Bill of Lading Information for FAK ShipmentsWritten by Neal Willis
For multiple reasons, including those of safety and liability, carriers have to know the commodity of each shipment they handle. The only way for a carrier to know this is for the shipper to accurately identify the commodity on the bill of lading tendered to the carrier. Even when there is an FAK involved, per the NMFC, it is a requirement that actual class and commodity descriptions be used on the bill of lading.
The practice of writing the same class and NMFC information on every bill of lading, regardless of the actual commodity being shipped, only serves as an invitation to carriers to perform an inspection. If proper class and commodity descriptions aren’t used, once noticed through the inspection process, the carrier will change each shipment’s bill to reflect the correct class information, which could lead to additional inspection charges being added to the invoice.
Even shippers with FAK class structures that cover their entire range of commodity groupings must write the actual class and commodity descriptions on bills of lading according to each individual shipment’s characteristics. Slight changes in packaging and/or product characteristics can change a shipment’s NMFC commodity class rating and, for this reason, it is also important that shippers keep their product catalogs and databases as accurate and as up to date as possible, especially those shippers involved with ecommerce freight.
Although the actual commodity class that’s written on a bill of lading may be higher than that of the applicable FAK structure/class, the carrier invoice for the shipment will not be rated and priced higher because of it. Pricing under the lower FAK class should still apply. For example, if a shipper’s pricing with a carrier includes an FAK structure that allows everything up to a class 200 to be rated at class 100, even though class 200 is written on the bill of lading, the pricing applied to the freight bill under the FAK structure should still reflect the pricing for a class 100 shipment.
Often the result of flawed product descriptions and mis-classed freight, carrier inspections require additional manual labor beyond that of a normal shipment, which means carriers incur greater costs for moves associated with an inspection. Since accurate information on bills of lading can greatly reduce the likelihood and frequency of carrier inspections, it can also serve as a means for helping to keep costs under control. Although some shippers might be getting away with writing inaccurate class and commodity descriptions, it’s only a matter of time before the carrier(s) will notice and they have to pay the price.
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