Express freight operators and freight forwarders need to weigh up the risk if they ignore rules around surcharging heavy and large freight

Off the shelf tape measure in warehouse.

Express freight operators and freight forwarders are generally professional and fully aware of the need to operate within certain standards, regulations and legalities when transporting consignments for their customers. But when it comes to complying with measuring and weighing standards the lines tend to become blurred, risking reputation and revenue.

Fast freight

The tight deadlines involved in express operations create a fastpaced environment where the onus is on getting consignments out the door with minimal amount of processing time. However, there’s the bottom line to consider and relying on customer declared weight and size can be costly. A common culprit is often heavy and large freight but checking these consignments can be time consuming and hold things up in the operation.

As a result, many freight forwarders either check only a small percent of heavy and large freight or shy away from dealing with it completely as they don’t have the procedures or technologies in place to manage the difficulties posed by irregularly shaped or heavy items.

Shippers often find it difficult to measure and weigh this type of freight which leads to under declaration and consequent under charging, leading to revenue losses.

However, operators that do check these consignments and make chargebacks when required, either aren’t aware of the rules that apply, or worse, are fully aware but turn a blind eye regardless.

Breaking the rules?

Any commercial operation charging by size and weight MUST use equipment deemed legal for trade. In freight forwarding – when a carrier is generating revenue based on the size and weight of a package – this rule applies regardless of how big, small or difficult packages are to measure and weigh. This is especially true if a freight forwarder is planning to charge their customers for under declaration, and any measuring equipment used for this needs to conform to international or national measurement standards including being regularly calibrated and verified as legal for trade.

Despite these guidelines, it’s a common occurrence to find crude measuring devices in place such as wooden sticks or ‘off the shelf’ tape measures, and despite not being legal for trade, many freight forwarders are happy to continue using these devices until they get caught. But it’s a dangerous game to play.

For companies with an ISO 9001 certification, being unable to provide the calibration certificates for a measuring device during an audit could result in a nonconformance.

In such a case the company will be given a fixed amount of time to implement a new process which includes proving the correct level of measurement traceability. Failure to do so can result in a major non-conformance or in a worst-case scenario, the potential loss of an ISO certification.

And in the case of a customer challenging a chargeback for under declaration, using a measuring device that is not legal for trade would mean the absence of an audit trail and almost certainly no leg to stand on for the freight forwarder and the chargeback in question.

Weigh up your options

To avoid the risk to reputation and income, some companies are proactively introducing systems which comply with measurement rules and regulations before it’s too late. Digital dimensioning tapes and forklift truck scales can be used separately, or better yet, used together to form a Revenue Protection Solution (RPS). These items are portable and mobile, meaning weight and dimension can be captured as part of the natural process of moving freight through the operation, eliminating delays from extra steps in processing.

The RPS from Avery Weigh-Tronix is the only trade approved mobile weighing and dimensioning system on the market; it quickly and accurately captures the weight and dimensions of heavy and large freight, meaning all freight can be checked as part of a standard process, with no standing time. Both the forklift truck scale and digital dimensioning tape can be fully calibrated against international measurement standards; ensuring compliance against ISO requirements and providing a full audit trail for customer charge backs.

Byline: Stewart Campbell, Avery Weigh-Tronix.