Perhaps the most important document that accompanies the transportation process during shipping your automobile from a legal perspective is the Bill of Lading. The reason why it is so important is because it is:
- A terms and conditions document
- A receipt of the transportation
- A dispatch report
- An inspection report
Due to its very important, it’s vital that you understand the protections that it does and does not provide you with. Since there isn’t a universal format for a Bill of Lading, the following guide might not be exact in terms of the order that the information is presented. However, since a Bill of Lading will contain the following information, it is still extremely useful in explaining what everything means.
The header is usually always at the top of the Bill of Lading. It provides the information about the auto shipping company, including its name, and includes the relevant dates of the transportation, the order #, and the driver’s name.
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Pickup and Delivery
This section of your Bill of Lading will contain both the pickup address and the delivery address. It is useful information to have, as oftentimes, the delivery contacts will also be present there.
The Vehicle Information
This section will include all of the information about the vehicle itself, such as the model and make, license plate number, vehicle identification number, the odometer reading, color, accessories, and so forth. It’s important for you to make sure that the transport company takes as much of this information down as possible, even if you have to insist on doing so. It’s for your own protection so that you can feel confident that the vehicle that is delivered is in the exact condition as when it departed.
The Condition of the Vehicle
This is an extremely important part of the Bill of Lading, especially for insurance purposes. In this section, the state of the vehicle, namely in terms of any damages that may be present, are noted during the pickup inspection. Once the vehicle is delivered, an additional inspection, known as the delivery inspection, takes place to see if there is any new damage.
Federal law dictates that drivers are required to perform both inspections, but you should not just rely on them to do so. You should also inspect it yourself and take plenty of pictures to make sure that everything is documented.
Terms and Conditions
In the Terms and Conditions portion, it will depend on the particular auto transport company. However, you should always read through this section thoroughly, as you will need to make sure that there are no surprises or things that you aren’t aware of. This section will contain all of the legalities.
This is the last section of a Bill of Lading in most cases. It’s as it sounds – both you and the driver will need to sign it, usually at both the pickup and delivery point. If someone else is picking up the vehicle beside you, then that person should sign it. However, you or the authorized person should not sign it if you are not happy with the overall Bill of Lading, including the condition of the vehicle.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration provides a list of the requirements on their website at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/title49/part/373
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