What Is an Inland Bill of Lading?

An inland bill of lading is a contract signed between a shipper and a transportation company (carrier) for the overland transportation of goods. An inland bill of lading serves as both the carrier's receipt to the shipper and the carriage contract. The document specifies the details of the goods being transported.

Key Takeaways

  • An inland bill of lading is a contract between a shipper and a transportation company for the movement of goods overland.
  • An inland bill of lading is used to carry goods overland and oftentimes to the port of shipping where the goods can be transported internationally.
  • Inland bills of lading are used primarily to cover transportation via rail, road, or inland waterway.
  • Details such as the description of the goods, their value, their origin, destination, and the terms of their transportation are included in an inland bill of lading.
  • The bill of lading serves as the receipt for the owner of the goods as well as the carrier's title for the purposes of transportation.
  • If the goods are to be shipped overseas, an additional document known as an "ocean bill of lading" is required.
  • If goods are transported by air instead, there will be an air waybill, which is used for both domestic and international air transportation.

Understanding an Inland Bill of Lading

An inland bill of lading is often the first transportation document issued for an international shipment and is used to transport goods over land via rail, road, or inland waterway, to the point at which the exporter's international carrier can place it on a ship.

It is the contract between the owner of the goods and the carrier, stating in detail a description of the goods, their value, their origin, destination, and the terms of their transportation. It will state the particular vehicle the goods are to be transported on and how freight charges are to be paid. The bill of lading serves as the receipt for the owner of the goods as well as the carrier's title for the purposes of transportation.

Because it is concerned with domestic overland transportation, the inland bill of lading will not be consigned directly to the foreign buyer of the goods but rather to a third party. This is usually the international carrier of the goods, but consignment to another third party, such as a warehouse, freight forwarder, or packaging company, before it reaches the international carrier is possible.

If consigned to such a third party, that party will, in turn, need to consign it to the international carrier. If an inland bill of lading is non-negotiable, it may only be delivered to the named consignee, but if it is negotiable, then the carrier in possession of the bill of lading may re-route the shipment.

Bill of Lading for Shipping Overseas

If the goods are to be shipped overseas, an additional document known as an "ocean bill of lading" is required. The inland bill covers only the domestic transportation component, while the ocean bill allows its transport overseas.

A full international shipment will thus require both an inland and an ocean bill of lading. The information contained in the inland bill of lading regarding the cargo should be reconfirmed by the international carrier. If there is a discrepancy between the cargo descriptions on the inland and ocean bills of lading, the latter will take precedence at the final destination.

If goods are transported by air instead, there will be an air waybill, which is used for both domestic and international air transportation.

Other Bills of Lading

Because the import/export business is vast with many moving parts, there are a variety of bills of lading. It is important to understand which ones you need when shipping or receiving goods, to avoid delays in delivery as well as to avoid financial loss in case goods are lost. Having an accurate bill of lading can help locate lost goods in the vast world of global shipments that move from one port to another around the globe, daily.

Some other bills of lading include a clean bill of lading, a direct bill of lading, a stale bill of lading, and a claused bill of lading.