Weight, Weight… Don’t Tell Me!

April 19, 2018 by Meyer Baron
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We lie about our weight all the time, and everyone forgives us for doing so because they do it, too. Freight is not so forgiving. Getting the right weight is important.

Yet many shippers have tried just about everything else.

Wouldn’t it be nice?

Over the years, numerous attempts have been made to help shippers calculate the weight of their shipments without actually weighing them on a freight scale.

  • The Magic Freight Weight 8-Ball was a great idea. Just like the popular magic 8-ball you may have played with as a kid, the Magic Freight Weight 8-Ball would tell you how much your shipment weighed, just by standing next to the packaged shipment and turning over the 8-ball. Did it work? Hey, it was magic!
  • The Freight Weight Swami used a 1-900 number. For just $2.95 per minute, the swami would tell you how much your shipment weighed after you held the phone up to your packaged cargo. The Swami’s answer had a tendency to be something like, “Your freight weighs less than one million pounds.” The advent of the smartphone put an end to the swami’s business. Phone, smart; swami, not so much.
  • The See-Saw Solution involved taking a fully packaged and palletized shipment to the local playground, putting the pallet on one end of the see-saw and adding children to the other end until balance was achieved. Not only was this technique grossly inaccurate, it really upset the parents of children who were recruited to participate without their parents’ knowledge. After many 9-1-1 calls, this technique was abandoned permanently.

True confession: we made these up. But they aren’t that far out of whack when you consider how inaccurately many infrequent shippers report their shipment weight to be.

Perhaps the issue with weight is really two issues combined:

  1. How we have learned to think about weight.
  2. Freight shipping numbers don’t always mean exactly what you think they should mean.

Changing our thinking on weight

Much of our confusion about weight and freight comes from how we associate weight with parcel shipping. Most of us shipped parcels through the post office before we ever shipped anything as freight. That’s where we learned that the more a shipment weighs, the more it is going to cost.

But freight doesn’t work that way. LTL (Less than Truckload) freight is shipped long distances in very large trucks that rely on weight for stability. The relationship between space and weight is calculated as density, which is a significant element in determining a shipment’s freight class. The higher the density, the lower the freight class, and vice-versa. And the lower the freight class, the lower the shipping costs.

Here are some real-world freight classes.

  • Cast iron wood-burning stove — Freight class = 85 (inexpensive)
  • Unassembled couch — Freight class = 250
  • Box filled with ping pong balls — Freight class = 500 (the highest there is)

Seems crazy, doesn’t it? But that’s the way it is.

The moral of this story is that you have to learn to think differently about weight when you think freight. You also have to stop estimating your freight weight, because the carriers will weigh your shipment and bill you for your mistakes every time.

Billing adjustments

And that’s why incorrectly stated weight is the #1 reason for billing adjustments for shipments booked through FreightCenter, with incorrect freight class #2.

Freight carriers have the right to weigh your shipment at any time. Here’s how that works out if the weight is incorrect.

If you understate the weight, the carrier will determine the cost of your shipment per pound and then multiply the difference between the understated weight and the correct weight in pounds by the cost per pound figure. Let’s say the Bill of Lading FreightCenter prepares for you says your shipment weighs 400 pounds and the invoiced amount is $800. On a cost per pound basis, your freight is shipping for $2 per pound. The carrier weighs the shipment and discovers it weighs 520 pounds. The carrier will adjust the shipment by the additional $2 per pound, increasing the total bill to $1,040.

In addition to the carrier’s $240 adjustment, there are other fees for weighing the shipment, making adjustments, processing and more. Combined, these carrier adjustments could increase your total cost as much as an additional 50% over the original bill.

It’s important to note here that FreightCenter will help you calculate your freight class, but you have to provide the correct weight. Give us the wrong information and a billing adjustment is likely to follow. Obviously, the important thing is to get the weight right in the first place.

Getting the weight right

If you are a frequent shipper, or one that ships more than three times a year, it’s worth it to own a freight scale. If you don’t have one already, you’ll find 4’x4’ scales online on sale in the $500 range. That price is a bargain compared to what a few billing adjustments can add up to.

If you are a one-time shipper, you’ll want to take a different route to finding your exact shipping weight. Here are two ways you can get that weight right.

  1. Call a nearby junkyard and see if they have a scale you can use for weighing your freight.
  2. Contact a freight terminal within driving distance and ask them if you can use their scale.

Nominal charges might apply, but they are well worth it to avoid a billing adjustment.

Remember, carriers weigh the entire shipment, including the container, crate or pallet. You should always weigh your shipment after it has been completely packaged and palletized. If the contents of the shipment change, weigh it again.

Time weights for no one

The Rolling Stones were right on the money when they sang, “Time waits for no one.” We changed the spelling a little, but the point is still true. Getting the weight right is key to your shipping satisfaction.

Have something you need to ship? Get started with an instant quote that compares top carriers or call FreightCenter at 800.716.7608.

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