top of page





You will deal with some kind of freight documentation as a professional driver. You must be aware of the paperwork needed and your responsibilities while managing it. The fundamentals of cargo documentation, including a comprehensive review of the bill of lading and freight bill, as well as the protocols you should adhere to while conducting pickups and deliveries, will be covered in this chapter. We'll start by taking a look at the various definitions related to freight documentation.


Basic Definitions


Carrier — An individual or company in the business of shipping goods.


Shipper (consignor) — The individual or company originating the order for transport of goods.


Receiver (consignee) — The individual or company to whom the goods are shipped or consigned.


Connecting carrier — A shipper who transfers goods to another company to continue shipping after they have been delivered by one carrier to an interchange point.


Terminal carrier (agent) — The carrier who delivers the shipment to the consignee.


Freight broker — a person or business that plans the truck transportation of another person's goods in exchange for payment, using licensed for-hire carriers to do the actual truck transportation. A broker often does not take control of the cargo and does not take on responsibility for the shipment.


Freight forwarder — An individual or company that accepts one larger shipment.


Originating (pickup) carrier — The carrier who picks up a shipment from a shipper.



Bill of lading — Between the shipper and carrier of a formal transportation agreement. It specifies the freight, who it is committed to, the delivery location, and the agreement's conditions.


Straight bill of lading — Provides that goods be delivered to the consignee indicated. The consignee doesn’t have to surrender his copy to receive the goods.


Through bill of lading — Provides coverage for cargo made up of many carriers at a flat cost for the full service.

Manifest — A document describing the contents of an entire shipment on a vehicle.


Packing slip — A detailed list of packed goods prepared by the shipper.


Delivery receipt — A receipt signed by the customer receiving the goods indicating acceptance of the goods from the driver.


Warehousing receipt — A receipt for goods placed in a warehouse.


Charges and services — Payment is required for both products and transportation services. In most cases, the shipper and consignee work out the details of payment for the products. The carrier may sometimes be needed to collect. When this happens, the driver cannot deliver the freight or turn over control of it until these fees are paid. You must comprehend the following terminology as a result.


Prepaid — The transportation charges are paid for or will be paid at the shipping point.


COD — The payment for goods is made at the delivery point. The driver must collect payment before the cargo is unloaded. Policies regarding this vary from company-to-company.


Order notify shipment — The payment of goods on an Order Notify Bill of Lading. The driver must collect a copy of the bill of lading from the person receiving the goods as payment for the goods.


Basis of rates — The cost of the transportation and any other services supplied by the carrier determine the rates. Fees per mile are used to calculate mileage rates. Class rates are established by classifying products based on attributes including density, stability, handling ease, and liability.


Value of cargo — Cargo is valued as either actual valuation or released valuation.

Actual valuation — The actual value of goods shown on the bill of lading when the rate applied is dependent on that fact.

Released valuation — The value of goods set by the shipper as limits of carrier liability and as the basis of rates charged.


Weight and distance — the main factor influencing shipping costs. The expressions "per pound of cargo" and "per mile traveled" are used to convey rates.


Services performed by carrier — A list of services that a carrier performs and the rates for those services.

Tariffs — Rates on transportation charges based on the type of service. Minimum rate — The lowest lawful rate that may be charged. Maximum rate — The highest rate that can be charged for a specific type of shipment.


Duties — Government tax must be collected on imports and exports.


Services and surcharges — Basic rates, services, and duties are deter- mined in advance by rules and agreements between the shipper and carrier. Services and surcharges are based on such things as type of cargo (valua- tion), weight, destination, and type of service. Additional services and rates may be specified on the bill of lading. It is important to know and understand what each of the following terms mean so you can perform the services indicated as required.


Inside delivery — The freight is unloaded and delivered inside instead of at curbside.


Tailgate delivery — The freight is unloaded and delivered at the truck’s tailgate (back of truck).


Helper service (lumper) — The bill of lading should include the arrangement and remuneration for loading and unloading, but it seldom does. Typically, it is stated that the load is either a driver's load or a shipper/load receiver's count. If a helper service (lumper) is provided, the driver may use it to load and unload the vehicle. This is often covered by the driver's employer and is charged as part of the freight cost.

Residential delivery — The delivery of the freight is to a residential address. The terms of delivery and the procedure for collecting payment are detailed in the bill of lading.


Dunnage and return of dunnage — Cardboard, timber, or other materials are used as "dunnage" to hold and stabilize shipments. Not packaging, exactly. The weight of the dunnage should be stated on the bill of lading. The majority of the time, dunnage weight is free. The driver shall maintain the dunnage and return it to the carrier or shipper as directed if the return of the dunnage is requested.


Storage and delay charges — Additional charges are made for storage or if the carrier is delayed from making a delivery.


Demurrage (detention) — The detention of a vehicle beyond a specified time. Payment is made to the carrier for this delay (detention time).


Basic Documents


When picking up and delivering goods, as a professional driver, you will often interact with two essential papers. The bill of lading and freight (cost) bill are these papers.


Bill of lading — This document is for the use of a shipper and a common carrier. The front, or face, of the bill of lading, must include all the details required for the transportation of the freight. The bill of lading's reverse side or back typically contains the shipping terms and conditions.


There are three distinct and important functions served by the bill of lading:


  1. It is a receipt issued by the carrier to a shipper for goods received for transportation. The bill of lading:

  • States the place and date of shipment;

  • Describes the goods, their quality, weight, dimensions, identification marks, condition, etc.; and

  • Sometimes the goods quality and value.


2.  It is a contract naming the:

  • Parties involved;

  • Specific rate or charge for transportation; and

  • Agreement and stipulations regarding the limitations of the carrier’s common law liability in the case of loss or injury to the goods.


3.  It also lists other obligations assumed by the parties or to matters agreed upon by them.


A few bills of lading provide written proof of ownership of the items being carried. The consignee is identified as the owner of the freight on the "Order" or "Negotiable" bill of lading, and the carrier may only deliver the cargo to the holder of the bill of lading. When a bill of lading is "negotiated," the party receiving it gains ownership of the shipment. This bill of lading has relatively little use.


Ideally, bills of lading should be typed, but they must be legibly written in ink, permanent pencil, or both. All information must be entered or written exactly in the space designated for it.


The following information must be included on the bill of lading.


Name of consignor — The individual or company originating the order for transport of goods.


Name of consignee — The individual or company to who the goods are shipped or consigned to.


Address — The street address of the consignee should always be listed in the space provided. A post office box is not acceptable for delivery.


Destination — The location has to be precise. A misspelled or illegibly typed destination might result in a lot of hassle and money. Insert the name of the county to easily identify the proper destination if there are two places with the same name within a state.


Date — This should be the precise day that the goods were delivered to the courier. This may assist avoid confusion about the tariff rate that applies to the cargo.


Description of goods — Goods should be accurately and completely described, both in terms of quality and quantity, on the bill of lading. To correctly assess and rate the package, the carrier may want further information.


Special marking and instructions — Special instructions should be followed, and special markings visible on shipping units must be replicated on the bill of lading. There should be special instructions (freezable, transit rights, pick-up allowances, etc.).


Payment of freight charges — Carriers have the legal right to demand prepayment on any freight as long as they don't engage in discrimination. This right applies to specified commodities and freight that is assigned to certain destinations. In general, the decision of who will pay the costs and when rests with the shipper.


Bill of lading forms must indicate who is responsible for transportation charges. The charges may be “prepaid” or “collect.”


Section 7 — The "no recourse provision," often referred to as Section 7 of the conditions, deals with the payment of freight costs and is indicated on the front of the bill of lading. Section 7 of the terms and conditions on the back of the bill of lading explains this and fundamentally states that, unless the shipper specifies in writing in the space provided that the carrier makes delivery without requiring prepayment, the shipper/consignor is primarily responsible for payment of the freight and other legal charges.


Even though the terms for payment of freight charges on the bill of lading are collected on delivery, shippers who leave the Section 7 area blank or unsigned are effectively telling the carrier that if they do not, or are unable to collect the charges from the consignee, the carrier may return to the shipper (consignor) for payment of the freight charges.


The carrier's ability to recover freight costs from the consignor when they are due and uncollectible from the consignee directly depends on whether or not Section 7 is performed.




  • Shipper assigned BOL number.


  • Carrier assigned pro number


  • Name of carrier


  • NMFTA's Standard Carrier Alpha Code, which certain carriers are compelled to use.


  • Date the shipment is accepted by the carrier


  • Name of consignee.


  • Street name and number


  • Destination state and zip code


  • Name of shipper/consignor


  • The address and pickup number.


  • Origin state and zip code.


  • Number of units to be handled.


  • Description of goods, special marks, exceptions


  • Weight.


  • Class or rate if known for information only


  • The exact name and address of the person who paid the courier via COD.


  • Collect on Delivery amount


  • Carrier COD charge paid by shipper or consignee


  • Shipper’s valuation declaration.


  • Non-recourse clause executed only by shipper at time of shipment


  • Prepaid freight costs are shown if the collect box is not checked.


  • Signature of shipper and date.


  • Driver signature and date


Unilateral Amendments — Any modifications made to the bill of lading contract by a single party are not enforceable by the other parties. Both parties must agree to any modifications, and updated copies of the contract must be delivered.


Bill of lading retention period —A bill of lading must be kept by a motor carrier, broker, household goods freight forwarder, or water carrier for a minimum of a year following the date of the document, or until any claim or dispute involving the transportation of freight based on the document is settled. This is required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).


Basis of rates — The cost of the transportation and any other services supplied by the carrier determines the rates that are charged. A cost per mile determines mileage rates. Class rates are established by classifying products based on attributes including density, stability, handling ease, and liability.


Freight (expense) bill — Every motor common carrier must issue a freight or expense bill for each shipment transported.


The freight or expense bill must include:


    • Names of consignor and consignee;


    • Date of shipment;


    • Origin and destination points;


    • Number of packages;


    • Description of freight;


    • Weight, volume, or measurement of freight (if applicable to the rating of the freight);


    • Exact rate(s) assessed;


    • The total amount owed, including any fees for special services, their type, their cost, and the locations where they were provided;


    • The movement's route and each carrier taking part in the transportation's name;


    • Transfer point(s) through which shipment moved; and


    • Address where remittance must be made or address of bill issuer’s principal place of business.


Nobody has the right to direct a motor carrier to provide any party to the transaction with incorrect or deceptive information regarding the true rate, charge, or allowance on a document for payment.


The original freight or expense bill must be sent to the shipper or receiver who is responsible for paying the costs, and the carrier must preserve a copy as required by 49 CFR 379.


Pickup and Delivery Procedures


Freight pickup — By signing the bill of lading, you confirm that your business accepts the conditions of the contract. Your signature binds the business since you are serving as its agent. Additionally, it indicates that you accept responsibility for the freight and that the kind and quantity of the real freight agree with those stated on the bill of lading.


Before signing the bill of lading, always count, check, and make sure the freight is generally stated accurately. If the freight is undersized, damaged, or improperly packed, you should reject it or make a written note of it on the bill of lading.


Freight delivery — There are several things you need to keep in mind when delivering freight.


  1. Make sure the delivery is made to the right person (consignee);


  1. Handle payment for merchandise correctly;


  1. Handle freight changes correctly;


  1. Get the proper signatures on the bill of lading (and freight bill if applicable); and


  1. Always follow your company’s policy dealing with short shipments, damages, or any other freight problems.


If someone else is handling the freight unloading, watch and/or direct them (if possible). Keep in mind that until the consignee signs for it, the freight is yours.


Split shipments — A split shipment is one where the goods are picked up from several locations. At each address, a receipted bill of lading must be provided. The address for each delivery must also be included on the bill of lading.


Be very cautious while handling divided cargo. Make sure the proper freight is delivered to the correct address by carefully comparing each component to the bill of lading and/or freight bill.


Interline freight — Freight picked up from or delivered to another carrier is referred to as interline freight. Dealing with interline freight requires the same level of caution as dealing with any other consignor or consignee.


  • Check for cargo shortage or damage before signing the connecting carrier’s bill of lading or freight bill;

  • Don’t sign the bill of lading or freight bill if the connecting carrier refuses to acknowledge things such as shortages or damages;

  • Check the trailer and its contents before signing for ownership if equipment exchange is involved (such as when you are hooking up a trailer from another firm or abandoning your trailer);

  • Always check with your company for instructions.





You have studied bills of lading, freight bills, and the terminologies related to these papers in this chapter. Additionally, you've mastered the fundamentals of freight pickup and delivery.

bottom of page