Within the print industry there are many different types of custom forms and numerous business departments that require these forms. From HR departments to back office administrators to shipping departments, the number of forms and their specific functions are virtually endless.

This is especially true when it comes to shipping forms. Whether it is commercial invoices, automated export system forms or shippers export declarations; there are many required forms in the realm of shipped goods. However, no shipping form category is quite as diverse or complex as bill of lading forms. With nearly 20 different variations within these types of form, the differences and varied uses for each form can get a little confusing. Here are seven of the most common types of bill of lading forms and a brief explanation of their uses.

Bill of lading forms
A bill of lading form essentially functions as a receipt for shipped goods. The form comes along with the goods and is then handled by the necessary representatives upon arrival at the predetermined destination. Bill of lading forms don't pertain to any one form of shipment transportation but accompany goods delivered by train, truck or ship. These forms are crucial in order to confirm the delivery of both payments and merchandise to the correct parties.

Uniform straight bill of lading: This BOL form is most common across industries. The primary function of these forms is as a receipt for shipped items that have been paid for in advance. The shipper, consignee and product are clearly stated on uniform straight bill of lading documents. These forms are delivered by a carrier to the relevant purchasers and must be signed by all involved parties.

VICS Bill of lading: These forms were specifically created by the Voluntary Industry Commerce Standards, or VICS, and are specific to the merchandise retail industry. These are standard forms with a set of suggested guidelines in their layout and overall configuration. There is not a single uniform version of this form. Rather, the form tends to vary from retailer to retailer with a loose adherence to the VICS guidelines. These forms can be best identified by their 17-digit number codes. These codes encompass the UCC number of the shipper and a check digit in order for retailers to track specific shipments at any given time.

When it comes to print salesmen, these forms can be marketed to a variety of retailers with shipping needs. Since they are a standard form used for almost all shipping needs, these forms can provide a steady source of revenue for any print distributor and can be manufactures as exact repeat orders.

Master house bill of lading: This form serves as a contract or agreement between the carrier of goods and the provider responsible for the management of these goods. Master house bills function as a sort of play-by-play of the shipping process. The form specifies where the goods are intended to go, how they will get there and in what way they will be presented to the receiver. Unlike uniform straight BOL forms, the costs associated with the varying carriers and shipment are due once the product is received by the intended recipient. These forms are most relevant to logistics providers, who are primarily responsible for finalizing the details of shipments within supply chains.

Standard house bill of lading: A standard house bill has the exact same functions as a master house bill of lading form except this contractual agreement exists between the actual shipper and the provider. The form exists to specify carriers, the path they will take and their final form at the pre-destined destination. As with master house bills, these BOL forms are best marketed to logistic providers. Print industry providers should seek to target logistics providers for many of the BOL forms present on this list.

Sub-house bill of lading: These bills pertain to shipments that require the use of multiple suppliers and require multiple print forms. For every supplier involved in the transaction, there is a unique sub-house bill of lading to indicate the relevant shipment. The necessary forms are then compacted into one larger single house bill, these bills are often differentiated by numbers. Example: Supplier one receives a bill marked with number one, second supplier receives the number two form, etc.

Clean bill of lading: A clean BOL is a form that requires carriers to confirm that upon loading all relevant packager were in solid condition. These exist in contrast to a soiled bill of lading or a foul bill of lading which are needed when the packages in question were damaged during the loading process. These forms exist to ensure quality in packaging and differentiate liability in packaging issues between carriers and loaders.

Through bill of lading: These forms have a few different steps within themselves. The primary function of these forms is to allow carriers to move goods through different forms of transportation. This can also require the use of multiple distribution centers. Additional forms within the through bill of lading include inland bill of lading forms and ocean bill of lading forms based on where the goods ultimately end up.

Bill of lading forms can provide a great source of consistent, repeatable revenue for print distributors. When searching for new customers, print companies should remember the high volume and variation available within this single type of shipping form. Any company that requires the movement of goods via air, train, truck or ship will require these forms in abundance, so be sure not to miss out on this avenue of print production.