How Contactless Electronic Bill of Lading are Safer for Drivers and Customers

How Contactless Electronic Bill of Lading are Safer for Drivers and Customers

Traditionally the Bill of Lading (BOL) is physical paper document the carrier receives prior to loading.  At every step of the shipping process, paper bill of ladings require constant close-quarter interactions, delays, and manual processing work. The burdens associated with paper work have been an important area of concern for years with carriers and shippers moving toward the adoption of electronic bills of lading which enables flexibility and near real time processing.

In recent weeks, the use of paper BOL is being seen as a safety risk for workers in the truck and warehouse. Shippers, carriers, and consignees are reluctant to sign BOL documents via tablets or paperwork due to fears of cross contact contamination.

For those in the shipping community that are still using paper it has raised the need to look more closely at electronic bills of lading (eBOL). The eBOL enables businesses and carriers to digitally sign bill of ladings which provides for safer interactions between truck drivers and onsite personnel at customer locations.

Importance of the Bill of Lading

Let’s take a quick look at the bill of lading (BOL) and how it is used. The BOL is a required document to move a freight shipment. There are different types of BOLs that are based on the mode of transportation. Airway freight has their own, as does ocean movement and ground transportation. The BOL documents the movement of a freight shipment and acts like a title of ownership which follows this order:

  • At first, the shipper owns the product.
  • Next, the shipper releases the product to a carrier.
  • Finally, the consignee (recipient) receives and owns the product.

Throughout the process of shipping, transportation, and receiving, the BOL is the only proof of transaction which1

  • Provides evidence of freight movement. The BOL creates the evidence that a ‘contract’ was created containing the terms and condition under which the goods transportation will be carried out.
  • Verifies transfer of goods or products. The BOL is evidence that products have been transferred to the carrier for movement in good condition. Once the carrier picks up a shipment they take full responsibility for its condition.It denotes where the shipment was received, and it further documents every time the goods/commodity is transferred to others.
  • Documents delivery. The BOL provides a complete paper/electronic trail of the shipping transaction and protects the shipper, carrier and consignee (recipient).

The BOL protects the shipper, carrier and consignee as follows: 2

  • Shipper is protected from theft and fraud. The document explains exactly what the cargo is and required cost to be transported. Therefore, if on arrival of delivery, the type or amount of goods received by the consignee don't match the bill of lading, then the shipper has recourse against the carrier.
  • Carrier is ensured that the shipper agrees to pay for the transport. Furthermore, because both the shipping and receiving parties sign the bill of lading, it acts as a receipt for the carrier's work. It's proven documentation that the carrier picked up and delivered the freight as expected. Also, it certifies that the carrier delivered the freight in its expected condition. This prevents the shipper and receiver from making fraudulent claims about the transportation of the goods after the fact.
  • Consignee workers can also use the bill of lading to confirm that the shipment delivered to them is what the company expected. Should the quantity or condition of the goods not meet expectations, the consignee could then seek repercussion with the shipper, noting any concerns on the bill of lading.

As a legal binding document, it provides all the details needed to properly process a freight shipment and invoice correctly. The bill of lading includes information like:3

  • Names and addresses of the shipper and receiver (consignee).
  • Purchase orders or special reference numbers which may be important in order for freight to be released for pickup or accepted at delivery.
  • Special instructions that will denote extra service requests like liftgate or delivery notification.
  • Date of the pickup which may be needed as reference to track freight or help reconcile shipping invoices.
  • Description of items that denotes the number of shipping units, the dimensions and weight, as well as information about the material and its makeup.
  • Packaging type denotes if the goods being shipped are cartons, crates, pallets and/or drums when shipping.
  • NMFC freight class impact the cost of your shipment. Freight shipments are broken down into classes based on weight, dimensions, density, storage capability, ease of handling, value and liability.
  • Department of Transportation hazardous material designation for hazardous shipments that govern how the goods will be handled during shipping.

How Honeywell Partners with Vector for Electronic Bills of Lading

Honeywell’s ruggedized CT60 Mobile Computer in partnership with Vector’s industry-leading data capture software solution is being used to replace paper bills of lading (BOLs) with contactless electronic bills of lading (eBOL). The Honeywell offering results in 100% real-time BOL accuracy and a faster digitized process, that eliminates contact and increases customer safety across shippers, carriers, and receivers. By streamlining 70k+ loads through one device, logistics firms can increase cash flow up to 76%. Savings that have been realized can be re-invested into increasing the fleet size.4

Vector—Streamlined Scanning Gap, Snap, Done

Vector makes it easy for fleet operations teams to digitize documents in the field and the back office, resulting in paper elimination, reduced health and safety risks, and increased cash flow. Vector enhances existing technology investments with mobile capabilities and real-time collaboration, reducing physical interactions across logistics partners.

How it works. Using Vector's auto-imaging capabilities, Bill of Ladings and other freight documentation can be easily processed as a group and made available for drivers to access via mobile app and SMS workflows.

Drivers digitally access freight documentation and sign-off on Proof of Shipments via mobile app on the Honeywell CT60 Mobile Computer. At delivery, receivers complete Proof of Delivery workflows via mobile app or web app.

Digitally signed Proof of Shipments from the carrier drivers and Proof of Deliveries from receivers are made available via mobile app, the web, system integrations or API. 5

  1. Staged bill of landings by shippers. Vector automatically ingests your BOLs. You simply email your BOLs and other freight documentation to your Vector inbox, or upload via Vector's web application or SFTP server. Once documents are ingested, Vector's auto-imaging module automatically indexes the paperwork and stages them for access by verified drivers. No manual indexing or doctyping required.
  2. Drivers access touchless bill of ladings. Get loaded without the paper handoff. Upon pulling up to a dock, drivers access relevant freight documentation via the Vector mobile app. Drivers then answer a short series of questions to confirm that they have taken ownership of the cargo and to digitally sign off. All from the safety of their cabs.

    With a few pieces of information answered via Vector's SMS Chatbot, the appropriate freight documentation is staged for the driver to then verify.

    Verification involves snapping a photo of the trailer and dock which includes geolocation data. Coupled with the driver's e-signature, the correct BOL is then released to the driver.

    Digital BOLs are easily accessed via their mobile browser. At delivery, photos of dock door and the receiver, the receiver's name and geolocation serve as the Proof of Delivery.

  3. Verified deliveries accessed via web portal. Get freight documents on demand. All documentation including BOLs can be accessed via the web portal. Shipped and delivered loads will have additional data on the BOL provided by the driver including photographs of dock doors, date and timestamps and e-signatures.

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1 What is the Purpose of a Bill of Lading?

2 What Is a Bill of Lading and What's Its Purpose?

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5Touchless Freight Documentation

Barry J. Ewell

Barry J. Ewell is a Senior Content Marketing Communications Specialist for Honeywell Industrial Automation. He has been researching and writing on supply chain topics since 1991.