Bill of Lading
A document signed by a carrier (a transporter of goods) or the carrier's representative and issued to a consignor (the shipper of goods) that evidences the receipt of goods for shipment to a specified designation and person.
Carriers using all modes of transportation issue bills of lading when they undertake the transportation of cargo. A bill of lading is, in addition to a receipt for the delivery of goods, a contract for their carriage and a document of title to them. Its terms describe the freight for identification purposes; state the name of the consignor and the provisions of the contract for shipment; and direct the cargo to be delivered to the order or assigns of a particular person, the consignee, at a designated location.
There are two basic types of bills of lading. A straight bill of lading is one in which the goods are consigned to a designated party. An order bill is one in which the goods are consigned to the order of a named party. This distinction is important in determining whether a bill of lading is negotiable (capable of transferring title to the goods covered under it by its delivery or endorsement). If its terms provide that the freight is to be delivered to the bearer (or possessor) of the bill, to the order of a named party, or, as recognized in overseas trade, to a named
person or assigns, a bill, as a document of title, is negotiable. In contrast, a straight bill is not negotiable.
State laws, which often include provisions from the UNIFORM COMMERCIAL CODE, regulate the duties and liabilities imposed by bills of lading covering goods shipped within state boundaries. Federal law, embodied in the INTERSTATE COMMERCE ACT (49 U.S.C. [1976 Ed.] § 1 et seq.) apply to bills of lading covering goods traveling in interstate commerce.