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NMFTA touts success of electronic BOLs ahead of implementation date

The use of electronic bill of lading (eBOL) capabilities is gaining steam throughout the less-than-truckload industry, the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) said Friday.

The goal is to create one industrywide standard for carriers, shippers and 3PLs, eventually replacing the various digital platforms used today. The NMFTA’s Digital LTL Council has been working on the initiative, which utilizes application programming interfacing, since 2019.

The council called on members last year to pledge adoption of the technology by July 20, 2023. The goal is to make the LTL industry “more efficient and produce a more fluid supply chain through digitization.”

“The companies who have led the way on this are already seeing a return on the investment,” said Paul Dugent, the Digital LTL Council’s executive director. “This confirms what we have understood all along — that the eBOL standard is essential for the LTL industry in terms of efficiency, accuracy, and overall operational excellence.”

The group said improvement has been seen in communication between shippers and carriers regarding shipment types, details and the equipment that will be required to facilitate loadings. Many of the nation’s largest LTL carriers are already using the new eBOL standard.   

Broker C.H. Robinson (NASDAQ: CHRW) is using the eBOLs with most of the carriers on its platform, according to the news release.

“Because of our scale and our relationships with nearly every LTL carrier in the industry, for us to work on initiatives to reduce costs, phone calls, and administration is extremely impactful,” Greg West, C.H. Robinson’s vice president of LTL, stated in the news release. “We prioritized this because we saw the opportunity to eliminate unnecessary work and achieve real performance gains.

Transportation technology providers like SMC³ and project44 have adopted eBOLs as well.

“The eBOL standard ensures shippers do not have to wait for the freight bill to be manually entered, which typically takes place at the end of business each day, minimizes keying errors, and results in an earlier confirmation of an actual pickup,” stated Brad Berlin, senior manager of carrier engagement at project44.

The Digital LTL Council is now working on a project that will determine the APIs needed to completely digitize shipment data from “creation to cash.”

“We want the whole industry enjoying these benefits of efficiency, accuracy, and operational excellence. That’s why we established the eBOL standard in the first place. The deadline is looming, but we are confident the industry will rise to meet it,” said Debbie Ruane Sparks, the NMFTA’s executive director.

The NMFTA is a trade group that manages the classification system used to universally code and identify each shipment in the industry.

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