Top 5 Freight Invoice Mistakes That Are Costing You Big
05/12/2020 — Jen Deming
After a shipment has been picked up and delivered, you may sigh with relief, happy to know your freight made it safe and sound. However, your shipment’s story isn’t quite over. After receiving a freight invoice, whether it’s coming from a third-party or directly from a carrier, you should review all details and charges for accuracy. Typically, you want the details of your shipment to match up with what was used on the BOL (bill-of-lading), however there are some scenarios where you will see adjustments and extra charges. Because an estimated 5-6% of all carrier invoices are calculated incorrectly, reviewing your invoice against details provided on the BOL is a good place to identify overcharges. To help you recognize these costly errors, we’ve outlined the five most common freight invoice mistakes to look out for.
- Incorrect carrier name and number
It may seem obvious, but one of the first things a shipper should check for on their invoice is carrier name and number. When freight is tendered to a carrier, it can be easy to pass a shipment onto the wrong truck. This happens much more often than you’d think, especially if the warehouse has a busy dock and the location is receiving multiple trucks moving in and out for pick-ups throughout the day.
While an incorrect carrier picking up your shipment might not impede delivery, it may result in being overcharged. If you have pricing arranged with a particular carrier, and it’s not the one who picked up your load, you will likely see a higher bill than you were expecting.
To offset this risk, the warehouse staging team needs to be diligent about reviewing the BOL, making sure pallet and carton counts are accurate and the correct load is confirmed. When labeling the outgoing shipment, it’s important the correct BOL is with the right load and that the shipment is labeled properly.
- Incorrect contact info
Another common invoicing mistake is incorrect contact information. This may mean that either the address at pick-up or delivery is listed incorrectly, or the “bill-to” portion of the invoice is inaccurate.
Not only will incorrect addresses most likely result in a delay through a missed delivery, but it can also result in various types of extra fees. If your carrier shows up at a delivery location and the shipment is refused due to address inaccuracies, many freight companies will bill you for the mistake. If the actual location requires an appointment for delivery, that’s an additional cost as well.
On top of that, if a pick-up or delivery location isn’t classified correctly, you may see a higher freight bill. For example, if the delivery location is assumed to be a commercial location, but later found out to be a residence (for example, a business run from home), the invoice will include fees for residential or even limited access. It’s important to note that not all carriers classify locations the same. What may be considered limited access for one carrier may not be for another.
Incorrect discount rates
As we mentioned earlier in this post, many shippers have special rates negotiated with either a 3PL or directly with a carrier. This can include a percent discount, lowered or waived accessorial charges, or even FAK agreements that have been arranged.
When negotiating discounts with a carrier, it’s important to keep any agreements on file, and to audit invoices to make sure those rates are reflected in the charges. Because the discount may not be on the overall cost, go line by line and check fuel surcharges, mileage, and other factors.
When working with a 3PL, it’s important for the billing party (whether that’s the shipper or receiver) to make sure the correct “bill-to” is being used on the BOL. If this goes unnoticed and you are invoiced directly from the carrier without the appropriate discounts listed, it may seem like you’re out of luck. However, your 3PL can help out with a letter of authorization (LOA) submission to the carrier for a re-bill. It’s very important to do this before paying the invoice and as quickly as possible before the bill is past-due.
Wrong calculations of weight, dimensions, pallet count, and NMFC
Most shippers have dealt with receiving a freight bill riddled with unwarranted charges thanks to inaccurate item details. It’s the most common reason a freight invoice is disputed, and it’s an understatement to say that adjustments made to things like weight, freight class, dimensions, and more can greatly affect a shipment’s final cost.
A good place to start when looking at item details on an invoice is to review the product description and its related freight class or NMFC. With thousands of types of products entering the freight system every day, each type of product is assigned a numeric code to help classify and rate your shipment. A general rule is that the more difficult a product is to move, the higher the freight class will be, and more expensive to boot. It is important for shippers to thoroughly research what freight class is most accurate for their shipment before it is picked up, to avoid reclassing on an invoice. Reclassing can result in a higher base charge and also have fees associated with the adjustment itself.
It’s also important to make sure the specifications and weight of your shipment are correct, because more and more carriers are moving towards dimensional or density-based pricing. If your product takes up space but doesn’t weigh very much, this low-density shipment will likely cost you. Make sure you are calculating density correctly, so that you don’t see surprises or adjustments on your invoice, including reweigh charges.
- Accessorial requests and fees
Accessorial fees are charges for extra services that are requested by the shipper or receiver, but often show up unexpectedly on a freight invoice. They can be planned and requested on the BOL or come up out of need at the time of pick-up or delivery and billed after the fact. They include services such as lift-gate, inside delivery, or driver assist.
The best way to avoid these types of freight invoice mistakes is to have clear communication between the shipper and receiver. Get information on the type of destination location, whether there is a dock and team available for delivery, and what type of truck will likely be needed to make a delivery. Accessorials are a difficult type of charge to contest, as the carrier holds the cards and will have noted the request for any special services. It’s up to the shipper and receiver to know which services come with a charge, and whether you can avoid needing these special services in the first place.
It’s important to note that mistakes can happen, and as we determined, adjusted invoices are common. If you’ve reviewed the facts, checked your BOL against your invoice and worked through details between the shipper and receiver, but still find inaccuracies, what do you do next? If you believe you’ve been overcharged and have documentation to prove it, you have a case for a claim against a carrier. It may seem like a daunting task, but you’re not alone. Working with the experts at PartnerShip can help offer claims assistance and get you started. Contact us to learn more.