Understanding the Carmack Amendment: Bills of Lading

Kevin Anderson Bills of Lading, Cargo Liability, Regulations, Transportation

As we have discussed on this blog, the Carmack Amendment is that portion of federal law that regulates interstate cargo claims. The Carmack Amendment puts certain requirements on different players in the trucking industry, and this article will address one of those requirements – bills of lading.

Before we get started on bills of lading, we are going to review how the Carmack Amendment defines the different players in the trucking industry.

  • Motor carriers are those who provide the transportation or or service via motor vehicles for profit. 49 U.S.C. § 13102(14).
  • Freight forwarders hold themselves out to the public as transporters of goods for profit, whether they transport by assembling and consolidating the goods. Freight forwarders assume the responsibility to transport goods from receipt to destination. 49 U.S.C. § 13102(8).

Bill of Lading Types

Both motor carriers and freight forwarders are required by the Carmack Amendment to provide a bill of lading or receipt for the property they ship. These bills of lading are regulated under the Bills of Lading Act found in 49 U.S.C. 80101-80116. In a nutshell, bills of lading are the contracts between the shipper, the consignor, and the carrier. Following are different types of bills of lading:

  • Straight Bill of Lading.
    • Where the bill of lading states who the goods will be delivered to.
  • Negotiable Bill of Lading.
    • Where the bill of lading controls possession of the goods.
  • Non-Negotiable Bill of Lading.
    • Where the bill of lading specifically states it is not negotiable.
  • Order Bill of Lading.
    • Much like a negotiable bill, it states that goods to be shipped are consignable to the person named on the bill.
  • Clean Bill of Lading.
    • Where the bill guarantees the condition and quality of the goods without qualifying language. It is clean because it does not have qualifiers regarding the items.

Bill of Lading General Rule

Regarding bills of lading, 49 U.S. Code § 80107 applies a general rule. Under the general rule of bills of lading the person who negotiates or transfers a bill warrants that the bill is genuine; that the holder has the right to transfer the bill and title to the goods described in the bill; the holder doesn’t know of anything that would adversely affect the value of the goods; that the goods are fit for their purpose when merchantability and fitness would have been implied in an agreement for transfer of the goods without a bill of lading. Of course this general rule can be modified in the bill of lading by adding to or taking from it. In fact, bills of lading are can be customized on many different levels, but it should always be done under the supervision of a professional. Providing guidance on how to customize bills of lading within the limits of Carmack Amendment is one of the things we do at Anderson and Yamada, P.C.


There is much more to the Carmack Amendment and bills of lading than we can explain here. At Anderson and Yamada, P.C. we are truck law lawyers. We have dedicated our practice to the trucking industry and look forward to working for you.