Sign digital consignment notes in compliance with the e-CMR protocol
For every transport, the signatures of the supply chain partners involved are a fundamental part of the consignment note. By signing the document, every party approves the details such as liabilities, damage and compensation stated in the document. The signing process starts upon pick up of the goods, when the carrier and the sender both sign the consignment note to confirm its contents, before the carrier leaves the location. Upon delivery, the addressee signs the document after having received and checked the freight. Once signed, the consignment note is not only important for the internal administration of the supply chain partners, but also functions as an important piece of evidence for the transport, e.g. when applying tax reductions on intracommunity transports. When companies switch from paper to digital consignment notes, it is therefore important that the digital signature on the e-CMR is officially considered as reliable as the signature on the paper version. To guarantee that, the e-CMR protocol states a total of four criteria for the digital signature to be considered equal to the signature on paper:
- The signature is linked to the signee in a unique way
- The signee is identifiable by their signature on the consignment note
- The signing process is done on a device that is under the full and exclusive control of the signee
- The signature has to be linked to the information on the e-CMR in such a way, that all further adaptations after signing are trackable
(Source: Stichting Vervoeradres)
Based on these four official criteria, TransFollow has developed TransFollow Approval, a unique signing method for e-CMRs.
TransFollow Approval is a signing method within TransFollow using uniquely generated QR codes to sign e-CMRs. It complies with all four criteria of the e-CMR protocol and can be used internationally. It even makes the signature process safer compared to paper consignment notes: With TransFollow Approval, every e-CMR can only be viewed, managed or signed by the users with accounts linked to this specific transport document. This allows all supply chain partners to easily identify if the person at the location has access to the consignment note in question and is therefore authorised to check and sign it. Also, for every e-CMR signed with TransFollow Approval, two unique QR codes are being generated. As the QR codes are only valid once, the freight document cannot be accessed again by copying and using the same code again, which helps to prevent fraud.
Instead of signing the freight document on paper, TransFollow Approval allows all supply chain partners to sign on their own device. The carrier starts the signing process by generating a unique QR-code in the TransFollow App or his board computer. If the counterparty has access to the corresponding document via their own account, they can scan and check the contents of the digital consignment note on their own device before potentially adding comments or photos. When confirming the details of the e-CMR, another unique and more detailed QR code is being generated on the device of the counterparty to be scanned by the carrier. This QR code is the digital signature of the counterparty and includes the exact time and location of signing as well as all account details. By implementing this process of scanning two individual QR codes and the possibility to check and sign the e-CMR on separate devices, TransFollow Approval meets all four criteria of the e-CMR protocol.
Alternative Signing Methods with TransFollow
Although TransFollow Approval is considered the most reliable way to sign e-CMRs in TransFollow and the only one fully compliant with the e-CMR protocol, there are situations in which it is simply not utilisable. As TransFollow has been developed by the market and for the market, two alternative signing methods have been created based on feedback from users: ‘sign-on-glass’ and ‘delivery without acceptance of the counterparty’. While both alternative digital signatures are being commonly accepted, they are considered less reliable than TransFollow Approval.
The first alternative, ‘sign-on-glass’, allows the signee to check and sign the e-CMR on the device of the carrier. As soon as the signing process starts, the carriers hands his mobile device to the counterparty to check the details of the consignment note before literally signing it by putting a signature on the screen. Just as with TransFollow Approval, the counterparty has the opportunity to add comments or attachments to the document before signing. ‘Sign-on-glass’ enables carriers to get e-CMRs signed with counterparties who do not have their own TransFollow account (yet) and therefore cannot access TransFollow Approval.
Also, goods have to be delivered at unmanned locations frequently. Naturally, as no representative of the counterparty is present during delivery, the carrier has no possibility to get the e-CMR signed with TransFollow Approval or ‘sign-on-glass’. Instead, he can use ‘delivery without acceptance of the counterparty’ to check and close the freight document himself before leaving the site again.
All three signing methods in TransFollow can be used to sign several e-CMRs at once and are available internationally. The carrier is only limited in his choice of signing method in case the party drafting the e-CMR decides to disable one or two of them. The consignor has the possibility to, for example, only allow TransFollow Approval on a specific transport. In this case, the carrier will not be able to pick up or deliver the goods at an unmanned location or to a counterparty without TransFollow account.
With this easy to use solution complying with the four criteria for digital signatures stated in the e-CMR protocol, TransFollow sets the new standard for digital consignment notes.