37 Types of Bill of Ladings Every Shipper MUST Know

Posted by George Muha on Jan 4, 2018 6:52:00 AM


Every industry has their own language but the freight industry takes it to a new level.  There are more unique terms, abbreviations and acronyms than probably necessary.  Unless you live this stuff every day, it is virtually impossible to stay current with this vernacular.  

One seemingly simple word that has an unprecedented amount of variations is the bill of lading (or B/L, or BOL).  You have the straight B/L, the amended B/L, the original B/L, the split B/L...and the list goes on ad infinitum.  Well not quite but there certainly are a lot of variations of the bill of lading.  

Because of this, I thought it would be good if we provided a little education on all of the most commonly said versions of bill of ladings and define what they mean.   

Definitions of the most comonly used bill of lading terms:

Amended B/L: B/L requiring updates that do not change financial status; this is slightly different from corrected B/L.

B/L Terms & Conditions: The fine print on B/L; defines what the carrier can and can­not do, including the carrier’s liabilities and contractual agreements.

B/L’s Status: Represents whether the bill of lading has been input, rated, reconciled, printed, or released to the customer.

B/L’s Type:  Refers to the type of B/L being issued. Some examples are: a Memo (ME), Original (OBL), Non–negotiable, Corrected (CBL) or Amended (AM) B/L.

Canceled B/L:  B/L status; used to cancel a processed B/L; usually per shipper’s request; different from voided B/L.

Clean B/L:  A B/L which bears no superimposed clause or notation which declares a defective condition of the goods and/or the packaging.

Combined B/L: B/L that covers cargo moving over various transports.

Consolidated B/L:  B/L combined or consolidated from two or more B/L’s.

Corrected B/L:  B/L requiring any update which results in money –or other financially related changes.

Domestic B/L:  Non–negotiable B/L primarily containing routing details; usually used by truckers and freight forwarders.

Duplicate B/L: Another original Bill of Lading set if first set is lost. Also known as reis­sued B/L.

Express B/L:  Non–negotiable B/L where there are no paper copies printed of origi­nals.

Freight B/L: A contract of carriage between a shipper and forwarder (who is usually a NVOCC); a non–negotiable document.

Government B/L (GBL):  A bill of lading issued by the U.S. government.

Hitchment B/L:  B/L covering parts of a shipment which are loaded at more than one location. Hitchment B/L usually consists of two parts, hitchment and hitchment memo. The hitchment portion usually covers the majority of a divided shipment and carries the entire revenue.

House B/L:  B/L issued by a freight forwarder or consolidator covering a single shipment containing the names, addresses and specific description of the goods shipped.

Intermodal B/L:  B/L covering cargo moving via multimodal means. Also known as Combined Transport B/L, or Multimodal B/L.

Long Form B/L:  B/L form with all Terms & Conditions written on it.Most B/L’s are short form which incorporate the long form clauses by reference.

Memo B/L:  Unfreighted B/L with no charges listed.

Military B/L:  B/L issued by the U.S. military; also known as GBL, or Form DD1252.

B/L Numbers:  U.S. Customs’ standardized B/L numbering format to facilitate elec­tronic communications and to make each B/L number unique.

Negotiable B/L:  The B/L is a title document to the goods, issued “to the order of” a party, usually the shipper, whose endorsement is required to effect is negotiation.Thus, a shipper’s order (negotiable) B/L can be bought, sold, or traded while goods are in transit and is commonly used for letter–of–credit transactions. The buyer must submit the origi­nal B/L to the carrier in order to take possession of the goods.

Non–Negotiable B/L:  See Straight B/L. Sometimes means a file copy of a B/L.

“Onboard” B/L:  B/L validated at the time of loading to transport. Onboard Air, Box­car, Container, Rail, Truck and Vessel are the most common types.

Optional Discharge B/L:  B/L covering cargo with more than one discharge point op­tion possibility.

“Order” B/L:  See Negotiable B/L.

Original B/L:  The part of the B/L set that has value, especially when negotiable; rest of set are only informational file copies. Abbreviated as OBL.

Received for Shipment B/L:  Validated at time cargo is received by ocean carrier to com­mence movement but before being validated as “Onboard”.

Reconciled B/L:  B/L set which has completed a prescribed number of edits between the shipper’s instructions and the actual shipment received. This produces a very accurate B/L.

Short Term B/L:  Opposite of Long Form B/L, a B/L without the Terms & Conditions written on it. Also known as a Short Form B/L. The terms are incorporated by reference to the long form B/L.

Split B/L:  One of two or more B/L’s which have been split from a single B/L.

Stale B/L:  A late B/L; in banking, a B/L which has passed the time deadline of the Letter of Credit (L/C) and is void.

Straight (Consignment) B/L:  Indicates the shipper will deliver the goods to the con­signee.It does not convey title (non–negotiable).Most often used when the goods have been pre–paid.

“To Order” B/L:  See Negotiable B/L.

Unique B/L Identifier:  U.S. Customs’ standardization: four–alpha code unique to each carrier placed in front of nine digit B/L number; APL’s unique B/L Identifier is “APLU”. Sea–land uses “SEAU”. These prefixes are also used as the container identification.

Voided B/L:  Related to Consolidated B/L; those B/L’s absorbed in the combining pro­cess. Different from Canceled B/L.


Congratulations! You now know the meaning of all of the variations of bill of ladings.   We hope you found this helpful.  If you would like more clarity on other freight terms, download our Ultimate Glossary of Freight Terms.

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