What Is a Uniform Bill of Lading?

A uniform bill of lading is a standardized agreement between an exporter and a carrier regarding the items or property to be transported.

The uniform bill of lading provides a boilerplate language for the basic information about a shipment such as the shipper and recipient's names and the shipment's origin and destination. In addition, the document establishes the terms of the carrier's liability, transport time frame, how to file a claim for a lost or damaged shipment, how insurance will be applied in the event of a claim, and how the shipment may be stored or disposed of if the shipment is refused or is not deliverable.

Key Takeaways

  • A uniform bill of lading is a standardized version of the bill of lading that shippers and carriers use.
  • A bill of lading details and itemizes the contents of a shipment to be transported across borders.
  • It also stipulates the contract terms of the shipment including the carrier's liability and insurance, time for shipment, and claims processes.

Understanding a Uniform Bill of Lading

The uniform bill of lading also specifies the carrier's liability with regard to specific types of shipments including documents, coin money, items of extraordinary value, and explosives. Additional shipment charges may be assessed if the shipper misrepresents the type of goods being transported.

While the uniform bill of lading is the standard template, other variations also exist, including the inland bill of lading, ocean bill of lading, negotiable bill of lading, and through bill of lading.

Components of the Bill of Lading 

The bill of lading also represents proof of delivery when the goods are delivered to the destination and signed for by the receiver. These statements reflect either the shipper's representations to the carrier of the terms of the service or the carrier's notes from its own inspection of the goods. If the bill of lading notes the defective condition of the goods or their packaging, it is considered  "claused" or "fouled." If no defects are noted, it is considered a "clean" bill of lading.

The Bill of Lading states that the carrier is responsible for loss, damage, delay, and liability in the transportation of the goods for shippers from the time the carrier receives the goods until delivery is complete. The carriers are responsible for full actual loss. If the receiver finds the freight damaged or unacceptable, the bill of lading can be used as a legal document to dispute the delivery of goods in accordance with the provisions of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations Section 1005, Section 14706, the Carmack Amendment.

Changes in the Uniform Bill of Lading

Changes were made to the uniform bill of lading that came into effect in August 2016. The new standard imposed liability only for carriers "shown as transporting the property" on the bill of lading when damages occur. The new rules also changed the time requirements for carriers to complete deliveries. According to Inbound Logistics, the new bill extended the delivery time from reasonable periods to within the "regular course of providing transportation services."