On October 24th, the Digital LTL Council of the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) announced that it had established a new application programming interface (API) standard for electronic bills of lading (eBOL). This marks the first time in the industry’s history that less-than-truckload has had a standard format for electronically sharing these vital and ubiquitous documents.

The new format is part of the Digital LTL Council's efforts to advance the digitization of the industry to improve supply chain efficiency. These efforts include creating new benchmarks in three key areas: electronic bill of lading, shipment visibility and tracking, and freight exception handling.  

This single API format is intended to replace the many different digital platforms that shippers, carriers, and 3PLs have used over the years. The goal is to make the exchange of bills of lading data more accurate and concise while also enabling it to occur hours sooner than current methods allow. 

The Digital LTL Council stresses that adopting this API standard is unique in its ability to:

  • Reduce costs
  • Reduce errors
  • Significantly improving communication across the supply chain.

Adopting a common, paperless transaction standard will

  • Improve visibility
  • Improve efficiency 

In a press release announcing the new standard, NMFTA’s executive director Debbie Sparks said, “Everyone understands the importance of cybersecurity and other best practices in the digital space. The standard we have developed here helps member organizations implement these practices structurally into their organizations in a cohesive and actionable way. This is consistent with the vision of the organization, to facilitate such progress for the entire industry.” 

According to the council, early adoption has been strong – with 29 companies, including carriers, 3PLs, freight brokers, and technology firms pledging to be fully operational under the new standard no later than July 20th, 2023. 

The Digital LTL Council is now asking others to pledge adoption on the same timeline.  

"Establishing this new standard is a major step toward improving the efficiency and data accuracy of the entire LTL industry, said Tim Saylor, Vice President of Information Systems for Averitt, a member of the LTL Digital Council. “As more companies, particularly large LTL shippers, adopt this standardized platform, everyone will be in a better position to benefit from the efficiencies and advantages it provides."  

Paul Dugent, Executive Director of the Digital LTL Council, says the new standard is the product of ongoing efforts by industry leaders and staff at NMFTA. “We have worked two years to develop this standard because we recognize the impact it will have on our industry and its partners and customers,” Dugent said. “As we move toward widespread adoption, we are confident the benefits will also be widespread throughout the industry.”

Technology solutions providers within the industry are also embracing the new eBOL standard. For instance, transportation management system provider MyCarrier has embraced eBOL within its platforms. 

"Carriers prefer digitally connected relationships with shipping customers, and electronic Bills of Lading are a huge step in the right direction," said Mark Davis, VP of Pricing and Traffic at Averitt Express. "Receiving an eBOL makes things easier for all involved. Averitt Connect, powered by MyCarrier, enables our customers to send detailed shipment information via eBOL before scheduling a pickup, increasing efficiency, and improving our market agility."

The Digital LTL Council comprises industry-leading shippers and LTL transportation, logistics services, and technology providers. The council's purpose is to facilitate collaboration, automation, standardization, and digitalization across all LTL industry participants to elevate the industry together. 

As a founding member of the Digital LTL Council, Averitt is committed to furthering technological advancement both internally and throughout the industry.

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