Is a bill of lading the same as a freight invoice? Can we use it to process payment? We have a vendor which claims it cannot generate freight invoices and insists we pay from bills of lading.

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Is a bill of lading the same as an invoice? The answer is “no.” A bill of lading is not an invoice. It is an agreement between the shipper (your supplier/vendor) and the carrier (the company carrying the product from the “shipper” vendor to you, the “consignee”).

Is it your supplier that says it cannot provide an invoice? Or the carrier? We assume it’s your vendor. (A carrier certainly can and will provide an invoice to whomever it contracts with to carry the freight.)

If the carrier has billed your vendor, and your vendor is now wanting you to pay for the freight, then the vendor should be able to provide its own invoice to you, or at least provide you with a copy of the freight invoice it received from the carrier.

All this assumes that your company is supposed to pay for the freight in this transaction (but that the freight agreement was between the freight carrier and the supplier).

A check of the contract or PO is in order if it addresses freight. But we would not pay from a bill of lading—should an invoice come in later, you might pay for the freight twice; and perhaps more to the point, the bill of lading is an agreement documenting the shipment between the shipper and the carrier, not the shipper and consignee.

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