10 Pointers to Avoid Most Common Bill of Lading Errors

NMFTA - January 25, 2023

A properly completed bill of lading is worth more than gold to shippers. It ensures that shipments are handled as they should be, with accurate charges and few if any delays. NMFTA’s Digital LTL Council has recently announced a new standard for Electronic Bills of Lading (eBOL) because this standardization is so critical to improving supply chain efficiency.

But even with the eBOL standardizing and simplifying the process, it is still critical to correctly complete every bill of lading.

The adjacent infographic illustrates how to complete a BOL properly in clear, easy-to-understand terms. 

These instructions, combined with the use of the new eBOL standard established by the Digital LTL Council, should make the process simple and the outcomes dependable.

There is, of course, work to do and information to gather. But with this as your reliable guide, you should have no trouble plugging the information into the standard eBOL (or any other type of BOL) and ensuring the outcomes you and everyone else in the process want.

Take a look:

The BOL can be a receipt, contract, and evidence of title, so it is important to use a legal bill of lading. The BOL, whether in paper or digital form, must contain the names of the consignor and consignee; origin and destination points; number of packages; commodity description; weight, volume, or measurement of freight (if applicable to rating freight). A packing slip, work order, or pick ticket is not acceptable.

Make sure the commodity being shipped is described completely on the BOL. At a minimum, the description should match that of the listed NMFC item number and any sub-provisions. If multiple commodities are being shipped, all of them must be described.

Provide accurate dimensions and weight of each handling unit or the entire shipment: do not estimate.

Make sure you understand the difference between the piece count and the number of handling units. Pieces are individual packages containing freight; handling units are distinct pieces of packaged freight that will be loaded onto the trailer by forklift, pallet jack, or hand.

Be sure that the correct NMFC item number is provided and used to classify each commodity in the shipment. The item number is available from ClassIT.

Make sure that the shipper and consignee names and contact information is provided. Confirm the accuracy of any listed contact info, particularly phone numbers.

If your shipment includes hazmat items, check the hazmat box on the BOL and, as appropriate, note whether additional care or attention is required. Proper marking on packaging is not adequate.

All shipments are assumed to be PREPAID unless the COLLECT box on the BOL is checked.

Make sure to write in any additional services requested, including accessorials. Appointment required, liftgate service, and residential pickup/delivery are common examples of additional services that carrier must be advised of.

Be sure to read what you are attesting to, then follow the steps to authenticate the information provided either with a handwritten or digital form of signature. This will usually be your certification as to the accuracy of the information on the BOL, but may also indicate compliance with carrier tariff provisions and/or applicable DOT hazmat regulations.


The National Motor Freight Traffic Association promotes, advances, and improves the welfare and interests of the motor carrier industry and less than truckload carriers operating in commerce, both domestically and/or internationally.