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International waybill – what should it include?

The international waybill is a rudimentary commercial document, confirming the conclusion of a contract for the road transport of cargo. The CMR waybill is not required, but it is commonly used in the transport and forwarding of various goods. What was it created for and what information should it contain? Read on for our overview of the waybill in international transport.

What does CMR stand for and what does the Convention apply to?

The abbreviation CMR, comes from the Convention relative au contrat de transport international de Marchandise par Route, which translated into English simply means: the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road. The CMR abbreviation gained an additional common meaning in Poland, i.e. the international waybill. Similarly to the TIR abbreviation, which by industry outsiders is treated as a synonym for a truck. The CMR Convention was established in Geneva as early as 1956. Poland incorporated it into its legal regulations on April 27, 1962. Nowadays, the international waybill is widely used throughout Europe.

CMR Convention – applications

The provisions of the CMR Convention apply to commercial contracts for the carriage of goods by road using heavy goods vehicles, if the place of receipt of the goods and the final destination of delivery are in two different countries. The regulations apply to both trucks and tractor units with semi-trailers or trailers. The international factor is important here, i.e. the road transport of goods from one country to another, where at least one of the countries has ratified the CMR Convention.

  CMR provisions do not apply to:

  • Carriage of corpses
  • Transport of postal items
  • Carriage of resettlement items
  • Conclusion of forwarding contracts

What is the waybill?

The waybill is a commercial document that contains an exact list of the inventory included in the cargo. As a rule, it is issued when the cargo is handed over to the carrier. It is the waybill that confirms the conclusion of the contract of carriage between the sender and carrier. It is also used in sea, rail and air transport. The waybill speeds up formalities related to the customs procedure, and from a practical point of view, also the process of replenishing inventory or settlements by contractors.

What purposes does the waybill serve?

  • Evidence – pursuant to Art. 4 of the CMR Convention, the waybill is proof of the contract of carriage
  • Identification – the holder of the first copy of the waybill can handle the shipment in accordance with the information contained in the document
  • Instructions – the document may contain additional instructions in case of problems with the transport
  • Information – full scope of information ensures complete control over correct implementation of the contract

Who issues the waybill?

The CMR document does not regulate who should issue the waybill. It is usually issued by the sender of the shipment, oftentimes together with the carrier. It should be noted that accepting the waybill means taking responsibility for the transported goods. In practice, the waybill is issued by the sender, after which the carrier adds detailed information related to the road transport. The carrier confirms the acceptance of the goods for transport in the document, and provides the sender with a copy of the waybill.

The CMR Convention mandates three copies of the international waybill, but usually four are issued:

  • Original (blue) – attached to the shipment to be delivered to the final recipient
  • Duplicate (red) – copy for the sender
  • Consignment note (green) – confirmation of receipt of the shipment by the carrier
  • Secondary (black) – issued for administrative purposes

They must be signed by both the sender and the carrier. The regulations in most European countries also allow the use of stamps or printed signatures, as long as they have been authenticated electronically.

What information should the waybill contain?

The CMR form does not need to follow a specific format. Pursuant to Art. 6 of the CMR Convention, the international waybill should include:

  • place and date of issue
  • surname (name) and address of sender
  • surname (name) and address of carrier
  • place and date of acceptance of goods for transport and planned location of issuance
  • surname (name) and address of recipient
  • commonly used description of type of goods and packing method, and for dangerous goods their generally recognized description
  • number of items, their features and numbers
  • gross weight or otherwise expressed quantity
  • costs related to transport (freightage, ancillary costs, customs duties and other costs arising from the conclusion of the contract up to delivery)
  • instructions necessary to complete customs and other formalities
  • statement that the carriage, notwithstanding any clause to the contrary, is subject to the provisions of this Convention

CMR document – additional elements

The Convention also provides examples of other information that can be found on the CMR form:

  • transhipment not permitted
  • costs that the sender bears
  • amount of the advance to be collected upon the release of the goods
  • declared value of the goods
  • the sender’s instructions to the carrier regarding the insurance of the shipment
  • the agreed date on which the transport is to be performed
  • list of documents handed over to the carrier

However, the elements listed are not an exhaustive list. The international waybill may contain all the data and information that the contracting parties consider necessary. You do not know how to prepare a CMR? It’s really simple and it significantly speeds up international road transport. It suffices to include the data listed in the Convention.

Types of waybills depending on the type of transport

Popular means of transport have their own individual waybills. The concept is similar, but they differ in form and legal requirements. There are the following types of waybills:

  • Bill of Lading (BOL) – sea transport
  • CIM and SMGS waybills – rail transport
  • AWB waybill – air transport
  • CMR waybill – road transport
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