How to Make a Bill of Lading & BOL Template

Posted On 5th October 2019

A bill of lading may seem like an unnecessary nuisance to some, but as a legal document, it protects your assets. For this reason, correctly filling out your bill of lading is of utmost importance. It’s also a required document by the Department of Transportation, so you’ll want to be as prepared as possible before filling out your first form.

Here you will learn how to make a bill of lading (BOL) the correct way. Also, we have provided you with some examples of a filled-out bill of lading. After reading this article and reading our bill of lading example, you’ll be ready to create your own BOL in no time.

What is a Bill of Lading (BOL)

Bill of Lading (BOL)The definition of a bill of lading is a contract between you the shipper, also known as the consignor, and the carrier (learn more about what is a freight carrier here), the consignee.

A bill of lading can also be defined as a receipt given by the carrier when your cargo is picked for shipping.

As a contract between the consignor, you, and the consignee, the carrier, a BOL is a legal document that should not be taken lightly. The carrier should hold onto the bill until the goods are at their final destination, at which time the carrier should present the BOL for delivery.

You can also view a bill of lading as a title, in the way you would view a title for a car or a house.

Creating the bill of lading asserts you as the owner of the goods about to be shipped. When the carrier takes your goods along with the bill, they are taking the temporary title of the cargo and it is now their responsibility to deliver everything correctly.

How to Fill Out a Bill of Lading (BOL)

Filling out a BOL is easiest if you can make your own. So, how to make a bill of lading? It's easy, with a quick Google search you can find BOL templates for most applications. You may need to purchase a bill of lading in certain cases. Generally, you can find BOL templates at any store offering office supplies. Depending on the carrier, they may have a BOL template available for you on their website to fill out and print.

What a Bill of Lading Should Include

The bill will start by specifying who is shipping the goods and where it is shipping to. Next, the carrier is specified, and if available, a trailer number and serial number can be filled in along with the bill of lading number. The terms of the freight charge will be either prepaid, collected, or by the third party. If the third party is selected, the third party also needs to be detailed and there will be a box for this information.

If there are any special instructions, there is also room to provide those details on the bill. Next comes the customer order number, along with the number of packages, weight, and whether the goods will be on a pallet or slip. There should be room for any additional shipper information that you feel is necessary.

Next comes the information for the carrier, such as the handling unit, the package quantity, and type, as well as measurements. If shipping LTL, there is room for the class specifications, as well as the NMFC number. Finally, the last part of the carrier information section is a description of the goods.

Below that, if collecting on delivery you will check a box for the fee terms, which will be collected, prepaid, and whether or not a customer check is accepted. The last section is for signatures, and details on who is loading the trailer and who is counting the freight.

Bill of Lading Examples

So, when will you need a bill of lading? There are a variety of different types of bills of lading depending on how you are shipping your items.

  • If you are shipping an item on a train or truck, you would use an Inland BOL.
  • If you’re sending your cargo on a boat, you would use an ocean bill of lading.
  • If you’re shipping on a plane, yes you guessed it, you’ll need an air waybill.

What is a waybill? A waybill differs from a bill of lading in that it can’t be negotiated. So, what’s the difference between a non-negotiable, and a negotiable bill of lading?

In a negotiable BOL, the party on the receiving end of the goods must have an original copy of the BOL in order for the cargo to be delivered. If no BOL is present, the goods are not delivered.

In a non-negotiable BOL, the receiver will be specified on the form, and the bill does not double as a title for the ownership of the cargo. In this scenario, the receiver must confirm their identity to receive the goods, but do not necessarily have to have a copy of the BOL.

Complete Your Bill of Lading with our Tips

What is on a BOL? Good question. The BOL specifies who the carrier is, what goods are being shipped, where the final destination is, and the conditions in which everything will be sent.

A straight bill of lading is the most popular form, and this BOL is used when a customer has paid for the goods in advance. There are a variety of other forms that a BOL can take, depending mainly on how the item is being shipped.

When shipping an item that has not been paid for in advance, make sure to hold on to an original copy of the BOL. The consignee does not need every copy of the bill, so in order to maintain possession of the goods until payment is received, hold on to the original copy.

Bill of Lading (BOL) Tips

Here are a few essential tips to know about filling out a bill:

  • Payment terms must be specified. There are several types and variations:

    "Freight Prepaid" - means the Shipper is paying the Carrier the freight charges.

    "Collect Freight" - means the Receiver is paying the Carrier the freight charges.

    "Freight Prepaid Third Party Billing" = "Third Party All Freight Charges to: xyz co. such as FreightRun LLC - this term means all freight charges will be paid by a third party not the shipper and not the receiver - the 3rd party could be central corporation or "holding company" of the shipper or receiver or it could be a non-affiliated company such as an independent distributor, drop shipper, or even a 3rd Party Logistics company that ships LTL such as

  • The cargo being shipped must be specified in as much detail as possible to protect your assets AND to obtain the shipping rate you desired and hopefully get your freight quote in advance

    On the first point, protecting the value of your cargo.  If you write on the Bill of Lading that you shipped Paper class 50 (worth $500/skid let's say) but you shipped Paper Backed Adhesive Tape (worth $2500/skid) if the cargo is damaged or lost the Trucking Company's Claim Dept. or the Insurance Company will look to the paperwork and try to settle on the $500/skid maximum - depending on the terms of their tariff.
  • The same point is on ocean shipments. If you ship a container of masking tape but tell the ocean liner to put scrap paper on the bill of lading in order to save money, not only might you have legal trouble or customs troubles but if the cargo is damaged or lost you are only going to get the value of waste paper.  

    On the second point, in order to get the rate you were quoted in advance you want to be sure your cargo description when shipping Less-than-Truckload freight with LTL common carriers whose tariff terms you accept when you ship, correspond to the exact NMFC description and class. The National Motor Freight Classification system can be quite specific and not intuitive and is both value-based, density-based, and with an adjustment for its packaging/handling characteristics:  how hard or easy it is for a driver and trucking terminal to transfer and handle. So for instance, a kayak being shipped is cheaper to ship if it is boxed or crated rather than shipped loose. It helps to check with an expert on your particular commodity as the NMFC code is changed every year.
  • Specify the pickup and destination hours of operations.

  • Download a free BOL template with a quick Google search.

  • Special instructions exist if you are shipping hazardous material.

It will be very helpful, especially if this is your first time filling one out, to look at a bill of lading example to get acquainted with what information is being asked for. With a BOL template, you can know in advance what information to take note of, so that you can quickly and efficiently fill out your actual form. Go ahead and do a search right now for a straight bill of lading example to see the most frequently used form. Once you’ve mastered how to fill out a straight bill of lading, you’ll be ready to move on to more complicated forms. is here for all of your shipping needs, and we hope that this article has shown you exactly how to fill out or make your own BOL. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We would be happy to have your comments and suggestions and are here to help you navigate the world of shipping confidently and correctly.