"Nothing in my 43 years of working in transportation has been more important than the bill of lading. Call me crazy, but I love the bill of lading."
That funny valentine, penned by Clark Van Orman, appeared in the September 2007 issue of TransDigest, the Transportation & Logistics Council's newsletter. But Van Orman, who is senior manager of corporate freight claims and carrier contract compliance at Sysco Corp. and a respected expert in claims circles, also had a serious purpose for writing the article: to remind us that even the most routine tasks—like filling out a bill of lading (B/L)—can come back to haunt you if not done right.
In his article, Van Orman urged shippers to use the same kind of care in filling out a B/L as they would when writing a check. "All of the correct information must be in its proper place in order for it to be cashed," he wrote. "Can you imagine if you took a check to the bank that said 'subject to count,' what the bank teller would tell you?"
Before you sign the B/L, he added, ask yourself the following question: If you were a carrier claims manager examining that bill of lading, would you have enough information to bring a claim to conclusion? If not, add the necessary information to the bill of lading and include it in any claims documentation you file.