Insider Blog

Weighing and Inspection Process – How to Navigate It and Prevent Issues

As fuel prices continue to fluctuate, carriers are looking more closely at the weights being disclosed on the bills of lading versus what is arriving on their docks. When they do not match up, carriers often issue a Weight and Inspection (W&I) certificate to account for the discrepancy—which means unexpected costs for the shipper. In this SMC3 LTL Online Education session, we discuss this important process, the potential impact of incorrect weights, and how to navigate to prevent issues. Rick Wey, director of weight and research, retired, and Paul Dugent, executive director of the Digital LTL Council, NMFTA, shared their insights on this weighty topic.

Wey noted that weight and inspection used to be cloaked in mystery with little detail provided. In a Shipper-held market, if one carrier did not accommodate the shipment, there was another carrier waiting to step in. However, that landscape and power imbalance has shifted over the years and carriers are more proficient and forthright about catching variances. That puts the onus on shippers to better understand classifications, which are complicated.

Dugent pointed out that weight class is not a pricing vehicle. Weight informs a carrier about how freight will occupy a trailer. Weight is primarily based on density, which tells a carrier how to allocate line haul costs among all the freight that is comingled in a trailer. The industry is moving toward rating based on density, thanks to technology developments that allow carriers to quickly determine density. Dimensioners and forklift scales are now common technologies at carrier operations—and they make it more efficient to assess freight.

“Dimensioners are primarily equipment located in the ceiling of a terminal, but they can also sit over a shrink wrap machine,” said Dugent. “The dock associates drive under the ceiling dimensioners and it looks at the bar code in the freight bill. Within seconds, it determines the dimensions of the shipment and calculates the density.”

Impact of Growing Description Changes and Density-Based Classification

Incidents of description changes are growing along with density-based classification. Discrepancies typically occur because most shippers have not yet invested in dimensioner systems due to the high cost of $35,000-plus. Large shippers may decide to make that investment, but that is usually driven by a shipper receiving many class description changes from the carrier that outweighs the cost of investing in the technology, said Dugent.

Furthermore, shippers that submit freight without a bill of lading and no classification automatically trigger an inspection. This often results in the carrier rating the freight based on density or simply increasing the class—which requires the shipper to prove why it is wrong. This can get the shipper’s attention as they need humans to resolve the issue, which adds administrative costs. Plus, with so much technology and visibility today, shippers’ willingness and ability to game the system has greatly diminished.

“When a carrier has to rewrite the freight bill, that can sometimes add a twenty to twenty-five dollar fee for rerating,” said Wey.

Wey also noted that unless there is a monumental change to a freight bill, the shipper is not notified in advance. Shippers typically learn about a classification change when they get the final invoice. Shippers and 3PLs that do not agree with a reweigh inspection can make an overcharge claim with the carrier’s salesperson or accounting department if they have already paid the invoice. Having data from a dimensioner—which also takes a photo of every shipment it dimensions—is useful for carriers in disputing overcharge claims.

The Digital LTL Council recently created an electronic bill of lading (eBOL) platform and has announced a roadmap for APIs that will take shipments from quote to cash, Dugent said. One of the planned APIs is an estimated invoice that will notify shippers prior to the final invoice if a shipment is reclassified during transit. This will help shippers address weight discrepancies and reclassification much earlier in the process, said Dugent.

Proliferation of Technology for Classifying Freight

According to Wey, much more freight today is being inspected by dimensioners,allowing carriers to see more oddities and reclassify more freight. Dugent estimates that 70 to 80 percent of freight that comes across docks is now inspected by dimensioners.

Dimensioning technology will soon be available that provides a topographical printout of freight to assist carriers in loading shipments into a trailer. There is also talk of an intelligent tape measure that could enable shippers to classify their freight more accurately before it reaches a carrier.

“There’s going to be some type of technology that enables shippers to do that at a reasonable cost,” said Dugent. “I don’t know what that is yet, but shippers need to get more involved in the process.”

Career Path Opportunities in LTL

The panel also discussed how those new to LTL can launch a successful career in the industry. Dugent recommends starting on the dock and terminal because it teaches newcomers how freight is handled as it moves through the system. This will be a valuable experience if a person transitions to pricing or another office role, Dugent said.

From Wey’s perspective, he has seen people in the freight business successfully shift lanes to the shipper side of the business. For freight inspectors who transition into sales, they know how to address issues with a shipper because of their first-hand knowledge of conducting inspections.

Bottom line, the panel agreed that doing the hard work on the front lines in carrier operations will help cultivate a diverse background that can lead to long-term success in the LTL industry.

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Categories: 3PL, API, Carrier Relations, Data, Education, Freight, Logistics, Logistics Service Providers, LTL, Product, Supply Chain, Technology, Transportation, Truckload, Uncategorized