Food Transportation & Shipping Logistics: Mastering Bills of Lading and Claims

Tom Underdahl

06 December 2018

Taking care of the particulars of food transportation

Food transportation requires getting the right products to their designated location at the right time, temperature, and price. Fulfilling the perfect order is, in fact, a tall order. We recently covered the common problems that come up in food transportation. With this post, we will take a closer look at claims and bills of lading (BOLs). Based on our many years of transporting food components, we know that your BOL is an often-overlooked tool in mitigating claims.  

5 important BOL terms for food transportation

The specialized nature of food products makes claims more complicated than standard shipping claims. So how do you stay on top of claims prevention during the shipping process? A clear, specific BOL is the answer. Here are five terms to review when completing the BOL for your food shipment:  

1. Temperature control 

For food that requires refrigeration, specify the appropriate temperature range. Even food that does not require refrigeration may need a temperature specification. For example, you may ship liquids that cannot freeze, and depending on the time of year, cold weather could threaten your food shipment.  

2. Due date 

Food shipments often include components that are time-critical. Your supply chain needs may require time built in to ensure on-time delivery. Specifying a due date on the BOL provides protection in the event of a delay.   


In addition to knowing your responsibilities, it’s important to know your rights.

3. Clean and odor-free 

Specifying cleanliness is a must for food orders. Even with LTL shipping, specify clean and odor-free.

In addition to knowing your responsibilities, it’s important to know your rights. As a shipper, you can and should refuse to load a dirty trailer. On the other end of the process, a receiver can refuse the freight if the carrier is not clean and odor-free, as specified by the BOL. Your carrier should know this and operate accordingly. At a minimum, mark shipment “FOOD GRADE.” But don’t miss the opportunity to go into more detail on the BOL. 

4. Padlocked (LTL) or sealed (FTL) 

Food supply chains are vulnerable to security threats. Receivers can refuse an unsecured shipment. Put this easy-to-do term on the BOL and protect your shipment from any threats or refusals.  

5. Value 

Don’t gloss over the details on your BOL. Accuracy up front makes the claims process easier and saves a lot of time and effort on the back end. For example, if you need additional coverage for a high-value shipment, make sure the BOL clearly spells that out.  

Navigating food transportation claims  

A clearly written BOL will save you time and money. But even with the best-written BOL, claims happen. And with the perishable and delicate goods involved in food shipping, claims are even more likely. It is critical to document any claims on your BOL in a timely manner. The more accurate you’ve been about your BOL from the outset, the easier it is to document claims. 

Navigating a food transportation claim involves a lot of parties and serious negotiation skills. It requires an experienced lead, in part because claims for food products can differ significantly from standard shipping claims. When a claim is filed for goods, carriers have the right to take and resell those goods. But with food products, FDA regulations prevent resale.  

One of the benefits of working with a 3PL is that you can address claims before they explode into a full-blown legal nightmare. Including a 3PL in your process increases your chances of achieving a good outcome, especially if you don’t have a dedicated staff that handles claims. 3PLs bring their negotiating power and reputation to the table, so finding an experienced, well-respected partner before a claim goes too far could save you from significant legal hassles.

Tom Underdahl

Tom is the Director of Business Development at Evans Transportation.


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