What is a Bill of Lading?

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General Moving

As with any industry, professional movers use their own jargon.  It can be difficult to keep track of all the words being thrown around.  It can be equally as difficult to keep track of all the papers you have pertaining to your move.  While it is best to keep all documents and papers related to your move, particularly those given to you by your moving company, there is one that may take precedence.  The bill of lading may be the most important piece of paper you handle in connection with your move.

The bill of lading functions not only as the receipt of your shipment but also the contract between you and your mover for the transportation of your belongings.  It gives details on the mover and the physical transportation of the goods.  Dates, charges, and the terms and conditions are all apart of the bill of lading.  It is your responsibility to understand what the bill of lading is and what it is you are agreeing to when you sign this document.  Since this is such an important document, you will want to make sure that all the relevant information is on the bill of lading, and that it is all correct.

There are several parts to the bill of lading.  It is imperative you check that it contains each aspect before agreeing with the terms.  The full name and full address of your moving company should be on the document.  Additionally, if any other companies will be involved in your move, the contact information for these movers should be displayed as well.  The vehicle ID numbers for the truck or trucks that will be transporting your items should be listed with your mover information too.  The date and time of pickup and delivery should be noted.  While some longer moves might give you more than one possible date of delivery, it is important that all  relevant dates be on the contract.  Open ended agreements, like “delivery as soon as possible” should be avoided.  The bill of lading should also include the method of payment expected upon delivery as well as the final price.  Some companies will accept credit cards, but others may only accept cash or a check.  It is your responsibility to know how you will be paying and be prepared to pay the total cost upon delivery.  While some moves might not have the total price, for example a non-binding quote that will require weighing, there should be at least the estimate indicated on the document.  Movers cannot charge more than 110% of the non-binding estimate, so it is important to have the quoted price in writing on this contract.  If you have a dispute of charges it will be important that you have this number to refer back to in settling your claim with your moving company.  The address your items are being delivered to should be clearly indicated as well.  You will want to double check this address so your items are delivered to the correct home or storage facility.  Finally, the bill of lading should include an inventory of the truck, including every item loaded and the condition of that item.  The inventory will ensure that all your belongings are being shipped.  It also is proof of the condition of your items.  If an item is lost or damaged in transit, your moving company is responsible for that damage.  Having this inventory will help back your claim in the case of loss or damage to any items.

As with any document, you should thoroughly inspect the bill of lading before you sign it.  If it is not complete or you do not agree with the terms or the condition of an item, you need to speak with your mover to amend the bill of lading.  Once you sign the piece of paper, you have agreed to what is on the page, so it is important to never sign a blank bill of lading.  You will also want to keep the bill of lading on you at all times throughout your move.  Keeping the bill of lading until you have your belongings delivered, all charges paid, and any claims settled is recommended in the event you encounter any problems or need to file a complaint.

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