What Is a Bill of Lading for Car Haulers, and What's on It?

April 2, 2020
What Is a Bill of Lading for Car Haulers, and What's on It?

The bill of lading, or BOL for short, is one of the most essential documents in transportation. You'll use this document as a contract between the shipper, the carrier, and the customer. However, in car hauling the bill of lading might be even more important than with other freight. You'll also find that the information found on the car hauler's bill of lading can be quite different. I'll be taking a deeper dive today to examine the following:

  • Review: What is a bill of lading, and why do you need it?
  • What are you likely to find on a common bill of lading?
  • What's on a car hauler's bill of lading?
  • Where can you get templates?
  • Can you handle these documents digitally? If so, how?

What Is a Bill of Lading, and What's Its Purpose?

I've written on this topic previously, but I think a refresher is appropriate.

The bill of lading is a legal document that operates as a contract between the shipper, the carrier, and the customer. All details of a relevant shipment will be included on this document. You'll find pickup and delivery locations, addresses, and phone numbers. Additionally, you'll find the type and quantity of the commodity being shipped. The price of the shipment as well as the rate being paid to a carrier should also be on this document.

You want this information regardless of which party you are. The BOL protects the shipper from theft and fraud. It protects the carrier from being paid incorrectly. Finally, it protects the customer by ensuring they receive exactly what they ordered.

What's on a Typical Bill of Lading?

You'll find a few key elements on every bill of lading, regardless of commodity. Here they are:

  • Origin and destination names, addresses, and phone numbers
  • Type and quantity of goods being shipped
  • Order or pickup number
  • Weight of the cargo
  • Payment amount to the carrier
  • Signature lines for shipping and receiving parties
  • Signature line for drivers

Every one of these items is standard to a bill of lading. And each one is vital to the success of a transportation transaction. For this reason, having correct information on the bill of lading is absolutely essential for all parties involved.

What's on a Car Hauler's Bill of Lading?

You're familiar with the concept of the bill of lading now. So let's take a look at an example of a car hauler's bill of lading.

I've erased portions of this example to protect anonymity, but let's start from the top and work our way down.

Section One

First and foremost, you can see the order number, number of units, and date of the document all in the top-right corner. You'll need that order number, most commonly when dealing with the shipper. You'll also want to keep it for billing and invoicing purposes.

Section Two

Next, we've got origin and destination information. I've taken the liberty of washing over the name and street address of the locations. However, you can still see the cities and states for this particular order. Note that in between those, there's a scheduling block. This block informs the carrier of the earliest and latest possible dates to pick up the order, as well as the latest date the order is due to arrive.

Here's an important side note that separates car hauling from other freight. Many commodities deal in specific pickup times on specific dates. You'll see that car hauling is most always dealt with only in terms of dates rather than specific times. Car haulers are quite labor intensive to load correctly and appropriately, making specific times very difficult to promise.

Lastly in this section, we see special instructions. Here you can see specific hours available for loading and delivery are noted, as well as the destination being a residential delivery. Drivers need to pay close attention to this section. Often special notes about modifications to the vehicles will be listed here as well, if applicable.

Section Three

You'll see that section three is the true meat of the car hauler's bill of lading. This example is for a single-vehicle order for the sake of simplicity. Here you'll find the type of vehicle or vehicles being shipped and the vehicle identification number (VIN) of each.

The VIN is incredibly important in car hauling. You or your driver may arrive at a dealership to pick up a 2015 Chevrolet Colorado, as noted in this example. However, the dealer may have multiple 2015 Chevrolet Colorados, even in the same color.

What happens if the driver doesn't verify the VIN? This can cause significant losses to both the customer and the shipper. The customer won't receive the vehicle they ordered, and the shipper must arrange for yet another carrier to pick up the correct vehicle. Often, the incorrect vehicle will also need to be shipped back.

You can also find the operational status of the vehicle. You'll see the tiny check boxes for "Keys," "No Keys," "Inop," and "Operable." Drivers should assume the vehicle runs and has keys unless there's a check mark in the "No Keys" or "Inop" boxes. Note that "Inop" is shorthand for inoperable.

Lastly in this section, the drawings of a car are where drivers should note whether there are any damages to the vehicle and, if so, where they exist. Drivers should be noting this section both at pickup and delivery to verify whether damages are preexisting or occur in transit.

Section Four

Finally, we come to the conclusion of the pertinent information. You've got signature lines for all parties involved in the shipment. The driver, the shipper, and the receiving party all need to sign for the vehicle. Having the correct dates marked will also be very important. Correct dates will prevent any discrepancies in the future about whether a vehicle was picked up or delivered on time.

Where Can You Get Your Own Template?

Are you looking to generate your own bill of lading for car hauling? They're extremely easy to find. Keep in mind that the example I discussed above is merely one sample. You'll discover formats can vary widely, but the core information required will be the same.

I've come up with a few options for where you can get your own:

I've given just a few options here. You'll find there are bountiful opportunities to create your own.

Can You Complete Your Bills of Lading Digitally?

Of course! You can do nearly anything digitally these days.

It's possible to complete bills of lading entirely through applications now, including digital signatures. Drivers can immediately upload their completed load through digital imaging. In turn, drivers are able to get paid more quickly. Furthermore, shippers are able to quickly verify their product has been delivered. Lastly, shippers are able to bill their customers in a more timely fashion.

So, yes, you can handle your documentation digitally, even if they're in bad shape physically. More importantly, you not only can, but you should! Your business will increase its speed and efficiency across the board.

Your Future in Car Hauling

Car hauling is a one-of-a-kind part of the transportation industry. You'll be primed for success in car hauling if you pay attention to detail. You'll also benefit greatly from the digitization of your business in whatever manner possible.

From varying trailer types and sizes to the size, shape, and quantity, car hauling will always provide a new challenge daily. The bill of lading is the first weapon in your arsenal that will lead you to success. Now you have a much better understanding of how and why this paperwork matters.

This post was written by Matthew Zandstra. Matt has been working in transportation and logistics dispatch for the past six years, both as a broker and direct to drivers. He’s familiar with various facets of relationships, technical systems, pricing mechanics, and commodities.

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