When it comes to determining the shipping rate for a particular load, many factors come into immediate consideration. While mileage and carrier fees set the tone for the nature of the rate, ultimately, the Bill of Lading (BOL) will have the biggest impact on the cost of goods transport. Unfortunately, this is the source of major discrepancies for invoicing and payments as well. Logging incorrect information on a BOL taints the process right from the get-go, causing confusion and headaches for shippers down the line.
Why is the BOL so important?
The BOL is perhaps the single most important document in a shipping transaction. Not only is it a legally binding document, it details shipment information in a way that’s transparent to both shipper and carrier. Every transaction starts and ends with the BOL. If there’s ever a discrepancy or disagreement, the BOL is the standard by which we judge the outcome. Needless to say, it had better be correct!
Information contained within the BOL serves three specific purposes:
- Evidence of a shipping contract
- Receipt of goods
- Title to the goods
It’s signed by the shipper, driver, and recipient, representing the chain of custody from start to finish. If the information on the BOL is wrong, it can cause problems at each of these exchanges and beyond.
Common BOL problems
Despite its status as an all-important shipping document, BOLs are still subject to human error. Mislabeling the date of pickup, misplacing a decimal point on the weight of the package, designating the wrong freight class, etc. — these issues all end up coming to fruition at some point in the transactional process and, more often than not, come with additional costs. Little errors add up. Here’s a look at some of the common BOL problems that’ll cost you money:
- Incorrect weight and tonnage (reweight). Common in LTL (lighter than truckload) shipping (where every pound matters), if the BOL weight doesn’t match and the carrier needs to reweigh, expect additional charges for the added tonnage. Check and double-check your BOL weights, and definitely don’t fudge the numbers.
- Incorrect freight class. Marking the wrong freight class could saddle you with higher fees than normal. You might be paying a rate that’s too high for what you’re shipping; or, you could end up costing your carrier fees that they pass on to you if the freight class is incorrect.
- Incorrect billing info. Mislabeled BOLs result in delayed payments for shippers. If the BOL and payment information can’t be easily reconciled, that’s money left on the table. Even when it doesn’t result in money lost or excess fees, it’s still an unrealized expense.
- Accessorial not listed. Forgetting to include accessorials will drive up the shipment cost because those fees show up on the final invoice. This confuses the reconciliation process and adds headaches to the shipping process.
These are far from the only mistakes you’re likely to see on a BOL, but they do represent the most common ones that will cost you. Avoid them whenever possible and you’ll avoid the fees that come alongside them.
Using a TMS to automate BOL information
nVision Global’s Transportation Management System (TMS) solutions allow you to automate BOL information in many ways — including tying it to digital shipment information for better accuracy at the point of shipment. For example, using a digital scale to grab weight information and pairing it with computer-generated freight class information can fix two of the costliest mistakes, simply by eliminating human intervention. Our TMS also prints the BOL for shippers, so it’s accurate and ready for carriers upon pickup. Done within the TMS environment, it’s a smart way to ensure the BOL remains the infallible system of record it’s meant to be.