Accessorials get a bad rap. While they can act as a source of income for carriers, these additional fees are assessed to shippers to reimburse carriers for lost productivity during delivery. Whenever a driver must wait, search out a consignee, deliver in congested areas, or otherwise add unexpected costs to the delivery process, carrier expenses go up and their productivity goes down. To shift the expenses back to the shipper who caused them, carriers add accessorial fees to invoices after delivery has been made.

Therein lies the rub. A carrier usually doesn’t know these extra services will be needed until an issue arises during shipment. The real problem is that shippers often don’t know either. Worse, they don’t budget for accessorial fees because they count on pre-negotiated rates.

So, what’s a shipper to do? The best way to manage and limit accessorial costs is to plan carefully.

Lesson 1: Expect the Unexpected

Planning starts with understanding the most common accessorials. Each time a shipment triggers these extra services, or doesn’t match the bill of lading (BOL), shippers can expect a fee:

Liftgate This special hydraulic platform fitted at the back of some trucks can raise or lower a shipment to and from the ground. Using this expensive equipment comes with a fee.
Lumpers Also known as “swampers,” these third-party laborers get paid to unload cargo for large distribution warehouses. Distributors pass these charges on to shippers.
Weight Inspection Carriers weigh all freight at their terminal. They offer some flexibility—about 15 pounds—but a larger difference between actual and BOL weight will incur charges.
Oversized Items 12-feet long or more can justify fees because they take up more space in the truck.
Reclassification LTL shipments must be coded with the standardized NMFC (National Motor Freight Classification) number and freight class. Improper or missing classifications lead to rework.
Sort Breaking up a pallet to separate different items in the shipment, either by SKU or other criteria, requires extra hands.
Residential Delivery to a doorstep, going inside a home, climbing stairs, unwrapping or moving items—anything more than leaving a shipment curbside—involves extra labor and time.
Limited Access Whenever a driver must hunt down a consignee to receive shipment, this accessorial applies.
Inside Pickup/Deliver Does the driver need to go inside the building to retrieve or deliver the shipment? There’s a charge for that.
Metro Pickup/Delivery Cities are fraught with traffic jams and parking issues, which chip away at driver productivity. Carriers recoup such losses with this accessorial.
Fuel Surcharge The high price of diesel compels carriers to pass this fluctuating, index-based cost to shippers.
Redelivery One of the priciest accessorials, ranging from $63.00 to $863.00 per occurrence, redelivery covers the added expenses incurred when no one is available to accept delivery or when the shipment is turned away.

Lesson 2: Analyze and Anticipate

Accessorial fees vary, but can range from a few dollars to hundreds per occurrence. Given the volume of freight shippers put on the roads today, analyzing and anticipating where these costs originate can offer valuable insights. While some accessorials will remain inevitable, shippers can make a significant dent in accessorial spending by doing the following:

  • Require carriers to separate line haul rates from accessorials on invoices to make fees easier to audit.
  • Invest extra care in measuring and weighing boxes to ensure accuracy, and stay current on NMFC classifications.
  • Identify the consignee accurately on every shipment.
  • Take advantage of 3PLs with strong carrier relationships, and who can work with them directly to audit invoices, remove incorrect charges, negotiate standard fees, and offer suggestions for cost-saving improvements.

Lesson 3: Be a Shipper of Choice

In addition to proactively managing accessorial costs, shippers can gain advantages with carriers by becoming a “shipper of choice.” When shippers take steps to maximize drivers’ time, carriers may offer them special benefits and services, including leverage on pricing and other negotiations, priority over other shippers when capacity is tight, and other preferential treatment.

Accessorials are a necessary evil, but they don’t have to consume your entire shipping budget. Capstone has rock-solid relationships with the most reliable carriers in North America, as well as solutions and expertise to help you plan your accessorial spend and become a shipper of choice.