What is a waybill?

Also known as a CMR, or consignment note, the waybill refers to an international transport document. In concrete terms, it is a document aiming to forge a link between the sender, transporter and contacting party. The international waybill contractually stipulates all the conditions to be complied with during the transport of goods.

The CMR waybill is directly linked to the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road, ratified in Geneva in 1956. This convention stipulates that each transfer of goods by road requires the prior signature of a CMR waybill (so long as both countries concerned by the transfer of goods have signed said convention). It should be noted that in Europe, all EU member states have signed the convention.

This waybill, or CMR, is drawn up by one of the transport service’s stakeholders. In most cases, the transporter takes care of this task. Other specificity: the waybill can also serve as an official document for writing down observations pertaining to the delivery of the goods (reservations).

Although nothing is stipulated in the Geneva convention in this regard, the CMR waybill is often issued in three copies: one for the sender, one for the recipient and one for the transporter. The latter in fact undertakes to keep the waybill on board the vehicle in the event of an inspection when on the road.

Lastly, it should be noted that the CMR is a variant of the French national waybill, defined and overseen by the Commercial Code for the transport of goods in France.

Specificities of a CMR

A CMR waybill:

  • Is a mandatory document;

  • Can be drafted freely;

  • Must include several compulsory statements (see practical applications);

  • Is known as an e-CMR when issued electronically.

Examples and practical applications

When drafting a CMR waybill, the transporter (or any other stakeholder during the transfer of goods), must state:

  • The date on which the waybill was established;

  • The contact details (name, address, SIREN or Intra-community number) for the transporter;

  • The date on which the goods to be transported were collected;

  • The type and quantity (or weight, or content) of the goods transported;

  • If applicable, a precise description of the goods transported;

  • The deadline by which the goods need to be transported;

  • The name of the recipient;

  • The full address of both loading and unloading sites;

  • Transport price;

  • The damages payable in the event of late delivery;

  • The transport vehicle’s registration number;

  • If applicable, the name and address of the commissioner via which the transport is taking place.

French Law stipulates that if goods are transported by way of a CMR waybill, liability lies with:

  • The commissioner regarding the delivery deadline;

  • The transporter for any damages to the cargo.

Regulatory cornerstones

  • The Geneva Convention, known as CMR (Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road), signed on 19 May 1956 in Geneva and enforced in 1958.

  • Articles 1782 to 1786 of the Civil Code

  • Articles 133-1 to 133-9, 132-8 and 132-9 of the Commercial Code