Understanding the Military Shipment Label (MSL)

Military Shipment Label (MSL)

The use of the Military Shipment Label(MSL) is one of the
requirements for identifying and addressing a shipment to the United States Department of
Defense.  The MSL is designed to work in conjunction with other Mil-Std-129
compliant military labels to improve efficiency and accuracy on the DOD’s receiving dock,
ultimately improving efficiency in the payment process to suppliers.  In
practice, these Military Labels identify the supplier, the final
destination of the shipping container and other necessary information pertaining
to the shipment.

Identifying the contents of containers is the job of the unit and intermediate container formats, as well as the exterior container format.


There are three primary components to these Military Labels – human readable information, linear
barcodes, and a PDF417 two dimensional barcode.  Each component contains
multiple pieces of data.

Human Readable:

  • Transportation Control Number (TCN)
  • Transportation Account Code (TAC)/Postage
  • The consignor DODAAC or CAGE and address
  • Method of Shipment
  • Ship-To DODAAC and address or Point of Embarkation (POE)*
  • Transportation Priority (1, 2, 3, or 4)
  • Point of Debarkation (POD)*
  • Project Code*
  • Ultimate Consignee/ Mark For DODAAC and address
  • Gross Weight
  • Required Delivery Date (RDD)*
  • Cubic feet of shipping unit
  • Date Shipped
  • Foreign Military Shipment (FMS) Case*
  • Piece Number
  • Total Pieces in shipping unit

*only if applicable

Code 39 Linear Barcodes:

  • Transportation Control Number (TCN)
  • Piece Number in shipping unit
  • Ultimate Consignee/Mark-For DODAAC

PDF417 two-dimensional barcode:

  • Transportation Control Number (TCN)
  • Date Shipped
  • Ship-To Address
  • Prime Contractor/Ship-From Address
  • Mark-For Address
  • National Stock Number (NSN)
  • Weight
  • Piece Number/Total Pieces
  • Ship-From/Prime Contractor CAGE
  • Project Code
  • Cubic Feet
  • Point of Embarkation (POE)
  • Point of Debarkation (POD)
  • Ultimate Consignee/Mark-For DODAAC
  • Transportation Priority
  • Required Delivery Date (RDD)
  • Method of Shipment
  • Foreign Military Sales Case
  • Requisition Number
  • Quantity / Unit of Issue
  • Direct Vendor Delivery RIC
  • Condition Code
  • Unit Price

Usage and Placement

The proper Military labels are required for all shipment units* to the DoD.  In most cases, a single MSL is placed on each loose shipping case or shipping container (crate), on each palletized unit load* (one per pallet only), or on each full railcar or full truckload.  The MSL must be applied on the upper left side of the shipping container.  The label may not interfere with other required markings, cleats, strapping or closure tape on the container.  Additionally, the MSL may not be placed on the top or bottom of the container unless otherwise specified in your contract.

The Military Shipment Label is sometimes also used as the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag required for most shipments to the military. There are specific rules for the placement of RFID tags defined by Mil-Std-129R.

*A Shipment Unit is commonly understood to be the outermost, non-palletized container by which the shipment will be handled.

A Palletized Unit Load is a quantity of items, packed or unpacked, arranged on a pallet in a specified manner and secured, strapped, or fastened on the pallet so that the whole palletized load is handled as a single unit.  A palletized or skidded load is not considered to be a shipping
More information about Palletized Units Loads under Mil-Std-129R.