So far in our series, Keys to Shipping Happiness, we’ve dug deep into ways that you can improve your shipping success and become a happier shipper by paying closer attention to weights and measures, freight class and packaging. These three areas are usually where the trouble lies when freight shipping goes awry and costly billing adjustment are generated. But they aren’t the only areas where shippers can improve their shipping experience and avoid billing adjustments.
Before we get into the details of easily avoidable billing adjustments, let’s discuss who is responsible for issuing them and why they do so.
The Carrier Issues Billing Adjustments, Not FreightCenter
For the shipper, receiving a billing adjustment sometime after your freight has shipped is a nuisance. You thought you’d paid the full bill when you booked your shipment. Now, it seems, you did not? How did that happen?
Billing adjustments result from discrepancies between the order as recorded on the Bill of Lading (BOL) and the actual shipment (as noted and measured by the carrier's drivers and terminal personnel).
Because FreightCenter is a logistics provider and never physically handles any shipment, the information in the BOL is provided exclusively by our customers. When shippers give us the wrong information, we have no idea they have done so until the carrier informs us by way of a billing adjustment.
As the middleman, FreightCenter bills the customer for the billing adjustment and pays the carrier on the customer’s behalf, but it is the carrier that issues the billing adjustment.
Common Billing Adjustments that are Easy to Avoid
We reviewed some of our customers’ most recent billing adjustments and found them issued for a wide variety of reasons beyond weight and freight class. What these billing adjustments have in common is that most of them could have easily been avoided.
Shipping freight is a commercial enterprise. Freight is intended to be picked up from a loading dock and delivered to a loading dock. When there is no loading dock, freight is picked up from the curb and delivered to the curb. In other words, if there is no loading dock, the driver’s responsibility ends at the curb.
If the package is in your driveway or the front of your store, and the driver agrees to move it, there is a billing adjustment for inside pickup. The same applies at delivery.
It’s important to note that if you are asked whether you’d like to have the package picked up from your garage, rather than requiring you to get the package to the curb, the driver is not volunteering to do it for free. If you accept the driver’s offer, you will be charged a billing adjustment in the form of an accessorial charge for inside pickup.
If you can’t get your freight to or from the curb on your own, you can still avoid the billing adjustment by having the inside pickup/delivery accessorial charge added to your shipment when you book it. By booking the charge ahead of time you avoid any administrative fees that will be associated with the billing adjustment.
Liftgate at Pickup/Delivery
When a liftgate is required for pickup or delivery, the accessorial charge should be added when the shipment is booked. If it’s not, the accessorial will come in the form of a billing adjustment.
How do you know if you need a liftgate? Easy! If there is no loading dock and the freight weighs more than you can lift to shoulder height and into the back of a semi-truck, a liftgate is required.
Sometimes, a truck with a liftgate is used even if the liftgate has not been ordered. This does not mean you've lucked out. If it turns out that the liftgate is necessary for the pickup/delivery, a billing adjustment will be forthcoming.
Remember, there are no free carrier services. All carrier services used are billed, either before or after the fact. Determine your need for a liftgate at pickup and delivery and book it ahead of time to save money and aggravation.
Residential or Limited Access Pickup/Delivery
Commercial locations are easy to access and have loading docks. Every other type of location is either residential or limited access.
Home-based businesses are residential, despite the commercial activity.
Limited access locations are those that put restrictions on how and when trucks can enter the area. Examples of limited access areas include airports, construction sites, churches, government facilities, farms, hotels/motels, hospitals, schools, mini-storage facilities, nursing homes, military installations and prisons.
When a customer books their shipment as commercial, and it turns out that either the pickup or delivery location is residential or limited access, a billing adjustment is made for either the pickup location, the delivery location or both. The shipper can save the hassle of receiving a billing adjustment by taking the time to verify the type of pickup and delivery locations.
Learn more about accessorials and optional shipping services.
30 Minutes Well Spent
As you've probably noticed, the above billing adjustments can be avoided by selecting the appropriate accessorial charges when you book your shipment. Determining which accessorials you’ll need should take you no more than 30 minutes, tops.
All you have to do is review the accessorial charges shown above and do a little research about the pickup and delivery locations. If you are unsure about the delivery location, call and ask. Then, when you run your instant freight quote, you can select the accessorials you need.
A Case of Shippers Whoopsies!
Here are three types of billing adjustments that happen when customers don’t pay enough attention to all the details.
Redelivery Fee and Appointment Fee
This fee—typically an adjustment of $140 or more—happens when the consignee (recipient) is not available to take delivery of the shipment when the driver arrives within the estimated delivery window. Alternatively, it could mean that the driver arrived for the pickup to find a loading dock full of packages but no way to tell which was the one scheduled for pickup. In either case, the driver has no option but to leave and try the next day, thereby triggering the billing adjustment.
Misconnections like this occur due to lack of information and can be avoided if you provide FreightCenter with complete details.
- Tell your shipping agent about any reference number (such as an RA number) associated with the freight so the driver can easily identify the package in need of pickup. Any identifying factor will help.
- Sometimes people forget that their loading dock is not open the same hours as the business. Be sure to let us know if availability at the pickup and/or delivery location is different from Monday-Friday, 9-5. Be specific about days and times.
Handling Unit Not Labeled
You did a great job packaging your shipment, but then you forgot to attach the shipping labels FreightCenter emailed you along with your BOL and Terms and Conditions. This will cost you $80 or more, because that is how much the carrier will charge to create and affix accurate shipping labels from the information on the BOL. How to solve this problem? When you receive your email from FreightCenter with your paperwork, affix the shipping labels to your shipment.
FreightCenter-Provided BOL Not Given to Driver
When the shipper doesn’t provide the driver with the BOL provided by FreightCenter, all hell breaks loose.
Some drivers will just leave if there is no paperwork. Some drivers will hand the shipper a BOL to complete, but either the consignor (shipper) or consignee (recipient) will be the billed party and your FreightCenter discount will not be included. Plus, the carrier will assign a freight class to the shipment (usually 175) regardless of what the actual freight class is. So, if you’re shipping an engine with a freight class of 85 and there is no BOL, a freight class of 175 will be assigned. Can’t the carrier see that it’s an engine? Of course they can, but they also have the authority to assign the freight class.
To get all this straightened out, FreightCenter needs to jump into the middle and issue a Letter of Authorization (LOA) requesting that the carrier bill FreightCenter at the originally contracted rate. This needs to happen before the shipment is delivered and someone (consignor or consignee) pays the carrier the full price they’ve quoted. Once the carrier has received more than they would have from FreightCenter, getting the overpayment back isn’t easy.
No matter how it all works out, there will be extra charges to pay and a lot of hoops to jump through, just for not handing the driver the paperwork you received. It’s hard to believe that this ever happens, but it does. Always make sure you have the BOL when the driver comes to pick up your shipment.
Keep Shipping Successful & Simple
Take the time to avoid these billing adjustments and you will reduce unexpected billing frustrations, improve your shipping success and be one step closer to becoming a happy shipper.