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December 9, 2022
How electronic PODs can save you time and shipping worries
When we talk with shippers, two priorities with their freight always bubble to the top: speed and consistency. You want your shipments delivered on time with minimal disruptions. In fact, according to research from B2B International, shippers named reliability and on-time performance as the top two attributes they consider most important when looking for a freight transportation provider.

The good news is technology can deliver that and is transforming one of the most established processes in freight: the proof of delivery (POD). While paper PODs haven’t been fully replaced in the shipping process, electronic PODs (ePODs) are increasing in usage, and shippers are reaping the benefits.

What are ePODs?
In its most basic form, an ePOD is a photo that drivers take of the paper bill of lading (BOL) with their smartphones. That digitized version is used all along the shipping process to collect signatures and acknowledgements from all the stakeholders involved: shippers, drivers, and receivers. Usually, it is turned into a PDF so the information is displayed correctly no matter what device it’s viewed on. At Amazon Freight, this ePOD creation is conducted in the Relay app.

While processes may differ depending on the carrier, typically, here’s what it looks like:

Let’s say Samantha the shipper needs to get an FTL of book shelves from Chicago to Los Angeles. She’ll have a printed BOL ready with all the required information. When Dave the driver arrives to pick it up, he’ll take a picture of the BOL on his smartphone. His signature, along with Samantha’s, are captured electronically to acknowledge transition of the load – just like with a paper BOL (see the screenshot in this post).

This is known as “sign on glass” because the signatory does so right on the phone. Once Dave gets to Los Angeles and arrives at the drop off location, he’ll collect a third and final electronic signature from the receiver as proof of delivery.

“Faster and easier”
Screenshot on smartphone of how signatures are collected on the Relay app
Like many things in the digital revolution, there are many benefits of going electronic. But undoubtedly the greatest one is efficiency when it comes to ePODs.

In the old world of paper only PODs, shippers would have to call or email around and track down each document. Now shippers can pull them up on their own.

“It reduces hassle and saves me time,” says Liam Lim, head of logistics for FBA4YOU, a 3PL warehouse in Washington state. Liam has embraced ePODs in the past year. FBA4YOU manages many imports from customers overseas so ePODs are vital in his communication with them. Liam can always go online and check for the latest signatures to make sure his loads are where they need to be. Ultimately, it’s “faster and easier” he says, two critical components in the life of a logistics manager.

The handoffs between all stakeholders are also more controlled. At each point in the process when a signature is needed, the driver can be reminded to collect it. Depending on the tool the driver is using, this is a step that can’t be skipped over. In the past, shippers could only hope signatures were collected. Today’s technology helps ensures it and can guide the driver to complete the necessary steps.

And finally, going electronic offers simple but essential reliability. Once the first photo of the BOL is taken, it is secured online and can’t be lost or damaged. A paper BOL can have a rough journey. Depending on the load, it can traverse the country, be exposed to the elements, and exchange multiple hands: all are opportunities for it to be misplaced or damaged. With ePODs, those issues are mitigated.

A more electric future
Electronic documents are here to stay, and they aren’t done improving. ePODs have come a long way already, especially as phone cameras have evolved. Much more is on the horizon to make them even more effective and improve shipping.

At Amazon Freight, we are committed to our customers and raising the bar for them through innovation and tech advancements. If you are interested in leveraging our network of 50,000+ trailers and carriers backed by cutting-edge tech, create a shipper account and get started.

Are you a carrier or driver and want to get the Relay mobile app? Download it on iOS and Android.
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