Definition of a Waybill Vs. a Bill of Lading

Written by joshua liu
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Definition of a Waybill Vs. a Bill of Lading
A bill of lading provides instructions and details on a shipment of goods. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Waybills and bills of lading are documents related to the shipment and consignment of goods. Both are issued by carriers to shippers and give details and instructions on the shipment. However, there are important legal differences between waybills and bills of lading. As a result, depending on the situation it is preferable to use one type over the other.


A waybill is a document issued by a carrier that gives details and instructions about a shipment of goods. A waybill generally shows the names of the consignor (sender of goods) and consignee (receiver of goods), the point of origin, the destination, route and method of shipment and the amount charged for delivery. There are many different types of waybills; for example, an astray waybill is used for shipments that are miscarried or separated from their original waybill.

Bills of Lading

A bill of lading is a document signed by a carrier and issued to a shipper that provides evidence of the receipt of goods for shipment and includes much of the same descriptions and instructions that a waybill does. There are two basic types of bills of lading. A straight bill of lading consigns the shipped goods to a specific party. An order bill, on the other hand, consigns the goods to the order of a named party.

Legal Differences

The most important difference between a waybill and a bill of lading is the fact that a bill of lading is a document of title. In addition to being a receipt, a bill of lading is a contract for the carriage of goods and a document of title to them. This is important in determining if ownership of goods is negotiable. For example, a straight bill of lading is not negotiable, while an order bill maybe negotiable if its terms allow for it.


Because of the legal complications of bills of lading, waybills have certain advantages. Because bills of lading are needed for delivery, shipments may be delayed if the original bill is lost. Since waybills are not negotiable, they do not need to be surrendered at the destination to obtain delivery. Waybills can be used instead of bills of lading whenever a letter of credit or other banking arrangement are not involved. Because they simplify procedure, waybills are sometimes preferred over bills of lading.

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