Saving Money With Correct Bill Of Lading InformationWritten by Neal Willis
The responsibility of filling out the bill of lading properly falls on the shipper. Per NMFC guidelines, each bill of lading should have an NMFC description and number or the carrier can reclassify the freight to the highest class possible for that commodity. Those are the rules. If a shipper does not describe the freight properly and does not provide an accurate weight and/or freight class on the bill of lading and the carrier decides to inspect the shipment, then it is likely that the carrier will reclassify the freight to what they determine to be the proper class based on their limited knowledge of your product line (limited to the dims and weight of the freight as it sits in front of them). It then becomes the burden of the shipper to prove that the carrier was mistaken.
To prove that the carrier’s assessment of the freight was incorrect and that the freight is what is being claimed, the carrier must be provided with clear evidence that shows they were incorrect in their analysis, which translates into the shipper having to provide the carrier detailed product specification sheets and a packing list. There is always the possibility the carrier is correct in their assessment yet, by looking at the specification sheets of the commodity, one can normally determine if there is recourse to reverse the decision.
Enforcement of the rules may have been lax in the past but, as a whole, the transportation industry is becoming stricter with enforcing the rules that have technically always been in place. Carriers continue to let some issues slide, but with more leverage due largely to tighter capacity, higher operating costs and increased government regulation, the carriers are progressively focused on improving their operating ratios (margins) and becoming more stringent with their approach to inspections.
Inspection rates have especially increased since the introduction of dimensioner machines, and carriers have been investing in dimensioner machines for some time now. They pay for themselves fairly quickly by lowering the cost and time required to perform inspections and have made the process exponentially easier, as these machines can determine the density of a shipment in seconds and link the density to a corresponding freight class. As opposed to 2010, when they were inspecting 1 out of every 14 shipments, carriers are now inspecting roughly 1 out of every 6 shipments.
The process of disputing a freight bill based on incorrect classification and/or weight by the carrier can take time. It can range anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the complexity of the freight/dispute. By taking the time to provide proper NMFC numbers and commodity descriptions on bill of ladings, shippers can lower their risk of being hit with higher than expected freight bills caused by a carrier inspection as a result of incomplete or inaccurate information up front.
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