What is a Consignment Note (CMR)

What is a Consignment Note (CMR)?

In the early days of road transport, regulations were unclear and differed from country to country. In order to standardize a widely-accepted contract of carriage, the CMR was incepted through the Convention of The Contract for The International Carriage of Goods in Geneva on May 19, 1956.

A consignment note (CMR) is a transport documentation used for liability and compensation across 29 member states for cargo that is moved by road. The CMR acts as a contract of carriage and is a standardized transport document, between the consignor, consignee and carrier.

CMR borrows its abbreviation from the French ‘convention relative au Contrat de transport international de Marchandises par Route‘. While several countries in Europe and beyond have already implemented the CMR, it’s planned to be mandatory in the EU by 2026.

When is A Consignment Note Needed?

The CMR is a mandatory document that needs to be issued when transporting cargo to and from CMR ratified countries via road transportation. 

While the Convention of The Contract for The International Carriage of Goods was implemented by 8 initial signatory states, an electronic protocol (e-protocol CMR or eCMR) was initiated in 2008. According to the UN, there are a total of 29 countries that have ratified the eCMR as of 2011.

CMR and eCMR ratified countries
Map of Ratified Countries (eCMR)

The Consignment Note (CMR) is predominantly ratified in European countries, with the exceptions of some countries in Asia. In the EU alone, a projected 377,000,000 CMR have been used annually.

As of 2011, there are 29 ratified countries:

  • Belarus
  • Bulgaria
  • Denmark
  • Czech Republic
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Iran
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Moldova
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Russia
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • Tajikistan
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • Uzbekistan

What is the Purpose of a Consignment Note (CMR)?

The CMR has 2 main purposes. Firstly, it functions as a transport document and a contract of carriage that assigns liability – it stipulates which party is accountable and liable. Secondly, it indicates the compensation – the amount that is payable by the consignee or consignor.

If a CMR has been issued but lost during transportation of the cargo, the validity of the contract of carriage and the agreements made during the convention shall remain in full effect. 

It is highly encouraged that compliance to the 10 mandatory data fields in the CMR form are satisfied. Article 6 also mentions that other particulars can be mentioned in the consignment note if applicable, such as:

  • A statement that transshipment is not allowed;
  • The agreed time limit within which the carriage is to be carried out;
  • A list of the documents handed to the carrier.

There are many benefits to using a CMR as liability can be established. This can protect the sender of the goods or the carrier during transportation. This allows the consignee or consignor to claim against the transportation company, in case the goods are damaged during transit.

What Information Must Be Mentioned On a Consignment Note?

Based on the CMR Convention Article 6, the consignment note shall contain all 10 mandatory fields of data. Inaccurate CMR data may incur a delay transport and monetary penalty, which is assigned to the sender of the goods. 

1. Date and Location of Consignment Note

Signature or stamp of the consignor. The consignor can assign designated signatories representing the company. 

  • Example: Ross Brawn, Logistics Manager – Sports Unlimited, United Kingdom 02/02/2021

2. Name and Address of Consignor

The complete name and address of the consignor (seller) must be mentioned. 

  • Example: Sports Unlimited – 433 Oxford Street, Soho, London W1D 2JR, United Kingdom

3. Name and Address of Carrier

Complete name and address of the nominated carrier (transporter) that is transporting the goods.

  • Example: Freight Consortium – 743 Langton Road, London W1D 2JR, United Kingdom

4. Name and Address of Consignee

Complete name and address of the consignee (buyer) that the goods are issued to.

  • Example: DG Sportif – 1853 Avenue de France, 75013 Paris, France

5. Location and Date of Cargo Receipt and Delivery

The CMR also needs to show the confirmed place of delivery. The consignee may nominate a different place of receipt and delivery. This could be a warehouse or distribution center.

  • Example: DG Sportif – 34/16 Rue Louis Armand, 75015 Paris, France (Receiving Time: 7:00am – 3:00pm)

6. Number of Cartons

Total number of cartons that are in the consignment.

Example: 16 Cartons, 14 Cartons, 5 Palettes

7. Description of Goods

Description of goods for each carton. A general description is typically sufficient but should clearly indicate the contents.

Example: Running Shoes, Wrist Bands, Jogging Pants, Hoodies

8. Weight and Dimensions of Goods

Each line item requires dimensions and weight. This should be added behind the carton quantity and descriptions of goods.

Example: 44cm x 30cm x 210cm (80 kg)

9. Carriage Charges (Including Supplementary and Additional Charges)

For the transportation of goods, fees will incur. These fees are typically paid by the consignor or the consignee, depending on the buying terms. The charges are usually for transportation, customs duties and other services.

Example: Payment instructions: consignor to make payments all as per quotation direct to Freight Consortium – Total Cost: EUR 2,340

10. Expressed Clause that Carriage is part of the CMR

This clause is found on the CMR template and indicates that the document is subject to regulations stipulated in the Convention of The Contract for The International Carriage of Goods.

What is an eCMR?

An eCMR is an electronic consignment note, also known as an e-protocol or electronic protocol. Instead of issuing a physical (hard copy) CMR, a digital eCMR (soft copy) is issued by the consignor or trucking company.

As the technological landscape is rapidly changing, eCMRs are becoming more popular. Electronic CMRs can also be instantly received and restored.

Do I Need a Consignment Note of Local Transportation?

Consignment notes are not needed for local transportation. It is only required for road transportation across CMR ratified countries. Local laws remain in effect when delivering shipments within the country. 

What type of Cargo Requires a Consignment Note (CMR)?

General and hazardous cargo requires the issuance of a consignment note, as long as the goods are transported via road across countries that have ratified the CMR.

However, there are certain types of cargo that don’t require a consignment note, which are:

  • Radioactive Waste
  • Hazardous Waste

Who Typically Issues a Consignment Note?

The consignor (seller) is required to issue the consignment note. It can ask the help of the forwarder to issue the CMR on their behalf, provided the sender’s data is accurate. The sender can task its nominated carrier to help with filing an accurate CMR.

The Convention also states that the forwarder must check the accuracy of the declarations made in the consignment note. The information that must be accurately checked include but are not limited to the number of packages, commodity and condition of goods. 

The forwarder can also formalize its remarks and indicate them in the CMR form as reservations. The forwarder, for its protection, should have the CMR signed by the consignor. 

Let’s further illustrate the issuance of a CMR using an example.

A consignor plans to send 50 cartons of sports wear from his warehouse in Spain to a customer in France. Since both countries are ratified as part of the CMR Convention, a duly issued consignment note must be raised by the consignor or its nominated freight forwarder who may act on their behalf. 

The CMR is issued with accurate information and released to the consignee at the same place and time they receive the cargo.