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LTL industry unveils single standard for electronic bills of lading

Council seeks widespread adoption of standard with 29 companies already committed

Even LTL volumes are not immune to a slowdown in the freight cycle. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

For the first time in its 100-year history, the less-than-truckload industry has a standard format for electronically transmitting bills of lading (BOL).

The new eBOL standard was announced Monday by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA), an LTL advocacy group that oversees industry pricing and protocols. The single standard will, over time, replace the multitude of digital platforms that shippers, carriers and 3PLs have used over the years, according to NMFTA’s Digital LTL Council, the group that spearheaded the three-year effort.

According to the council, the new standard will reduce costs and errors and improve communication and service. With one digital format in place, BOL data will be exchanged hours earlier than before, and the information will be more accurate and concise than it has been in the past, said Geoff Muessig, chief marketing officer and vice president of regional LTL carrier Pitt Ohio and chairman of the council.

According to the council, 29 providers, including carriers, 3PLs, freight brokers and technology firms, have pledged to be fully operational under the new standard no later than next July 20. The early adopters represent a large chunk of market share in the highly concentrated $85 billion-a-year LTL industry.

The next phase in the project is to on-board large LTL shippers whose volumes can justify the investment in the application programming interface (API) format that will support the standardized platform. Smaller shippers will generally not have the volumes to justify the investment, according to Muessig.

Large shippers will realize that by migrating to a digital system that promises increased efficiencies for carriers, they will likely be rewarded with best-in-class pricing, Muessig said.

The LTL industry lags all freight transport modes in adoption of digital technology. Industry advocates have said there are huge opportunities for cost savings and service improvements by reducing its long reliance on paper flow in favor of digitization.


  1. Salvatore DiDonato

    A few LTL companies have large marketing capex budgets to “sell” their capabilities which other marketing I would like to know who are the 29 companies and what is the strategy to onboarding and help others? How can they help integrate the “brokerage” carriers?

  2. Mike Kacos

    What about EDI211s? Isn’t EDI an electronic standard? Been sending 211s to LTL carriers for years. Not sure why the industry needs another standard.

  3. Daniel Lund

    I am wondering why freightwaves never says anything about the best LTL freight company in the business? ABF you always talk about XPO, O D, Saia maybe they move freight but they save lots of money because of the lack of benefits to employees. ABF is a very good company so give ABF a shout.

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Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.