Electronic bills of lading (eBOL), an increasingly critical process of shipping via LTL, will move towards a standardized format beginning in the summer of 2023. But why is a standard eBOL important to your business? Here are three reasons why the National Motor Freight Traffic Association’s Digital LTL Council announced a uniform format for transmitting eBOLs.
The LTL industry has been slow to adopt digital technology, and handwritten BOLs have been standard operating procedures for many shippers for a long time. But this leaves room for handwritten errors, misbilling, and an inefficient way to transmit data. There are also hundreds of eBOL formats in the marketplace right now, and for carriers, it becomes nearly impossible to have the technology to read each in their own format.
Clerical errors are a hidden cost in the supply chain that equates to millions of dollars per year. Standardization across the industry will help shippers and carriers realize cost savings through a less intensified clerical process.
A standard eBOL gives shippers the digital flexibility to integrate with multiple carriers via one API code. Before, shippers would need to develop multiple codes to integrate their APIs into carriers’ systems, a potential blocker for eBOL adoption. But with standardization, only one code is needed for all carriers that sign on.
It’s no secret that LTL has been an industry laggard in implementing digital technology. A rising tide lifts all boats, and with 29 carriers – including Old Dominion – on board with this approach, it can increase the adoption of eBOLs.
With a single digital format in place, eBOL data can be transmitted and processed faster, potentially cutting off hours. The data will be in a cleaner, more concise format that improves communication between the shipper, carrier, and other consignees. Couple this with increased accuracy, and this can lead to an improvement in service over time.
Consider an example from a large LTL shipper in the commercial printing industry. The shipper optimized its transportation spend by digitizing the entire lifecycle of activities, including its bills of lading. It estimated that it saved $250,000 per year by reducing 700-900 daily manual calls required by their team*. The shipper noted that it shipped faster, more efficiently, and better-transmitted data to its customers.
We operate in an environment where speed matters, but so does the level of service you receive. A standardized eBOL can accomplish both. The efficiencies realized by the carrier will only improve your processes over time and strengthen your relationship.
*According to NMFTA’s Digital LTL Council Case Study.