More Glossary Terms


A waybill is a document issued by a transportation carrier recording important information about a freight shipment.

Waybill definition: a waybill is a document prepared by the transportation carrier responsible for the shipment of a consignment of goods.
What is a waybill in shipping?
A waybill in shipping is a document that provides specific information about a freight shipment, such as origin, destination, transportation route, and contact information for the shipper and receiver. Waybills can be used in shipping freight cargo by truck, train, plane, or boat.
There are several different types of waybills used in freight transportation.
  • Astray waybill: used for shipments separated from the original shipment document.
  • Blanket waybill: used for two or more shipments on a single document.
  • Interline waybill: used for a shipment using two or more different carriers.
Waybills are assigned unique waybill tracking numbers. The waybill tracking numbers can be used to monitor a shipment’s progress from origin to destination.
A waybill includes multiple copies so each party involved in a freight shipment can maintain documentation.
Waybill vs Bill of Lading

A waybill and a bill of lading both contain specific information about a shipment. Both waybills and bills of lading include details about the shipment itself, the shipper, the receiver, and the conditions for moving the freight cargo.

Otherwise, there are key differences when comparing the waybill vs. bill of lading.
  • A waybill is non-negotiable, and it is used for information purposes. Waybills acknowledge receipt of cargo and serve as evidence of contract of carriage. A waybill cannot be consigned to a third party. A waybill cannot transfer cargo ownership but instead specifies the specific entity that will receive the goods.
  • A bill of lading is a legal document that serves as a contract of carriage and as a title to the goods being shipped. Bills of lading can be consigned to or endorsed by a third party during the transportation of the shipment.
How do I Track a Waybill?
Waybill tracking is supported by unique numbers assigned to each waybill produced by a carrier executing a freight shipment. Waybill tracking numbers allow loads to be monitored in real time, depending on the support capabilities of the carrier.

Waybill tracking numbers can be used in association email and SMS notifications to the receiver and shipper. Logistics service providers often provide online portals for waybill tracking.

What is an Air Waybill?

An air waybill accompanies a freight shipment moved by an air courier. An air waybill (AWB), also known as an air consignment note, serves as a receipt of goods provided by an airline freight carrier. The International Air Transport Association designs and distributes air waybills.

Air waybills contain contract conditions that describe the air carrier’s terms and conditions, such as liability limits, claims procedures, a description of goods, and applicable charges. Once signed by the shipper (or shipper agent) and the carrier (or carrier’s agent), an air waybill is a contract enforceable by law.
Unlike other bills of lading, an air waybill is non-negotiable.
What is a Sea Waybill?
A sea waybill is a non-negotiable carriage contract between an ocean carrier and a shipper or shipper’s agent to deliver a freight shipment to a specific consignee. The sea waybill is a receipt of goods issued by the ocean vessel operator to the shipper.
A sea waybill allows the quick release of freight cargo ownership. Also known as a straight bill of lading or express release bill of lading, a sea waybill is a receipt that an exporter can use to release cargo ownership to the intended receiver without providing additional ownership documents.

Find out how MercuryGate helps you better manage transportation documents.

What are the Contents of a Waybill?
Information that is included in a waybill, an air waybill, and a sea waybill:
  • Shipper/consignor name, address, and contact information.
  • Receiver/importer name, address, and contact information.
  • Origin, destination, and delivery location details.
  • Identifying information for the transporting vehicle.
Information provided for air waybills and sea waybills may vary.
An air waybill includes the air carrier name, logo, head office address, an 11-digit tracking number, and eight copies in varying colors. A sea waybill includes vessel name and voyage number, International Maritime Organization (IMO) or the Lloyds Register number, and declared value of goods.
How does MercuryGate support Waybills in Transportation Management?
Waybills used in road, rail, air, and ocean transportation add to the documents required in day-to-day logistics management. Waybills and waybill tracking numbers, like bills of lading and freight invoices, require careful management to support freight movements and financial settlement.
MercuryGate TMS allows users to combine modern imaging systems, cloud-based storage, and on-demand access to streamline the management of all transportation documents.

A unified multimodal platform offers the ability to manage and store all transportation documents electronically. On-demand file access facilitates rapid response for international shippers seeking required documents for customs clearance. Further, electronic documentation accessible alongside PRO numbers and SCAC information in the MercuryGate TMS supports rapid shipment execution, validation of requested services, and accurate payment of invoices.

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