Important Freight Shipping Documents You Must Have for Domestic and International Freight Shipments

Depending on what type of freight you have and where it originates from and is being shipped to, there are a myriad of documents that may be required. International shipments, in particular, have a potentially extensive document requirements list. For US domestic shipments, the required freight shipping documents are not quite as extensive so let’s start with those.

Common Freight Shipping Documents for US Domestic Shipments

If you are an experienced shipper within the US, you are used to completing these documents, below, for all of your FTL and LTL freight shipments. Let’s recap them for those who are newer to shipping freight.

Bill of Lading (BOL)

A bill of lading, sometimes called the waybill, is the most common freight shipping document. The BOL lists the basic information about your shipment, including the origination and delivery addresses and contact information, the carrier’s information, and a description of the freight.

The BOL also serves as the proof of pickup as it is signed by both the shipper and the carrier at the time of pickup. 

Freight Bill

The freight bill is similar to the BOL but has more detail such as the shipper’s consolidated cost. It is required along with the BOL so must be filled out completely and accurately. 

While the BOL is a legally binding document, the freight bill is not.

Packing List

The packing list provides the full detail of the freight being shipped including a description of the cargo, quantity, SKU or UPC, total weight, and dimensions. The packing list is a very important freight shipping document for multiple reasons:

1 – The packing list, along with the type of freight shipment chosen (FTL, LTL, etc.) determines the cost of the shipment. Accuracy is very important in order to remove potential invoicing surprises post-delivery  

2 – The packing list is the official inventory of the items being shipped and validated by the recipient at time of delivery. The packing list is referred to in the event of missing or damaged items for claims submission

3 – In the event a letter of credit (LOC) is being issued by a bank, the packing list may be a required document

4 – For international shipments, the packing list is used during customs clearance to inspect and validate the freight

Proof of Delivery

The proof of delivery, or POD, is the document that the recipient signs once they receive and inspect the shipment. The receiver’s signature confirms that the shipment has been received completely and in good order. 

A copy of the signed POD is important for the shipper to confirm delivery was made and so that an invoice can be generated.

Situational Freight Shipping Documents for US Domestic Shipments

The freight shipping documents reviewed above are standard for all US domestic freight shipments, but sometimes there are other documents required depending on the type of freight being shipped or if warehousing is involved. 

Hazardous Materials Document (HAZMAT)

The hazardous materials document, for cargo deemed HAZMAT, indicates that the shipment requires special handling and that the freight is potentially dangerous. 

The Department of Transportation enforces many regulations for HAZMAT shipments to ensure that the shipment is legal to be transported and that it is being handled with the utmost safely. One of those regulations is the requirement for a HAZMAT document that includes the following information:

  • The shipment’s assigned identification number
  • The name and description of the hazardous materials
  • The HAZMAT class of freight and sub-hazard class, if appropriate
  • Clear distinction of the HAZMAT packing group number (preference is for Roman numerals)
  • Types of packaging and number of packages holding the materials
  • The total amount of hazardous materials 

Dock/Warehouse Receipt

Applicable to both domestic and international shipments, the dock or warehouse receipt is supplied to the shipper at the point in time that the carrier receives the goods for shipment. The document details that the carrier will store the freight until shipment is made.

Common Freight Shipping Documents for International Shipments

International shipments have a fairly extensive list of required freight shipping documents in addition to the common freight shipping documents used for domestic shipments.

Pro Forma Invoice

The pro forma invoice is sent to the purchaser of internationally shipped goods and includes a detailed description of the cargo being shipped along with its value.

Commercial/Customs Invoice

The commercial, or customs, invoice is a required document for international shipments and shows the value and origin of a shipment.  

Certificate of Origin,

The Certificate of Origin, or CoO, is used to determine if a shipment is eligible for import and, if so, if it is then subject to duties. The CoO states the cargo’s country of origin or manufacture.

Import/Export Customs Declaration

This document lists the goods being imported or exported and is used by the customs office where the goods are presented.

Vessel Certificate of Inspection

This document confirms that the goods were seen and noted as being in good condition at the time of inspection prior to shipping. This document may be required prior to a bank issuing a letter of credit.

Air Waybill Tracking

Freight shipped by air courier requires a document including the Air Waybill number, or AWB. The AWB provides all relevant information pertinent to the shipment and allows it to be tracked.

Situational Freight Shipping Documents for International Shipments

Gift Certificate

If the cargo being shipped is a donation rather than a purchase, the CoO is replaced by what is called a Gift Certificate that shows the value of the goods.

Forwarder’s Certificate of Receipt

If a freight forwarding company is being used for the shipment, the Forwarder’s Certificate of Receipt is the proof required that the goods were given to them for transportation.

Dangerous Goods Declaration

Along the lines of the Hazardous Materials requirements for domestic shipments, a Dangerous Goods Declaration shows that the cargo is labeled and packaged according to dangerous goods regulations. 

Consular Invoice

Depending on the country involved, a consular invoice may be required which details the value of the shipment along with the shipper’s and recipient’s information. 

Destination Control Statement

The Destination Control Statement is appended to the commercial invoice in cases where the goods may only be exported to certain destinations. 

Production Certificate

The Production Certificate is used when imported goods are arriving in areas where production is regulated. The Production Certificate notes the materials of the goods and/or what production type was used in its manufacturing process.

Phytosanitary Certificate

The phytosanitary Certificate is required for shipments including plants or plant products and shows that the cargo is free of regulated pests and conforms to any regulations meted out by the receiving country.

Certificate of Free Sale

Required by some countries, the Certificate of Free Sales indicates that the goods were approved by regulatory authorities in the originating country and are able to be sold, without regulation, in the destination country.

Vessel Trading Certificate

This document shows who the owner of the transporting vessel is and is typically required when a bank extends a letter of credit for the shipped goods.

Fumigation/Pest Control Certificate

This document confirms that any wooden pallets or packaging has been fumigated and is free from pests. 

Wood Packaging Declaration

Rarely required, this document is used by some ground carriers who require confirmation if the wood used is ISPM15 compliant, to ensure that it does not contain insects or other diseases.

Letter of Credit

Most commonly used in international shipments the Letter of Credit is supplied by the bank and guarantees that the freight, or purchase from the seller, will be received on time for an agreed upon amount. The Letter of Credit makes the bank the guarantor in the event the recipient or purchaser is unable to pay for the goods.

Importer Security Filing

The Importer Security Filing or ISF, is an electronically filed document sent to the US Customs and Border Protection Department and is used to screen the cargo that arrives via ocean and discharges at a US port. 

Choose On Track for Your Freight Shipping and Logistics

We hope that this list of important freight shipping documents was helpful to you!

If you have large amounts of freight to ship either as a one-time event or with frequency, choose the right carrier with FTL shipping expertise. Since 1991, On Track Freight Systems has provided fast and streamlined logistics and trucking services along with our intermodal and brokerage services through our robust network of premium partners. 

We make it easy to work with us through our online tool to request rate quotes, schedule pickups, and track shipments real-time. We even provide you the ability to download your shipping documentation including proof of delivery and invoices.

We offer same day pickups and next day delivery service within the New York/New Jersey metro area.

Contact On Track today to request your free shipping quote.