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

Common Freight Shipping Documents for US Domestic Shipments

If you have shipped internationally before, you are probably accustomed to filling out the documentation shown below for all of your FTL and LTL freight shipments. For those who are less experienced with freight shipment, let’s review them.

Bill of Lading (BOL)

The most typical freight transportation document is a bill of lading, sometimes known as a waybill. The BOL includes the contact details for the origin and destination addresses, the carrier’s information, and a description of the freight. It also covers the fundamental information about your cargo. The BOL, which is signed at the time of pickup by both the shipper and the carrier, also acts as evidence of pickup. 

Freight Bill

Similar to the BOL, the freight bill contains extra information, such as the shipper’s consolidated cost. It must be precisely and completely filled out because it must be submitted along with the BOL. While the BOL is a legally binding document, the freight bill is not.

Packing List

The packing list contains all the information about the freight being transported, including the amount, SKU or UPC, total weight, and measurements. The packing list is a crucial document for freight transportation for a number of reasons:

1 – The cost of the shipping is determined by the packing list and the kind of freight shipment (FTL, LTL, etc.) selected. Accuracy is crucial to preventing unpleasant billing shocks. post-delivery  

2 – At the time of delivery, the recipient must confirm the contents of the packing list, which serves as the official inventory of the goods being transported. When submitting claims for lost or damaged products, the packing list is consulted.

3 – If a bank issuing a letter of credit (LOC), the packing list can be a necessary document.

4 – The packing list is used to check and validate the freight during customs clearance for overseas shipments.

Proof of Delivery

The recipient signs the proof of delivery, or POD, document after receiving and reviewing the cargo. The package has been fully and in good order, according to the receiver’s signature. The shipper needs a copy of the signed POD in order to confirm delivery was made and to create an invoice.

Situational Freight Shipping Documents for US Domestic Shipments

All US domestic freight shipments must include the freight shipping documentation discussed above, although occasionally additional documents are needed depending on the type of freight being delivered or whether storage is involved. 

Hazardous Materials Document (HAZMAT)


For cargo designated as HAZMAT, the hazardous materials document specifies that the shipment needs special treatment and that the consignment may be dangerous. 

To make sure that shipments of HAZMAT are lawful to carry and are handled as securely as possible, the Department of Transportation enforces a number of laws. One of those rules calls for a HAZMAT document to have the following details:

  • The number used to identify the cargo
  • The hazardous materials’ name and description
  • The HAZMAT class of freight and any applicable sub-hazard classes
  • The HAZMAT packing group number is separate (Roman numerals are preferred).
  • Packing types and the quantity of packets storing the ingredients
  • The quantity of hazardous items overall 

Dock/Warehouse Receipt

The dock or warehouse receipt, which applies to both domestic and international shipments, is given to the shipper when the carrier accepts the items for shipping. According to the paperwork, the carrier will hold the freight until it is sent.

Common Freight Shipping Documents for International Shipments

In addition to the usual freight shipping paperwork used for domestic shipments, a pretty long list of freight shipping documentation is necessary for international shipments.

Pro Forma Invoice

The pro forma invoice, which contains a thorough description of the cargo being transported as well as its value, is provided to the buyer of internationally shipped products.

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 arrive 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 have been fumigated and are 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

The Letter of Credit, which is most frequently used in international shipments, is provided by the bank and ensures that the freight or purchase from the seller will be delivered on time and for the agreed-upon price. 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 US Customs and Border Protection Department uses the Importer Security Filing, or ISF, which is a document filed electronically, to screen cargo arriving by ocean and discharging at a US port. 

Choose CHP for Your Freight Shipping and Logistics

We really hope that you find this collection of crucial freight shipping paperwork useful. If you need to send a lot of freight, either occasionally or on a regular basis, pick a carrier with experience in FTL shipping. Through its extensive network of top-tier partners, CHP has offered efficient logistics and transportation services in addition to its intermodal and brokerage services.  

We make working with us simple by providing an online platform that allows you to seek rate quotations, arrange pickups, and follow shipments in real time. We give you the supporting documents, such as invoices and delivery evidence. Within the metropolitan region of New York and New Jersey, we provide same-day pickup and next-day delivery services.

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