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How eBOL is Transforming the Shipping Industry




In a world that runs on automation and efficient digital operations, today’s global logistics and supply chain is falling behind. Much of the industry still relies on outdated paper-based processes, including creating critical documents. These manual procedures contribute to frequent shipping errors, negatively impact the environment, and cost time and money for shippers and carriers alike. It’s estimated that the shipping industry alone could potentially save $4 billion a year if 50% of the market adopts electronic Bill of Lading.

With so many industries transitioning to fully digital processes, customers expect, even demand, complete digitalization. The airline industry provides an excellent example of the benefits gained by moving away from outdated manual processes. Digitalization allows customers to purchase their tickets, check-in, board, and track their luggage through a paperless, automated process. While consumers now consider this common place with airline technology, connected transportation technologies such as eBOL are only now catching up.

Surprisingly, the less-than-truckload (LTL) industry continues to handle more than 85% of all shipments with paper-based processes on both the shipper and the carrier side. These manual procedures present the LTL industry stakeholders with a major obstacle in improving performance and decreasing cost.

Led by the Digital LTL Council (DLC), the less-than-truckload sector has supported the digitalization journey by investing in collaboration and technology. The council, which was formed in 2019, has made a concerted effort to organize the LTL industry and accelerate the advancement towards full paperless trade. DLC is committed to defining, standardizing, and championing digital LTL practices, and has worked tirelessly to establish guidelines that will strengthen the industry. With a goal of full digitalization, the council predicts that these efforts will eventually save individual carriers up to 2% in operational costs and save a whopping $1.2 billion for the industry as a whole.

The first specific objective of the DLC is focused on setting an electronic Bill of Lading (eBOL) standard. A Bill of Lading is a document that gives a carrier the right to transport the goods of another to ensure payment and receipt. This crucial document has been used for international trade for over a century and has remained relatively unchanged for decades. The Bill of Lading is also essential for sharing the official details of the shipment including, but not limited to, the origin and destination addresses, payer identification, and shipment contents. Paper-based communication of this information requires a manual process to enter the data into carriers’ systems.
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According to the DLC, the electronic Bill of Lading standard will create a parcel-like experience, in which the only paper needed is a label. The eBOL will ultimately support digitization of shipping and billing processes for all LTL industry participants, which would enable process automation, while eliminating a common source of error and rework. Digitalization of these LTL processes and systems is another step towards full, digital integration of the LTL industry into broader, multi-modal digitalization initiatives.

The eBOL API is meant to accomplish the following functions and create the following results:

  1. Utilize submitted BOL data to initiate tracking – improving the customer experience

  2. Reduce stop times and improve planning – increasing performance

  3. Improve billing accuracy and time spent on billing processes – decreasing cost

  4. Standardize BOL fields, data points, and processes – enabling scalability

  5. Reduce manual and error prone processes – improving productivity

  6. Enabling contactless and paperless operations – supporting a healthy environment and sustainability initiatives

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As a leading shipping logistics platform, MyCarrier is spearheading efforts to digitalize the LTL shipping industry. From the conception of our SaaS platform, we understood the benefits of transitioning to paperless processes, which include saving our shippers and carriers money, cutting down on costly mistakes, and automating time-consuming procedures while positively impacting the environment. In fact, MyCarrier is a leading adopter and advocate for eBOL. We continually work with our carrier partners to demonstrate the benefits of eBOL and have been effectively helping carriers test the eBOL implementation with our user base. Carriers are seeing instant adoption by a significant number of customers, which translates to immediate operational improvements.

MyCarrier also offers expertise to the carriers’ technical teams when they have questions about proper implementation of eBOL. Because we’ve seen the pitfalls that some partners have encountered during adoption efforts, we’re able to help carriers correctly employ eBOL technology and avoid unwanted issues.

As a leader in the shipping industry, MyCarrier will continue to support the adoption of innovative technology that adds ease, efficiency, and accuracy to the shipping process. Contact us to learn more about the benefits and implementation requirements of eBOL technology.