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Dutch shippers trial digital bill of lading signatures

Dec 18, 2014
Dutch companies will soon become the first in the world to be able to use a reliable, standardised, digital bill of lading and sign for the receipt of goods via a mobile phone, the European Shippers’ Council (ESC) has revealed.

The ESC said EVO (Dutch Shippers’ Council), TLN (Transport and Logistics Netherlands) and the NBB (Dutch Inland Shipping Bureau) had put the logistical infrastructure of the Netherlands one step ahead of other countries, “resulting in significant savings for numerous businesses”. The ESC said it was “watching this development closely, hoping the rest of Europe can follow the example”.

In cooperation with EVO, TLN and NBB, supply chain facilitation organisation Beurtvaartadres is currently developing what it claims to be “the first reliable standardised digital bill of lading”: TransFollow. At the ICT & Logistiek trade fair in Utrecht, Beurtvaartadres presented the latest step in this process: mobile NFC (Near Field Communication) signing for received goods based on international standards.

 A trial will begin in December with a selected number of logistics service providers, senders and recipients, the ESC said. Although it is already possible for consumers to pay for goods with a smartphone, TransFollow is now introducing mobile signing for goods, the organisation added.

“The digitalisation of freight data is important for many businesses because in many cases a signed bill of lading is needed for invoicing and to comply with (tax-related) laws and regulations,” the ESC said. “Currently, businesses have to wait for the paper version with all the signatures to be returned to them: with TransFollow this will happen in real time.  Recipients also get an overview of the exact timing of all the goods to be received. Many suppliers of logistics software, tablet computers, and logistics service providers are therefore already involved in the new platform.”

TransFollow is expected to become available to businesses in the first half of 2015. In addition to speed and convenience, the ESC said there were significant financial savings to be made.

“Currently, businesses in the logistics chain use millions of paper bills of lading, packing slips and checklists every year,” it said. “With 450 million freight movements a year and cost savings that can amount to tens of thousands of euros per business, this represents €675 million of potential savings on logistics a year. After all, the cost of administrative processing of a paper bill of lading can quickly add up to €6.21 per bill of lading.”


Photo: Beurtvaartadres is currently developing what it claims to be "the first reliable standardised digital bill of lading": TransFollow.

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