The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) is hoping to create more efficiency for carriers and the overall supply chain with its new electronic bills of lading (eBOL) standard for the less-than-truckload sector.

The council is asking its members to pledge adoption of the standard by July 2023 with hopes of spurring widespread adoption. Nearly 30 companies had already taken the pledge by Oct. 24.

“It will require a joint effort between shippers, carriers and 3PLs to adopt a standard eBOL API, and some IT expenses will be necessary,” Paul Dugent, executive director of the Digital LTL Council, told CCJ.

But stakeholders will see a return on that investment.

Carriers will benefit by automating or even eliminating certain administrative, bill entry and customer service tasks, saving up to 1.3% of their current costs and equating to industry savings of potentially $470 million.

“The benefits, of course, don’t stop there,” SMC³ Chief Commercial Officer Brian Thompson said in a statement. “In addition to eliminating manual data entry and risk of transcription errors, carrier systems receive shipment information sooner, enabling advance operational planning and network optimization. Carriers estimate they could realize an additional 2% reduction in operational costs, making the industry-wide savings nearly $1.2 billion.”

Christian Piller, vice president of value engineering at project44, said the benefits of digitizing the LTL shipment lifecycle will trickle down to manufacturers and distributors as well.

“They’ll see an average of 2% to 4% cost savings per shipment,” Piller said. “That total value delivered is comprised of many critical factors including increased network efficiency and on-time performance, reduced safety stock levels, decreased dwell times, improved carrier performance and heightened human resource efficiency.”

Dugent said the adoption of eBOLs will have a major impact on the LTL industry, which has been slow to adopt digital technology.

Member companies are being asked to commit to the following pledge in adopting the standard:

“Whereas digitization is critically important for the elevation of the LTL freight industry, and the NMFTA and its Digital LTL Council have worked to facilitate collaboration, automation, standardization and digitization – for the reduction of paper flow and overall better communication across the LTL industry – I recognize the importance of implementing an electronic bill of lading (eBOL) to achieve the highest levels of shipment outcomes and accurate invoicing, and pledge to develop and fully operationalize the eBOL with at least one business partner or 3PL, starting no later than July 20, 2023.”