When it comes to your freight charges, there is a lot to know. In an industry like the freight industry, even a good broker is going to run into issues concerning freight charges. When there’s (at minimum) three parties coordinating on picking up and delivering freight across hundreds (or thousands) of miles, there’s bound to be some confusion.
This doesn’t mean you should be afraid of your freight charges! Hardly. A good freight education is the best way to avoid issues, and working with a great freight broker helps too. Rest assured, if you pay attention to the points we make in this blog, you can approach your freight shipping equipped with the knowledge necessary to easily understand your freight charges, and better avoid any sort of discrepancies.
1.) Not all freight charges are created equal
Freight charges are not universal. In LTL shipping, we use dozens of different carriers. Some are large national carriers, with coverage maps that stretch across the continental United States, into Canada and Puerto Rico, and employ thousands of trucks and drivers. Others are smaller, regional carriers, that specialize in very particular geographic areas, and can offer great freight rates and service for these areas. By utilizing such a collection of carriers, brokers can offer their customers the best freight quotes available.
However, each of these carriers has their own freight tariffs and agreements on particular charges, just like they have their own freight quotes. Sometimes, brokers can negotiate flat rate agreements in FAKs (Freight of All Kinds) with particular carriers, but for the most part, a liftgate charge with a carrier like Roadrunner might be different than a liftgate charge with New Penn. This kind of arrangement will apply to all sorts of charges: residential delivery, volume quotes, reweigh or reclass charges, limited access shipping, etc. Remember, just because a liftgate cost you $50 on your last shipment, doesn’t necessarily mean it will cost the same on your next one.
2.) Truckload freight charges are very different from LTL
The practices of full truckload shipping and LTL are very different. The quoting process is different. The carrier selection and vetting process is different. The tracking and insurance practices are different. When it comes to truckload vs LTL, there are very few rules that can be applied to both. Of course, this applies to freight charges as well.
Freight charges between truckload and LTL can vary wildly, depending on a variety of factors. Though a good broker will always be negotiating for better rates with LTL carriers, freight lanes and routes should not change too much from day-to-day.
Truckload shipping quotes, on the other hand, vary based on capacity and markets. A truckload quote in July will probably be different than one in December, or even August! Certain parts of the country feel crunch around produce seasons each year, and holidays always affect full truckload freight charges. Each shipment, LTL or otherwise, is different, so don’t assume that your freight rates will always be the same.
3.) Freight charges can still apply to damaged freight
Damaged freight is one of the most frustrating parts of the shipping industry. Part of this is because damaged freight, at least in one form or another, is unavoidable. If you’re a frequent shipper, odds are that you will have to deal with damaged freight at least once. And before that day comes, it’s important to understand that freight charges can still apply to damaged freight. Just because your freight is damaged in transit by the carrier doesn’t mean that you are not responsible for those freight charges.
There are lots of damaged freight instructions and processes, and different carriers have different ways of dealing with damaged freight, but in all instances you or your broker will have to file a damaged freight claim with the carrier.
Different carriers have different coverages for freight that is partially damaged, fully damaged, or lost, but the initial freight invoices still have to be paid. Think of them as two separate transactions.
Regardless of damage, you have to pay the initial freight invoice. If something went wrong, you file a freight claim and depending on the carrier’s coverage policies, you get back some percentage of that initial payment. The process of damaged freight is admittedly vague and convoluted.
It’s important to get a handle on the insurance policies and coverages offered by the carrier you’re using based on your item’s freight class or declared value BEFORE you ship. If you’re moving expensive freight, we highly recommend investing in third party insurance, as they streamline the process, deal with the carriers directly, and are more likely to compensate you quickly for your legitimate loss or damage. One paragraph is hardly enough to cover damaged freight, so reach out to your broker for further clarification.
4.) Documentation is always needed to fight invoice discrepancies
Some of the most common invoice discrepancies we find here at FreightPros are reclasses and reweighs. These happen when the information on the bill of lading does not match the actual freight being shipped. Items are notated at lower classes or lower weights on the BOL to get a lower freight rate. If the carrier inspects the freight and determines the shipment is a different class, or weighs more than it says on the BOL, you might run into a reclass or reweigh.
If the shipper doesn’t want to pay that additional charge, they’ll need to prove that their initial information on class or weight was correct. To do this, they need to supply the carrier with sufficient documentation in the form of manufacturer specifications on weight or commodity, not to mention NMFC numbers or density calculations. Your broker can help you compile this information and fight the carrier, but in all instances, specific documentation is a must.
Without it, you will be responsible for the additional freight charges.
Some freight carriers have better track records when it comes to reweighs and reclasses, so check with your broker to make sure you’re shipping with the right carrier. It’s also important to get exact weight and classes on the BOL. The more information available to the carrier on the bill of lading, the less chance of a discrepancy.
In conclusion, I must admit that the title, Everything You Need To Know About Your Freight Charges, is a bit of a misnomer. After years in the industry, I’m convinced you can NEVER know everything there is to know about freight. The industry changes too often, and different regulations and practices pop up each year like new flowers.
But if you want to get the most out of your freight shipping experience, pay attention to the details before you ship. Invest in good freight carriers and freight insurance for expensive items, and if you’re a frequent shipper, a good freight broker can do wonders.