All About the Auto Shipping Bill of Lading

If you’ve ever shipped a car, or moved before, you have likely seen a Bill of Lading. Regardless of the industry, most of them are the same in what they do. An auto shipping bill of lading is the same as any other, except for cars instead of whatever else.

It’s important that you understand your auto shipping bill of lading, what it is, why it’s necessary, and how to use it properly. In this post we’re going to discuss commonalities between different car transport bills of lading and how to both understand and use them to your benefit.

This will ensure that your shipment – at least, from where you’re standing – is as easy as possible. That’s the goal: make things easier, right?

Well, that’s our goal today with this blog post, anyway. So keep reading.

What is an auto shipping bill of lading?

An auto shipping bill of lading is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – a bill of lading for an auto shipment.

But what is a bill of lading?

Without getting into the etymology of the phrase, a bill of lading is a “schedule of goods prepared for transport.” This means that a bill of lading describes a piece of cargo that is to be transported by some means. This can mean via boat, or via truck, or via plane, it doesn’t matter.

As you’ve likely surmised by now, bills of lading are common any time something is being transported. They’re required by law, actually, because you gotta know what’s on the truck, right? It’s never been different; even in, say, the Roman era, bills of lading were used by governments to know what was coming in on ships docked at ports and what was scheduled to leave the city, for instance.

As long as humans have been trading goods, bills of lading have been required to know what exactly is on a ship or a cart or whatever other modicum is used to transport those goods. It’s also important that some goods be tracked. A bill of lading that details, from start to finish, a particular piece of cargo’s journey, can help ensure that goods stay safe during transit, or to simply keep things honest.

In fact, the term “bill of lading” has, in one form or another, been in humanity’s lexicon since 1371, the first recorded usage of the phrase. Needless to say, tracking goods has long been a part of trade, and it’s not changing any time soon.

How the auto shipping bill of lading works for you

A bill of lading acts as your receipt of transit, your inspection report, and even the terms and conditions of your shipment. These are all very important documents, so having them all in one place is actually really helpful for both you and your carrier.

To start, it’s a receipt. This means that it’ll show the total amount that you owe to your carrier and when the balance needs to be paid. It also shows where the vehicle is coming from and to (in the case of vehicle shipments, the pickup and delivery addresses). And it also will keep the name and information of the carrier company.

As every company has its own bills of lading, some may be different. But they all act as a receipt, an inspection report, and terms and conditions.

Speaking of, your inspection report is crucial especially when it comes to damage claims. You need to be sure that both you and the carrier do the pickup and delivery inspection when you’re shipping a vehicle. Failure to do so, and to mark any existing damage (on pickup) on the bill of lading, can lead to a loss of the ability to file a damage claim. While damage is rare, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

And lastly, it acts as terms and conditions for your carrier. It will outline what they are liable for, what they are not, and the conditions under which your vehicle will be shipped. It’s very important that you read these thoroughly. You don’t want to end up on the wrong side of a dispute with a carrier because you didn’t understand how the industry works, after all.

Explaining the parts of the bill of lading

While each company will have its own specific bills of lading, there are a few things that each will have in common. Here, we’ll explain the various parts of a common bill of lading.

This is where the carrier’s information will be. It should include their name, address, phone numbers, and any license or motor carrier numbers.

Pickup and delivery information
This is where your pickup and delivery information will be. This information includes contact person names (either you or someone you know), addresses, and contact information.

Vehicle information
This is where your vehicle information will be located. Here it should have the vehicle year, make, and model, as well as license plate and/or VIN number sections. Some may have spaces for color, but that is not a requirement.

Vehicle condition
This is where your bill of lading will act as an inspection report. The condition of the vehicle must be marked at both pickup and delivery via an inspection. That inspection will need to be done by you and your driver and also signed by you and your driver. Failure to do so could result in forfeiture of your ability to file a damage claim if necessary.

You need to make sure you properly mark any existing damages at pickup and that your carrier sees them as well. The same goes for delivery. Each bill of lading will be different in terms of how it’s laid out, but they are all the same in terms of their function.

Terms and conditions
As mentioned, a bill of lading also acts as terms and conditions for your carrier. You should make sure to read them thoroughly as they will likely explain things such as what happens in case of damage or delay in delivery.

Inspections, details, and signatures

As we’ve mentioned several times, inspections are a crucial part of your auto transportation journey and the inspection report is a part of the bill of lading. Unless you physically cannot be there for pickup or delivery, you have to do an inspection of the vehicle with your driver.

If you cannot be there, the driver will have to do it himself and sign off on it. And while they are required to be honest, let’s face it, honesty is not humanity’s strongest suit. This doesn’t mean that carriers are shady; it just means you can’t be too careful.

You see, details are important. As are signatures. Because you’re required to sign off on both the pickup and inspection reports, if you’re not there to do it, the carrier can just say whatever they want. And, considering that the bill of lading is one big document, fibbing on it is kind of easy too. Damage during transport? Not if it was marked at pickup there isn’t! And if you didn’t sign the bill of lading at pickup, who’s to say that damage wasn’t there when the carrier loaded the vehicle?

You see the problem? It’s crucial that, if you cannot be there for pickup, someone is. They need to do the inspection and they need to sign the bill of lading.

Now, we personally make sure we only work with top-rated companies that know their carriers well enough to know they won’t do that. But not everyone does that. So keep yourself safe and be careful when shipping your vehicle.

Stay in good hands with ASQ

If you want to work with top-rated auto transporters that we know are among the best, we can help.

You can read reviews of some of the best car transport companies right here on our website. Read about their experience, their services, how they stack up against others in the industry, and much more. We know these companies, we’ve talked to their agents and seen them in action. We know who they are because we took the time to find out. Not every company can say that.

And while we can’t ship your car ourselves, we know that you can trust every company you talk to if you find them here.

We know the auto shipping industry. We’ve been in it for a long time. It’s hard to beat expertise, and we’ve built a reputation of quality services and honest information.