it to someone else. It says that only the person or company named on it can get the goods, and no one else.


  • Non-negotiable.
  • Specifies delivery only to the named consignee.
  • Reduces the risk of unauthorized delivery.
  • Ensures goods reach a specific recipient securely.


An art gallery in City X purchases a rare painting from an artist in City Y. The artist uses a straight BOL, specifying that the painting will be delivered only to the art gallery in City X. This ensures it securely reaches its intended destination.

3. Order bill of lading

Like a standard BOL, you can pass on order bill of lading to other people if needed. What makes this one unique is that it doesn't say exactly who should end up with the goods; instead, anyone holding this document could take ownership.


  • Negotiable like a standard BOL.
  • Doesn't specify the final recipient.
  • Made out "to order" or "to the bearer."
  • Allows for the transfer of ownership.
  • Provides flexibility in ownership transfer during shipping.
  • Common in international trade for changing ownership before reaching the final destination.


Suppose a trading company in Country C exports a shipment of agricultural products to multiple buyers in different countries. The order BOL is made out "to order," allowing the trading company to transfer ownership during the journey. 

As the goods pass through various hands, the BOL facilitates the change in ownership until the final recipient receives the goods.

difference between straight and order bill of lading

Bill of lading template, example & their necessary parameters

Bill of Lading Example

A sample Bill of Lading can help illustrate the key elements that must be included in this essential document. Here is an example truck Bill of Lading:

Shipper Information:

  • Name: XYZ Manufacturing Company
  • Address: 123 Shipping Street, City A
  • Contact: John Doe, Shipping Manager
  • Phone: (123) 456-7890

Consignee Information:

  • Name: ABC Retailers
  • Address: 456 Receiving Lane, City B
  • Contact: Jane Smith, Receiving Manager
  • Phone: (987) 654-3210

Shipment Details:

  • Description of Goods: Electronics Components
  • Quantity: 1000 units
  • Weight: 5000 lbs
  • Packaging: Cartons

Transport Information:

  • Carrier: Ocean Express Shipping Co.
  • Vessel Name: SS Cargo Voyager
  • Voyage Number: OV-123
  • Port of Loading: Port X
  • Port of Discharge: Port Y

Key sections in a BOL


  • Bill of Lading
  • Date of Issuance: [Date]

Terms and conditions: Clearly outlined terms governing the shipment.

Description of goods: Detailed listing of the shipped items.

Carrier's Responsibilities: Clearly defined responsibilities of the carrier.

Signatures: Signatures of the shipper, carrier, and consignee.

Key components of a bill of lading

The bill of lading is a critical document in delivery business that serves as the contract between the shipper and carrier. It details the agreement for the transportation of goods.

Several key components should be included in a bill of lading:

  • Date: The date when the shipment is loaded and transportation begins. This establishes the start of the contract.
  • Shipper information: The name and address of the shipper or the business sending the goods. This identifies the shipper entering the contract with the carrier.
  • Carrier information: The name and address of the carrier or the trucking company transporting the goods. This identifies the carrier entering the contract.
  • Consignee information: The name and address of the receiver or the business receiving the shipped goods. They will be presented with the BOL to claim the goods.
  • Origin and destination: It's all about what's in the shipment. Things like what kind of items they are, how many there are, how they're packed, their weight, and their size.
  • Description of shipment: Every item gets put into a group based on what it is. This decides how much it costs to send it.
  • Charges: This is how much has been agreed upon to pay for moving these goods.
  • Terms and conditions: Any special terms, instructions, or contractual clauses between the shipper and carrier.
  • Signatures: Signature lines for the shipper and carrier, confirming their agreement.

truck bill of lading form

Original image source

Understanding the difference between straight and order BOL

A straight bill of lading is a simple and common way to ship goods. It means the shipped items will go straight to the person or company that is supposed to get them. The shipping company has to give the shipment only to this specific person or company.

An order bill of lading involves someone else in between the sender and receiver. Instead of saying who gets the goods directly, an order BOL says they belong to whoever the sender decides later. The sender permits by signing it to someone else, who then shows this signed paper as proof when they collect their goods.

This key difference has several important implications:


Straight Bill of Lading

Order Bill of Lading

Consignee Handling

Direct consignment to the party named on the BOL.

Goods payable to the shipper's order, allowing a third party to claim.


Limited flexibility as delivery is specifically to the consignee.

More flexibility, enabling a third party to take control if needed.

Implications for Carriers

Direct delivery to the named consignee on the BOL.

Delivery instructions from whoever holds the endorsed BOL title.

Risk and Liability

Lower risk as delivery is to the named consignee.

Higher risk and liability, verifying and delivering to BOL holder.

Systems and Tracking

Simplified, involving straightforward delivery to the consignee.

Requires systems to track ownership changes for more complexity.

Tips on completing of bill of lading

When you fill out a bill of lading, ensure you do it right so everything goes well.

Here's how to do that:

Add complete information

Make sure to list the full names and addresses of both the person sending the package and the one receiving it. Also, include a contact name and phone number for someone we can contact quickly.

Provide detailed shipment information

When you ship things, let the person know what they are, how many you're sending, their weight, and how you've packed them. Also, tell them if the items can break easily or need to be kept at a certain warmth or coldness.

Be precise with transport details

Identify the carrier accurately, including the vessel or vehicle name. Clearly state the voyage or trip number, and specify the names of the ports of loading and discharge.

Memorize key sections and terms

Fill in the date of issuance at the document header. Carefully outline the terms and conditions that govern the shipment. Ensure the description of the goods aligns accurately with the items being shipped.

Obtain signatures

Ensure all parties (shipper, carrier, and consignee) sign the document. Confirm that the signatures are authentic and obtained promptly.

Double-check for accuracy

Review all information for accuracy and completeness before signing. Verify numerical values, addresses, and contact details.

Keep a copy for records

Maintain a copy of the filled-out BOL for your records. This copy can be crucial for reference in case of disputes or inquiries.

Understand legal requirements

Familiarize yourself with any legal requirements and regulations applicable to the shipment. Ensure compliance with international shipping laws if the shipment involves cross-border transport.

Effective communication

Communicate clearly with all parties involved to gather necessary information. Confirm details with the shipper, carrier, and consignee to avoid misunderstandings.

Use standard templates

If possible, use standard BOL templates provided by shipping authorities or organizations. This helps ensure consistency and alignment with industry standards.

Common challenges in BOL processes

Carrying and looking after BOL papers can take much effort for delivery companies. Knowing the usual problems can help them avoid these issues.

If carriers use smart methods and technology tools, they can handle common problems with managing BOLs better.

Let's have a look at some challenges in BOL processes and their solutions:

Lost or misplaced BOLs

Sometimes, BOLs must be corrected or put in the right place, especially paper ones. This often happens when they're being moved if there isn't a better system to track them. It's essential to keep all the documents well-organized and safe. Having copies on a computer and paper is also smart because it means you have backups.

Data entry errors

Mistakes are easy to make when people must hand type in information from BOLs, like typing something wrong or missing details. These mistakes can be clarified later if what's written on different papers doesn't match up. Double-checking everything that's been typed in can help stop these mistakes.

Communication gaps

More mix-ups happen when drivers, the office team, senders, and receivers talk poorly about where the BOL is at any time. Using tech stuff like GPS trackers and electronic versions of BOLs makes it easier for everyone involved to see what's happening and work together better.

Meeting customer BOL requirements

Customers might have special rules or papers that delivery companies need to use. If these aren't followed, it can cause delays and hurt business relationships. Carriers need to be well-organized and understand what customers want.

BOL compliance issues

Delivery companies must ensure they are doing everything right according to the law when handling BOLs, like keeping records in a certain way, getting the correct signatures, and so on. If not done correctly, there could be fines, or they might not be allowed to operate anymore. Keeping up with all the legal requirements is super important.

Difficulty accessing BOL data

Carriers work with lots of BOLs every day. Searching through all the paperwork or computer files for specific information can waste time. It's much better to keep things in digital form where you can search easily. 

Implementing best practices and leveraging technology solutions can help carriers overcome these common BOL management challenges. Accurate documentation and seamless workflows are critical for successful transportation operations.

Integrating BOL with digital route planning

Such delivery management software solutions as Track-POD not only help businesses handle their shipping information online, but also make planning the best delivery routes easier, saving money and making customers happier.

With Track-POD, couriers benefit from digital load confirmation, live driver tracking, and electronic proof of delivery (ePOD). Such features enable digitalization of the delivery process, making it more efficient and prone to manual human errors that way too often accompany the paper-based procedures.

Key benefits of Track-POD's integrated solution include:

  • Plan and optimize delivery routes for multiple days in advance.
  • Easily optimize delivery routes with just one click.
  • Provide drivers with real-time route updates via smartphone apps.
  • Dynamic Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) recalculated en route.

By leveraging Track-POD's unified platform, carriers can achieve significant gains such as:

  • Reduced driver wait times at pick up and drop off
  • Faster invoicing with instant BOL confirmation
  • Increased on-time delivery performance
  • Lower fuel and labor costs through route optimization
  • Decreased billing cycle time and errors

Carrier efficiency with Track-POD: uniting BOL mastery and seamless logistics operations

Courier businesses must be cautious with BOLs, ensuring all the information is correct, communicating well, and using technology smartly. All of this is crucial for the success of the delivery.

Track-POD is a tool that helps shippers do better by connecting their BOL information with the capability of planning best possible delivery routes. This saves money, speeds up billing, and makes delivering goods more efficient.

By linking these areas closely, shippers can give excellent service to their customers and make more money for their business, avoiding errors in the process.