What You Need to Know about the Inland Bill of Lading

David Noah | October 16, 2019 | Export Forms
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What You Need to Know about the Inland Bill of Lading | Shipping SolutionsHow much do you know about the inland bill of lading? Even though it’s a straightforward form, it’s important to understand it and make sure you’re completing it correctly. After all, it may be the only transportation document you fill out as an exporter.

Below, I’ll walk you through what the inland bill of lading is, what it does, and four significant reasons to use one.

The Inland Bill of Lading

The inland bill of lading is a contract between the owner of the goods and the carrier stating what goods are shipping, where they are going, and where they started. It also serves as a receipt issued by the carrier once a shipment is picked up.

Download Sample Inland Bill of LadingAn inland bill of lading is often (but not always) the first transportation document issued for an international shipment. It may be prepared by the inland carrier or the shipper and then signed when the carrier takes possession or picks up the cargo.

The inland bill of lading is not typically consigned to the foreign buyer of the goods. It is more typically consigned to the freight forwarder, the warehouse, the packaging company, another third party in the process, or the international carrier.

If it is not immediately consigned to the international carrier, the forwarder or other third party will need to consign it to the carrier once they are identified. The party responsible for completing the bill of lading depends on which Incoterm is used for the terms of the sale.

Download the free Incoterms 2020 Chart of Responsibilities.

Why You Should Use an Inland Bill of Lading

1. It’s a receipt for your goods and guarantees you are properly insured.

You need to have a record of what’s included in the shipment, which is what an inland bill of lading provides. The bill of lading describes the items being shipped, where the shipment is going, who’s paying, and how it’s going to get there.

The person who’s picking up the goods signs the bottom of the bill of lading. The signature verifies that what you’re saying is there is actually there. For insurance purposes, it is proof of what’s on board and informs your insurance coverage should your items be damaged in transit.

2. It’s evidence of a contract for carriage between the exporter and the carrier.

The inland bill of lading explains all the details about how the goods are going to be shipped so there’s no doubt about who’s in charge of each step.

3. It ensures your shipments aren’t delayed.

A correctly completed inland bill of lading eliminates any shipment questions or issues. Any mistakes on your inland bill could delay your shipment or, worse yet, delay you getting paid for your shipment.

4. It ensures you get paid for your goods.

More than 10,000 shipping containers are lost annually. Without a correctly completed bill of lading, it is very difficult to get compensated for your loss.

In Conclusion

As with most all export documentation, the thing to remember about the inland bill of lading is that it needs to be completed correctly. It’s important that all your export documentation is consistent.

Depending on what you’re exporting, how you’re shipping it, and what documents your shipment requires, you will probably need to complete documents in a different order. That means a lot of paperwork, a lot of redundancy, and a lot of room for error.

That’s why we’ve created a better way. Shipping Solutions export documentation software allows you to complete your export documents up to five-times faster than the traditional manual process. Instead of copying the same information over and over again, you enter information in only one place, which makes you less likely to make expensive mistakes.

Let us show you how Shipping Solutions work. Register for a free online demo of the software.

For more on bills of lading, check out the following articles:


This article was first published in August 2016 and has been updated to include current information, links and formatting.

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