Understanding Shipment Forms, Their Types & Key Components

keyKey Takeaways:
  • Shipment forms serve as crucial documents in the shipping process, acting as comprehensive records of cargo journeys and furnishing essential information about shipment contents, origins, destinations, and transportation arrangements.
  • There are various types of shipment forms, each serving a unique purpose in the shipping process. Some common forms include the Bill of Lading, Shipping Request Form, Shipping Label, Commercial Invoice, Customs Declaration Form, Packing List, Proof of Delivery, and Shipper’s Letter of Instruction.
  • It is necessary to fill shipment forms correctly to ensure compliance with customs regulations and import/export requirements, facilitating smooth customs clearance and preventing delays or penalties.

What is a Shipment Form?

A shipment form is a critical document used in the logistics and shipping industry to provide seamless movement of goods from one location to another.

As per UPS, they delivered approximately 27 million packages each day and an astounding 25 billion packages annually in 2022.

Similarly, FedEx has an average daily shipment volume of 10 million packages, while the United States Postal Service (USPS) handles an impressive rate of approximately 4,900 pieces per second.

Based on these numbers, shipping goods from one place to another may seem like a straightforward process, but behind the scenes, there’s a lot of paperwork that keeps everything moving smoothly. 

Shipment form serves as a comprehensive record of the cargo’s journey, providing vital information about the shipment’s contents, origins, destinations, and transportation arrangements. 

In this blog, we’ll explore why shipment forms are important and the different types you should be familiar with.

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What’s the Importance of a Shipment Form?

A shipment form holds significant importance for various stakeholders involved in the shipping process:

Documentation and tracking

Shipment forms serve as a reliable source of information for record-keeping purposes. They document the essential details of each shipment, making it easier to track and manage the movement of goods over time.

Customs clearance 

Customs authorities require accurate and complete shipment forms to process imports and exports through customs clearance. These documents provide the necessary data to assess duties, taxes, and compliance with import/export regulations.

Financial transactions

Shipment forms play a crucial role in financial transactions. They act as evidence that goods have been shipped and received, allowing for invoicing, payment processing, and reconciliation of accounts.

Dispute resolution 

In the event of discrepancies or issues with a shipment, a well-documented shipment form can serve as vital evidence for dispute resolution. It helps identify the responsible parties and clarifies the terms of the shipping agreement.

Visibility over shipping operations

Shipment forms aid in supply chain management by providing real-time information about the location and status of goods in transit. This visibility helps businesses plan and optimize their logistics operations efficiently.

Transportation coordination

Shipment forms guide carriers and logistics providers on how to handle, transport, and deliver goods accurately. They include instructions on packaging, labeling, and special handling requirements, ensuring goods arrive safely and intact.

Shipment Form Free Template

Here’s a free sample template of shipment form that you can download for use.

Download Free Shipment Formcrossline

How Many Types of Shipment Forms are There?

There are various types of shipment forms that are required for different shipping products and conditions. Here are some common shipment forms you should be familiar with:

1. Bill of lading (B/L or BoL)

A Bill of lading (B/L) is a legal document used in international and domestic shipping to acknowledge the receipt of goods by a carrier and establish a contract of carriage between the shipper and the carrier. 

Bill of lading
Source: freightera.com

It serves as a crucial piece of evidence for the transportation of goods and outlines the terms and conditions of the shipment. 

The Bill of Lading is a vital document in international trade and is used in various industries, including maritime, air, rail, and trucking transportation. 

Key components of the bill of lading: Shipper information, consignee information, carrier details, shipping instructions, description of goods, packaging information, freight charges, and payment terms, bill of lading number, date of shipment, place of receipt, port of loading and port of discharge, notations and special instructions, and signature and date.

There are various types of Bill of Lading, such as:

  • Straight Bill of Lading: This type of B/L is non-negotiable and indicates that the goods are consigned to a specifically named recipient.
  • Order Bill of Lading: This type of B/L is negotiable and allows the goods to be transferred to another party through endorsement.
  • Bearer Bill of Lading: This type of B/L is negotiable and allows the goods to be transferred to another party by physical possession of the document.

2. Shipping request form

A shipping request form is a critical document used in logistics and shipping to initiate the transportation process. 

Shipping request form
Source: boh.com

It serves as a formal request from the shipper or consignor to the carrier, instructing them to transport goods from the point of origin to the desired destination. 

This form acts as the first step in the complex journey of goods, laying the foundation for a successful and well-coordinated logistics operation.

They use this document as a guide throughout the shipping process, ensuring that the goods are handled, transported, and delivered as per the shipper’s instructions. 

Additionally, the form helps the carrier generate essential shipping labels, bill of lading, and other necessary documentation to facilitate the shipment’s smooth movement.

Key components of a shipping label: Requester information, date and time of request, shipping details, package contents, weight and dimensions, shipping service selection, cost center or account number, authorized signatures, terms and conditions, tracking information (optional), and additional notes or comments.

3. Shipping label

A shipping label is a crucial physical or electronic tag affixed to individual packages, parcels, or containers during the packing process. 

Shipping label
Source: store.stamps.com

It contains essential information necessary for the efficient handling, tracking, and delivery of goods throughout the logistics and shipping journey. 

Like a compass for sailors, the Shipping Label guides the various stakeholders involved in the transportation process, enabling them to navigate through the complex supply chain with ease.

Key components of a shipping label: Recipient’s address, sender’s address, barcode and tracking number, carrier’s logo and information, shipping service and speed, package weight, special handling instructions, customs information (for international shipments), hazmat or dangerous goods identification (if applicable), delivery confirmation or signature requirement (optional), and package orientation arrows.

4. Commercial invoice

At its core, a commercial invoice is a formal and comprehensive document that records the details of a commercial transaction between an exporter (seller) and an importer (buyer). 

Commercial invoice
Source: eforms.com

Often considered the cornerstone of international trade, this commercial declaration provides a transparent account of the goods being sold, the agreed-upon terms of sale, and the monetary aspects of the transaction. 

Beyond being a mere financial record, the Commercial Invoice serves as a bridge of trust, fostering a seamless exchange of goods and payments between nations.

Key components of a commercial invoice: Seller and buyer information, invoice number and date, goods description, currency and payment terms, country of origin, incoterms, total invoice value, shipping information, and terms and conditions.

Note: Incoterms are a universally recognized set of trade terms to define the responsibilities and costs of both the buyer and seller parties.

5. Customs declaration form

Customs declaration forms are official documents used in international trade and travel to provide essential information to customs authorities regarding the contents and value of goods being imported or exported. 

Customs declaration form
Source: cbp.gov

Customs forms play a crucial role in facilitating the customs clearance process, ensuring compliance with regulations, and assessing the applicable duties and taxes on goods crossing international borders.

Customs Declaration Forms are required by customs officials in both the exporting and importing countries to verify the accuracy of the declared goods, prevent illegal trafficking, and protect national security and revenue. 

They act as a bridge of communication between traders and customs authorities, allowing for transparent and lawful movement of goods across borders.

Key components of customs declaration forms: Goods description, origin and destination, value and currency, declaration type, incoterms (if applicable), and additional documentation.

6. Delivery notes or receipts

Delivery notes or receipts in shipping are essential documents used to acknowledge the successful delivery of goods from the sender to the recipient. 

Delivery notes or receipts
Source: spreadsheet123.com

They serve as tangible evidence that the goods have reached their intended destination and have been received by the consignee in good condition. 

Delivery notes and receipts play a pivotal role in the logistics and shipping process, providing accountability, facilitating record-keeping, and enabling prompt resolution of any delivery-related issues.

Key Components of delivery notes or receipts: Recipient information, delivery date and time, description of goods, quantity received, condition of goods, and recipient’s signature.

7. Packing list

A packing list or packing slip in shipping is a detailed document that provides a comprehensive inventory of the contents of a shipment. 

Packing list
Source: vertex42.com

It serves as a crucial tool for both exporters and importers, enabling them to verify the goods being transported and facilitating efficient customs clearance and inspection processes. 

The packing list acts as a roadmap for the logistics and shipping operations, ensuring that the sender’s instructions are followed accurately and the recipient receives the correct items in the shipment.

Key components of a packing list: Shipment details, sender and recipient information, itemized inventory, packaging information, total quantities, gross and net weights, dimensions, shipping marks, and numbers.

8. Proof of delivery

Proof of Delivery (POD) is a critical document in the shipping and logistics industry that serves as conclusive evidence that a shipment has been successfully delivered to the intended recipient. 

Proof of delivery
Source: usps.com

It acts as a confirmation of receipt, providing assurance to both the sender and the recipient that the goods have reached their destination as expected. 

The POD serves as the final piece of the puzzle in the shipping process, closing the loop on the entire logistics operation.

Key components of proof of delivery (POD): Delivery information, recipient details, shipment details, description of goods, special instructions, or notations.

9. Shipper’s letter of instruction (SLI)

The Shipper’s Letter of Instruction (SLI) is a vital document used in international trade and shipping to provide detailed instructions from the shipper (exporter) to the freight forwarder or carrier. 

Shipper's letter of instruction
Source: dripcapital.com

It serves as a comprehensive guide, outlining essential information related to the shipment, ensuring smooth logistics operations, and facilitating the movement of goods across international borders.

Key components of shipper’s letter of instruction (SLI): Shipment details, export and import compliance, shipping instructions, documentation instructions, customs valuation, freight forwarder or carrier details, letter of credit (if applicable), and insurance instructions.

10. Delivery confirmation

A Delivery confirmation form in shipping is a document used to record and confirm the successful delivery of a package or shipment to the intended recipient. 

Delivery confirmation
Source: eforms.com

It serves as tangible evidence that the delivery has taken place, providing assurance to both the sender and the recipient that the goods have reached their destination as expected.

Key components of a delivery confirmation form: Delivery information, recipient confirmation, identification, description of the package, delivery method, sender’s details, and additional remarks.

11. Waybill – air, sea, or rail

A waybill in shipping is a crucial document that provides specific and essential information about a freight shipment. 

Waybill air-sea or rail
Source: sf-international.com/jp

It serves as a detailed record of the shipment’s journey, including details such as the origin, destination, transportation route, and contact information for both the shipper and the receiver. 

Waybills are widely used in the transportation of freight cargo by various modes, including trucks, trains, planes, or boats.

Key components of a waybill: Comprehensive shipment information, unique waybill tracking numbers, multiple copies for documentation, and facilitating freight logistics.

12. Quick pass

A  quick pass in shipping is a combination of two essential business forms, namely the Bill of Lading (BOL) and the Commercial Invoice.

Quick pass
Source: fedex.com

This consolidated form aims to streamline the shipping documentation process, saving time, money, and effort for those involved in the purchase transaction and the shipping provider.

Key components of a quick pass: Traveler information, declaration of goods, customs declaration, pre-clearance approval, and validity period.

13. Export and import licenses

An export and import license, also known as an Export-Import (EXIM) License, is a legal document issued by the government of a country that authorizes individuals or businesses to engage in the export and import of specific goods or commodities. 

Export and import licenses
Source: albatrossshipping.co.uk

These licenses are essential to regulate and control the movement of goods across international borders, ensuring compliance with trade laws, security measures, and economic policies.

Key components of export and import licenses: Exporter information, importer information, product details, destination country, licensing authority, license number, and expiry date.

14. Insurance certificate

In shipping, an insurance certificate is a document that provides evidence of insurance coverage for goods being transported by sea, air, or other modes of transportation. 

Insurance certificate
Source: dochub.com

It ensures cargo against various risks and perils during its journey from the point of origin to the final destination. 

The insurance certificate is typically issued by an insurance company or broker and is an essential document in international trade and shipping.

Key elements of an insurance certificate: Insured party information, insurance company details, policy coverage, transit details, sum insured, deductible (if applicable), clauses and endorsements, and policy number.

How to Fill Shipment Forms Correctly

Properly completing shipment forms is crucial to ensure a smooth and efficient shipping process. 

Whether you are handling a bill of lading, packing slip, customs declaration form, or commercial invoice, following these guidelines will help you fill out shipment forms accurately:

    1. Understand the form: Before you begin, take the time to thoroughly read and understand the requirements of the specific shipment form you are using. Each form serves a unique purpose, and knowing what information to provide will prevent errors.

    2. Gather essential information: Collect all necessary details about the shipment. This includes accurate addresses of the sender (shipper) and the recipient (consignee), item descriptions, quantities, weights, dimensions, and any special handling instructions.

    3. Double-check details: Accuracy is vital when completing shipment forms. Verify that all the information, such as names, addresses, and product descriptions, is correct. Even minor mistakes can lead to delays or complications during transit.

    4. Be specific and clear: Provide clear and concise descriptions of the items being shipped. Use specific terms and avoid vague or general language. This clarity ensures that the carrier and customs officials understand the shipment contents accurately.

    5. Use standard units of measurement: Stick to standard units of weight (e.g., kilograms, pounds) and dimensions (e.g., centimeters, inches) to avoid confusion or conversion errors.

    6. Include all required information: Fill in all the mandatory fields on the form. Leaving out essential information might result in the form being rejected or cause delays in processing.

    7. Check legal and regulatory requirements: For international shipments, research and comply with the customs regulations and documentation requirements of the destination country. Missing important information on customs forms can lead to customs clearance issues.

    8. Sign and date appropriately: Ensure that the form is signed and dated by the appropriate parties. Signatures confirm the agreement and receipt of the goods and may be required for legal purposes.

    9. Keep records: Make copies of the completed shipment forms for your records. These copies will be valuable for reference and dispute resolution, if necessary.

    10. Adopt digital solutions (optional): Consider using digital or electronic shipment forms, as they often have built-in validations, reduce data entry errors, and streamline the process. Many digital platforms also offer secure storage for your documentation.

Common Mistakes to Avoid While Filling Shipment Forms

Filling shipment forms accurately is of utmost importance to ship your products to your desired location. Failing to do so might let you lose your product. 

Here are some common mistakes that you should avoid while filling out your next shipment form:

Incomplete or inaccurate information

One of the most common mistakes in filling out shipment forms is providing incomplete or inaccurate information. Missing details or incorrect data can lead to delays, extra costs, and even rejected shipments. Always double-check all information before submitting the forms.

Missing signatures and authorizations

Neglecting to obtain the necessary signatures and authorizations on shipment forms can cause unnecessary complications. Ensure that all required parties sign the forms as needed to acknowledge their agreement and receipt of the goods.

Ignoring country-specific requirements for international shipments

When dealing with international shipments, each country has its own set of regulations and requirements. Failing to research and comply with these country-specific rules can lead to customs issues, fines, or confiscation of goods. Be diligent in understanding and adhering to the regulations of the destination country.

Evolution of Shipment Forms: Manual To Online

With the advancement of technology, traditional paper-based shipment forms are being replaced by digital or electronic shipment forms. 

These digital forms offer a more efficient and eco-friendly approach to managing shipping documentation and keeping it error-free. 

Apart from these, several platforms offer digital form solutions for businesses of all sizes. Some popular options include Adobe Sign, DocuSign, and Google Forms. 

These platforms provide customizable templates and secure storage, making them convenient and reliable choices for managing shipment forms in the digital age.

Incorporating these practices and embracing the advantages of digital forms can streamline your shipping processes and ensure accurate and efficient documentation for all your shipments.


To fill a DHL shipment form correctly, you need to provide accurate information about the sender and recipient, detailed descriptions of the items being shipped, their weight, dimensions, and any special handling instructions. Double-check the form for accuracy before submission.

A shipper’s form is a document completed by the sender of goods to provide necessary information to the carrier for transportation. It includes details about the shipper, consignee, shipping instructions, and a description of the shipment.

Yes, customs forms are required for international shipments handled by UPS. The specific type of customs form needed depends on the destination country and the value and nature of the goods being shipped. It is essential to comply with customs regulations for smooth international shipping.

The bill of lading typically includes essential details about a shipment, such as the shipper and consignee’s information, carrier details, description of goods, packaging information, shipping instructions, freight charges, bill of lading number, date of shipment, and the place of receipt and discharge.

There are several different types of waybills used in freight transportation, each serving specific purposes. Examples include astray waybills for separated shipments, blanket waybills for multiple shipments on a single document, and interline waybills for shipments involving multiple carriers.

A packing list is a detailed document that provides a comprehensive inventory of the contents of a shipment. On the other hand, a shipping label is a physical or electronic tag affixed to a package or container during the packing process.

Carefully read and understand the requirements of each specific form. Gather all necessary details about the shipment, double-check the information provided, and use specific and clear descriptions while sticking to standard units of measurement. Use digital or electronic forms to reduce data entry errors and streamline the process.

Incorrect or incomplete shipment forms can lead to consequences like delays in transit, extra costs, or rejected shipments. It can cause difficulties processing imports or exports, resulting in customs clearance issues, fines, or confiscation of goods. Inaccurate forms can also lead to disputes between parties, affecting financial transactions and overall business relationships.

Handling last-minute changes to shipment details demands swift action and clear communication. Notify the carrier promptly, check about relevant amendment policies, and create a new form if necessary. Keep all involved parties informed to prevent any confusion and ensure smooth shipping.


In conclusion, shipment forms are the backbone of the logistics and shipping industry, providing crucial information for the seamless transportation of goods. Properly filling out these forms is essential to avoid delays, comply with regulations, and ensure efficient delivery.

Embracing digital solutions for shipment forms can streamline processes and enhance accuracy. Utilizing platforms like Adobe Sign or DocuSign offers convenience and eco-friendliness, reducing paperwork and improving overall efficiency.

Remember to double-check all details, obtain necessary signatures, and stay informed about country-specific requirements for international shipments. By adopting these practices and leveraging digital forms, businesses can optimize their shipping operations and deliver a smoother experience for all stakeholders involved.

Author Bio
Rakesh Patel
Rakesh Patel

Rakesh Patel, author of two defining books on reverse geotagging, is a trusted authority in routing and logistics. His innovative solutions at Upper Route Planner have simplified logistics for businesses across the board. A thought leader in the field, Rakesh's insights are shaping the future of modern-day logistics, making him your go-to expert for all things route optimization. Read more.