C.H. Robinson Introduces Electronic Bill of Lading

C.H. Robinson

C.H. Robinson has advanced the digitization of the less-than-truckload industry by implementing an eBOL with 10 of the top LTL carriers and is in progress with four more. Standards for the eBOL were developed by the NMFTA’s Digital LTL Council, creating greater efficiency and real-time visibility for LTL shippers.

In the past year, 17,240 C.H. Robinson customers benefited from the eBOL and even more will in 2024 as C.H. Robinson helps additional LTL carriers come on board.

“While there are fewer carriers in the LTL universe and the top 25 handle over 90% of the market, the complexity of moving LTL freight means that digitization in this part of the logistics industry has been more challenging than truckload,” said Greg West, Vice President for LTL at C.H. Robinson. “With truckload freight, there’s generally one origin and one destination and a customer has exclusive use of the trailer. With LTL, you can have up to 30 customers’ freight on a trailer, with 30 destinations and 30 sets of paperwork. That makes it so valuable to have a common eBOL everyone can use.”

For decades, this is how LTL bills of lading were typically handled: A carrier would generate a tracking number for each shipper’s freight and print out stickers with those numbers. The driver would take the stickers to a shipper’s loading dock, affix them to a paper bill of lading and to each pallet – then do it all over at the next pickup. When the driver heads to their terminal at the end of the day, the tracking numbers from all the bills of lading would be manually entered into the carrier’s computer system and sent to the logistics provider overnight or the next day. Only then, after the truck was already in transit, could shippers start getting any visibility into their freight.

Now, a tracking number is generated within seconds of the shipment being tendered to the carrier via API and a complete bill of lading is ready for the shipper when the driver arrives. The driver just has to scan it.

All the manual work is eliminated, which lowers administrative costs, cuts down on errors and increases efficiency at every shipper’s dock. And with a tracking number known in advance, shippers can gain true real-time visibility – starting with status updates via C.H. Robinson’s Navisphere® platform when their freight is picked up.

Not only do earlier tracking updates allow for detection and avoidance of disruptions along the route, but they also enhance the predictive ETAs that shippers rely on. Predictive ETAs are another facet of LTL shipping that’s more complex than truckload shipping.

“If LTL freight has to travel from Chicago to Los Angeles, it might travel on 10 different paths depending on which of 10 carriers it’s booked on,” said West. “Each carrier has a unique network and a unique terminal footprint. One carrier might take the freight through Kansas City. Another might take it through Denver. Sometimes LTL freight is put on rail for part of its journey. Sometimes westbound freight will even travel east before it heads west.”

C.H. Robinson has reached 92% accuracy in predicting that an LTL shipment will arrive on time, thanks to a sophisticated data-science model fed by information on more than 5m LTL shipments a year across 3m shipping lanes—more than any other 3PL.

“C.H. Robinson’s adoption of the electronic bill of lading (eBOL) stands as a landmark achievement in the digitization of the industry,” said Paul Dugent, Executive Director of NMFTA’s Digital LTL Council. “Their pioneering collaboration with leading LTL carriers and embrace of the Council’s standards showcase a firm commitment to modernizing logistics for enhanced efficiency and real-time visibility. This visionary approach will undoubtedly serve as a catalyst for broader industry adoption, ultimately benefiting both shippers and carriers alike.”

Source: C.H. Robinson