The Bill Of Lading VS. Freight Waybill: Key Difference

By Debamalya Mukherjee

October 27, 2023


toc impalement

In the shipping world, there are two important papers: the Bill of Lading (BOL) and the Freight Waybill. Both help move goods from one place to another, but they have differences. People in shipping should know how they differ.

The BOL and Freight Waybill look alike but have different jobs and legal rules. This article talks about these differences, what they mean, and how they play a role in shipping.

Bill Of Lading (BoL)

The Bill of Lading (BoL) is a super important paper in the shipping and trading world. It’s like a contract, a receipt, and a title deed for products all in one. Here’s a deep dive into what the Bill of Lading is:

Definition And Purpose

The Bill of Lading is an essential paper that shows what state they’re in and lists the rules for moving them. It’s been around for a long time and is crucial for moving stuff, whether by sea, air, train, or truck.

From way back when traders just confirmed they received the goods, the Bill of Lading has grown into a must-have legal agreement with set rules. In court, it’s a big deal. It proves there’s a deal to move the goods and lays out what the sender, mover, and receiver must do. Plus, it can even decide who owns what, helping sort out legal fights.

Types Of Bill Of Lading

There are a few different Bills of Lading, but the main ones are the Negotiable Bill of Lading and the Straight (or Non-negotiable) Bill of Lading.

Negotiable BoL

A Negotiable Bill of Lading lets you hand over ownership of goods just by passing on the paper itself. This kind of swap ability is a big plus in global trade.

Straight (Non-negotiable) BoL

On the flip side, a Straight or Non-negotiable Bill of Lading is more fixed. You can’t just hand it over to change who owns the goods; it names the person getting the delivery. It’s often used for shipping within a country.

Components of Bill of Lading

The Bill of Lading has the following key parts to make sure every shipment is logged correctly.

  • Consignor and Consignee Information
  • Description of the Goods
  • Carrier’s Responsibilities and Obligations

Use Cases

The Bill of Lading is a must-have in these cases:

Shipping Worldwide

In global trade, it’s proof of who owns what helps get through customs and is needed for payments and changing ownership.

Shipping in One Country

For moves within a country, it logs the handover of goods, with rules sometimes changing based on the country’s own laws. 

Freight Waybill

When you’re moving goods, you’ll come across the Freight Waybill. And this paper is very important in shipping. This section explains what it is, and its differences from a Bill of Lading.

How It Differs From A BOL

Both the Freight Waybill and Bill of Lading are important shipping papers. But they’re different. The Bill of Lading proves you own the goods. But the Freight Waybill doesn’t. It’s just a receipt for moving the goods. It is also a contract for moving them. It’s mainly about shipping, tracking, and paperwork. It doesn’t involve ownership like the Bill of Lading does.

Two Kinds Of Freight Waybills

The Freight Waybill comes in two main types:

House Waybill

This document is for air shipping and mixed transport. It’s given by someone who groups many shipments into one. The House Waybill lists details of each shipment and who sent or got it. It helps in tracking and managing combined shipments.

Master Waybill

Big carriers like airlines give this document. It sums up all the House Waybills. It’s like an overview of all shipments and helps manage and track big shipments. This one is particularly important for shipping across countries.

Components Of Freight Waybill

Shipper and Consignee Details

This part tells you about the sender and the receiver. It includes their names, where they live, and phone numbers.

Cargo Details

Here, you’ll find out about the goods – what they are, how heavy, how big, how many, and special care instructions.

Carrier’s Responsibilities and Obligations

This part tells the carrier what they should and shouldn’t do. It makes sure both the sender and carrier know their jobs. Also, it talks about who’s responsible if something goes wrong and the rules of the transport deal.

Use Cases

The Freight Waybill is used in different situations:


For moving goods by plane, this paper is very important. Airlines need it to handle and track goods correctly, especially when many shipments are grouped or need to be moved quickly.

Less than Truckload and Full Truckload Shipments

The Freight Waybill is also important for tracking and paperwork of truck shipments. It helps make sure goods are moved safely and as per the rules in the paper.

Key Differences

When you’re shipping goods, especially across countries, it’s important to know your paperwork. Two key papers in this field are the Bill of Lading and the Freight Waybill. Here’s a look at what makes them different:

A big difference is about ownership. The Bill of Lading lets you transfer ownership of the goods to someone else. On the other hand, a Freight Waybill just acts like a receipt and a shipping agreement. It doesn’t transfer ownership.

Freight Responsibility

With a Bill of Lading, the shipping company has more responsibility for the goods. This responsibility is good for both the sender and the receiver. A Freight Waybill has fewer rules for the shipping company.

Usage Across Different Modes of Transportation

A Bill of Lading is usually for sending things by sea. A Freight Waybill can be used for different types of shipping, like air or land.

Document Handling and Transfer

Handling a Bill of Lading is more complex. It usually needs several copies and the actual handing over of the paper. A Freight Waybill is simpler, often digital, and makes shipping easier.

International Trade Consideration

The Bill of Lading is a key paper for international business. It helps with things like getting a loan for trade. A Freight Waybill is more like a simple receipt and shipping agreement. It’s often used for quick shipping like airfreight.

Differences in Terms and Conditions

A Bill of Lading has lots of terms and conditions. These are detailed and related to the cargo, the route, and the risks. A Freight Waybill has fewer terms, making the paperwork easier.

When to Use Each Document

Picking the right one is key for making sure your shipping goes smoothly. Here’s a look at when to use each one:

Factors Influencing the Choice

If you’re shipping by sea or using more than one type of transport, the BOL is often better. The BOL can transfer ownership and is good for complicated shipping needs. For air or domestic road shipping, the Freight Waybill is usually fine. It’s quicker, and you don’t always need to transfer ownership.

Most goods are expensive, can spoil, and are sensitive. A BOL adds extra safety. It has detailed records and shows who had the goods and when. For cheaper or less sensitive goods, a Freight Waybill is simpler and faster.

If you know and trust the other people in the deal, a Freight Waybill is often easier. But if your deal is complex or international, with many middlemen, a BOL is better. It helps with transferring ownership and legal matters.

Common Misconceptions

Getting things mixed up can cause problems. It’s important to know the following and how they’re different.

Myth: BoL and Freight Waybill are Interchangeable

The Bill of Lading is a really important paper. It’s like a receipt, a contract, and even a title for owning the cargo all in one. The Freight Waybill is simpler, mostly used for air and road shipments, and acts as a receipt. But the big difference is that the Bill of Lading can do a lot more than the Freight Waybill. 

Choosing the Right Document

As the rules for global trade change, knowing the difference is more important than ever. If you’re in a global business, you have to deal with a lot of legal stuff. Not knowing can cost you time and money. So, it’s super important to know when to use a Bill of Lading and when to use a Freight Waybill.

Read Also:

Related Articles