What Is a Bill of Lading Used for When Shipping a Car?

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    Bill of Lading

    A bill of lading is an integral part of the vehicle transport process. Cars, trucks and SUVs, classic and exotic vehicles, motorcycles, even RVs and boats – all of these need a bill of lading when being shipped!

    So what exactly is a bill of lading? What does it do? What information must it have, and what is optional for it to contain? Particularly for the first-timer, these terms and documents aren’t all that familiar. Let’s jump right in and break down bills of lading and why you need them.

    What is a Bill of Lading?

    A bill of lading (often referred to as a BOL or B.O.L.) is essentially a legal contract between yourself and the transport company you use for vehicle transport. The law requires a bill of lading to be prepared by the auto transport company itself before shipping. The shipper and the driver hauling the shipment must receive a copy each.

    The bill of lading is used for record-keeping and as a receipt of sorts. The shipper will need the bill of lading to accept the vehicle on the other end of the transport. Insurance companies will need the bill of lading should anything go wrong. On-the-road inspections will compare the BOLs to the actual contents of open and closed carriers.

    What Information Needs to Be on a Bill of Lading?

    Six pieces of information are a must-have for every bill of lading. This information will be pertinent to the shipper and the transporter and any insurance company, weigh station inspector, or police officer the transporter may encounter during the shipment.

    Shipping Company and Driver Details

    At the top of every BOL should be a header containing information about the auto transport company you’re using. This should include at least – but not be limited to – the name of the company, the business address, a valid contact number, the motor carrier ID number of the carrier, and the driver’s details driving the transporter. Emergency contact information is also recommended to be included in the header. Should any other motor carriers be used along the way – transferring to a different transporter, for instance –, this information also must be included.

    Pickup and Delivery Information

    Every BOL should clearly state the pick-up and delivery locations, as well as the exact time of pick-up and the approximated time of delivery. It should also include contact information for the receiver, such as a contact phone number. Ensure to check the details – a typo in the address or phone number could cause delays in transporting and receiving your car, truck, or SUV.

    General Vehicle Information

    The essential identifiers of your vehicle. Should include the type of vehicle (car, truck, SUV, etc.), the make and model, the year, your license plate number, and the color. The key identifier is to be included in the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). These unique numbers ensure no confusion, even if a second vehicle with an identical make, model, and color is loaded.

    Vehicle Condition

    Before even loading your vehicle onto the hauler, you and the transport driver should perform an inspection and document the vehicle’s condition. Any physical damage must be notated before shipping. This will help protect the driver or carrier from false claims and protect you from potential damage incurred during transport. Here at Number 1 Auto Transport, we do our best to ensure clean delivery every time and have a great reputation for it. However, there is always that .01% chance of weather damage or other damage occurring. A proper inspection allows us to compare notes at delivery and make sure your vehicle is just how you handed it over to our driver!

    Any Terms and Conditions

    BOLs need to include information about payment – including the mode of payment and necessary advance payments or deposits – and other terms and conditions of the transport. Particularly if a third party is involved, you’ll want to understand what they are responsible for, as well as the carrier themselves, and where funds must be provided to. You’ll need to make sure to read and understand these clauses. They will let you know what is or is not covered, what is expected of you as the owner, and what is expected of the carrier, third-party, or broker.


    The final and most important piece. Once everything is agreed upon, the driver and shipper need to sign off, turning the BOL into a binding document. BOLs must have both signatures or be questioned by insurance, legal, and law enforcement should something come up.

    Who Holds on to a Bill of Lading?

    You both do!

    Every bill of lading should come with a copy to the car owner, while the transport company also needs to have a copy. There may be additional copies for a third-party broker or even for an insurance company in some cases.

    It would help if you made sure to keep your bill of lading on hand. You will need it to facilitate the receiving of the vehicle at the endpoint. It will also have the inspection notes that you’ll want to compare to the car’s condition when dropped off to see if any damages have occurred.

    Here at Number 1 Auto Transport, we strive to ensure that all Bills of Lading that we provide are clear and easy to understand. We don’t want to hide behind terminology and legalese – every BOL we offer will be concise and worded so that even the first-timer can understand it! Once you sign that BOL, it’s set in stone. We will happily go over it and address any concerns you have to satisfy what we do and how we do it! Reach out to Number 1 Auto Transport today to start the process to get your car, truck, SUV, or other vehicle shipped to its next destination!

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