Unsure what the purpose of your bill of lading is? It's an important document for transloading, intermodal or any other type of freight shipping.

Bills of Lading: What Are They Good For?

While Edwin Starr asked the same question about war, you might be asking just why you need this complicated document called a bill of lading. The bill of lading is a very important document for shipping that has several different functions. It actually can be the critical document you need if something goes wrong with your shipment. Here are the basic functions of a bill of lading, and why you should ensure that yours is in order before signing for your shipments.

It Contains the Carrier Contract

The bill of lading proves that you have a contract with the carrier. It state the terms, explains who the cargo belongs to and also identifies who is going to be moving the shipment. These are all very important details when shipping your freight.

The technical term is that the bill of lading is Evidence of Contract of Carriage. It is a legal document that shows you have given your freight to the carrier company and that they are responsible for delivering it to a certain location, also specified on the bill of lading.

Finally, it contains the specific time period that this carriage is due to occur. It will have defined start and end dates usually defined as the days that the cargo is picked up and dropped off. This could change depending on the terms of the contract.

Proof of Receipt of Cargo

The bill of lading also serves as a document of transfer. This means that when you need to prove that your freight was handed over by you to the carrier you have chosen to transport it, the bill of lading will reflect that information.

Along with proof of transfer, the condition of the cargo container that the freight was in will also be documented. Why just the condition of the cargo container? Unless the bill of lading specifically calls out for the carrier to perform an inspection of the cargo, or if there is some other reason that the cargo can be inspected (open container, out of gauge cargo, etc.), then most carriers do not have permission to open the cargo container. This helps the carrier. If they do not have access to the cargo, then they cannot be at fault if there is damage inside the container.

Finally, the bill of lading can help prove that a container that has not arrived at its destination was indeed picked up by the carrier. Sometimes containers go missing. The bill of lading is important in tracking them down when they do.

Receipt of Shipment

Finally, the bill of lading identifies who is to receive the cargo when it arrives. It also specifies the manner in which the cargo is to be handled by the receiving party when it does arrive at its destination.

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