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eCMR & Waybill

Reading time:
7 minutes
eCMR & Waybill

eCMR & Waybill

Reading time:
7 minutes
eCMR & Waybill


The CMR Convention is an international text on the international transport of goods by road, ratified by the enlarged Europe (55 countries). Non-concrete goal: to standardize the conditions of contract. More concrete purpose: to describe the documents to be used to contract the transport and to detail the responsibilities of the carrier. The CMR Convention is as old as the ISO container and is humming along peacefully, but its little sister, the eCMR, has been in the works since 2008, has made a few test flights since 2017 without going off course and is slowly but surely stabilizing. It's not Mad Max, but it's a small road revolution and it's an opportunity to take stock in connection with eFTI, the sacrosanct interoperability and the scary multimodality. All this is not won, but it has the merit of spilling some ink.

The paper version


The Convention on the Contract for the Carriage of Goodsby Road is one of the few remaining Francophile acronyms on the UN-regulated international trade scene. Let's call it the CMR Convention. It is one of the Geneva Conventions, signed in 1956, substantially modified in 1978 on compensation and in 2008 on the electronic consignment note. It is still regularly adapted to the new ratifications and to the dematerialization trend. 55 countries have ratified the Convention, mainly from Europe plus 2 countries from the Maghreb, 5 countries from the Middle East and 1 country in Asia.

El tamponito

The main lines

In broad terms, the text acts like any standard, laying down concepts that are sometimes unifying and pragmatic, sometimes indigestible and hollow. More seriously, this type of text aims to lay the foundations for standardizing practices in a sector of activity. In this case, to harmonize contractualization in the international transport of goods by road. For example, when it comes to defining the responsibilities between the carrier and the customer. Since we have already given our all for an in-depth analysis of the law, let's get down to the facts:
Three copies of CMR are required: (1) Shipper (2) Goods (3) Carrier. That's three times as many stamps, to the delight of customs officers of all kinds.

Information is systematically required:

  • Place and date of its establishment.
  • Name and address of the sender.
  • Name and address of the carrier.
  • Place and date of pick-up of the goods and place of delivery.
  • Name and address of the recipient.
  • Common name of the nature of the goods and the method of packaging, and, for dangerous goods, their generally recognized name.
  • Number of packages, their particular marks and numbers.
  • Gross weight or otherwise expressed quantity of the commodity.
  • Transport costs (transport price, ancillary costs, customs duties and other costs arising from the conclusion of the contract until delivery).
  • Instructions required for customs and other formalities.
  • Indication that the carriage is subject, notwithstanding any clause to the contrary, to the regime established by this Convention.

Others are required in the absence of a clause that would not subject the contract to the CMR Convention:

  • prohibition of transshipment.
  • Costs borne by the sender.
  • Refund amount to be collected upon delivery of the goods.
  • Declared value of the goods and the amount representing the special interest on delivery.
  • Instructions from the shipper to the carrier regarding the insurance of the goods.
  • Agreed time within which the transport must be carried out.
  • List of documents given to the carrier.

Managing disputes

In general, the carrier is responsible for damage to the goods except in certain identified cases such as insufficient information provided by the sender on the consignment note, irregularity of the documents involved in customs formalities or damage caused by defective packaging. The carrier is obliged to check the accuracy of the information provided in the consignment note or to make reservations if there are no reasonable means to check it (packaging, customs seal, etc.). If the execution of the contract is impossible under the conditions initially foreseen, a series of provisions is envisaged e.g. immediate deposit of the goods, custody of the goods by a third party or resale of the goods in case of excessive custody costs.
In case of payment of indemnities related to the goods, the calculation of the amount is based on the stock exchange price, the current market price or the usual value of equivalent goods. Special Drawing Rights (SDR) are used to cap the amount of compensation at 8.33 units of account per kg of missing gross weight. 1 SDR = 1.30€ at this time. SDRs are an IMF unit of account, the gold franc was used until 1978.
Successive carriers exchange dated and signed receipts and an additional copy of the consignment note must be issued to identify the second carrier.
The IRU FAQ (see below) provides an insightful list of many relevant litigation questions.

Additional protocols

The 1978 protocol amends the calculation of compensation from gold francs to SDRs. A history of the Jamaica Agreements that does not interest us directly here.
The 2008 protocol accepts the eCMR in the same way as the historical CMR in paper version and lays a new blank slab of foundation for new and modern constructions: the electronic version of the consignment note must comply with the same requirements as the paper version and go further by associating the consignment note and its signatory via electronic signature and by guaranteeing the integrity of the information (no alterations). The constraints are described, not the way to comply with them.


The CMR Convention represents the foundations, so the aim of the game is to build on them, which is what the IRU (International Road Transport Union) set out to do in 1976 by providing a model waybill (consignment note, by abuse of the CMR language) that has been amended since then and is still in use. The IRU specifies a fourth so-called administrative copy reserved for administrative procedures and adds that the copy of the goods is assigned to the consignee of the goods.

From there, an unlimited universe of jurisprudence opens up immediately thanks to the IDIT (Institute of International Transport Law) which lists the disputes and court decisions in the field of CMR. There is something for everyone, all in a technical-administrative jargon that is both lively and highly instructive.

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The electronic version

The papivore era has a long way to go, but the 2008 protocol that ratifies the eCMR attempts to take another step into the era of the intelliphone, to which we are all suspended every day, truck drivers or technocrats that we are. Everyone is now able to propose a solution to transcribe, share and transmit waybills in electronic format, with a list of advantages as long as the arm and already too many heard: saving time, money, security, centralization, transition to real time, distribution. The first cross-border transaction took place between France and Spain, a first conducted by ASTIC (Asociación de Transporte Internacional por Carretera) and FNTR (Fédération Nationale des Transports Routiers) on January 19, 2017. In Denmark, ITD is talking about the development of a solution for Danish speakers to explore. Initiatives also exist in the Netherlands, Benelux and Eastern Europe. Using APIs, QR codes and other DLTs, use cases have been tested e.g. a camera scans the license plate of a truck at the border, sends the number to the customs database, which queries the database of an eCMR operator to find out the contents of the truck at the border - the customs officer makes the decision whether or not to carry out an additional check on this basis.


This is where our road subject joins its rail and waterway brethren in a multimodal whirlwind within the eFTI: the swarm of solutions will have to submit to the imperative of interoperability, technological neutrality, data integrity and certification.

Although the CMR Convention is limited (if you will) to road transport, the complexity of the case law, the treatment of local specificities (some articles of the CMR Convention read "if the legislation of the country (...) so permits", and the importance of the decree of November 9, 1999 in France) and the absence, for the moment, of federated networks give us an idea of the considerable efforts and virtuoso orchestration required to build an eFTI ecosystem on a European scale. Until this ecosystem reaches a critical size, it will be difficult to establish its legitimacy. The ramifications of the CMR with other conventions such as the ADR on packaging and labeling of dangerous goods or the TIR regime that aims at simplifying customs documentation are all existing phenomena that will have to be included in the final ecosystem.

It will be necessary to be able to trust the third party that will process the data and the countries' institutions will have to be able to interconnect their systems to exchange information in real time. From the moment a private third party becomes an eCMR operator, the players in the transport chain delegate the management of commercial, operational and confidential data on a platform that is not owned by them. From the moment that Customs wishes to switch to the use of eCMR, it will have to be able to ingest data from shared platforms or from a constellation of operators with whom carriers will work to create and publish eCMRs. The challenge would be to create a platform that allows for the intelligent processing of documents in order to guarantee the veracity of the data exchanged between the various systems in the transport chain.

Fun fact (or not): Postal, funeral and moving transportation do not fall under the CMR agreement.

That's a big help to you.