Do you know if your carrier is adding percentage charges to your base rates as a result of bill of lading (BOL) errors? 

Most BOL errors occur due to incorrect linkages to account numbers and/or the use of invalid rates. In general, carriers are not going to tell you when incorrect account numbers or invalid rates are being used; instead, they're going to increase your base rates. It's an increasingly common occurrence that is often overlooked during companies' routine internal carrier invoice audits. 

To stop or prevent your organization from being charged unnecessarily, the first thing you need to do is perform a detailed audit of your company's recent shipping history. Depending upon your particular circumstances, it may be necessary to analyze two weeks or 12 months of your company's shipping history to get a true understanding of the impact BOL errors are having on your company's overall shipping spend.

Most companies aren’t capable of performing detailed audits of their shipping histories and creating actionable reports in house, and therefore elect to have a third party do it for them. Smaller or mid-size companies may find it somewhat difficult to locate third parties that are willing to perform detailed audits simply because it’s not always worth a third party’s time to take on an account that won’t yield the kinds of returns that bigger accounts yield. If yours is a mid-size company; that is, a company that ships approximately 10,000 shipments per week and/or has an annual parcel spend of about $15 million, you may have to do some digging to find a third party that is not only willing to take your company on as a client, but that will take your concerns as seriously as they would the concerns of a client with a larger annual shipping spend. 

The good news is that if you do your research and find the right third party with which to partner, you can uncover things like BOL errors relatively quickly, regardless of your company's size. You can then incorporate changes into your company's routing guide that will enable you to reduce BOL errors. An active routing guide, or routing guide that is Web-based, may allow you to eliminate them entirely through high-level compliance monitoring. Once you address your company's BOL errors, you can use your progress as leverage during talks with your carrier. By presenting your carriers with accurate data that reflects the positive changes you've made, you should be able to successfully lower your base rates. 

There are many items other than BOL errors that data analyses, detailed reports, and compliance monitoring can help you uncover and remedy, including:

• invoicing errors related to duplicate charges, closed loop billing, cancelled/invalid account numbers, chargebacks,
• collect, third party, consignee billing, and outbound pre-paid method of payment issues,
• erroneous or unnecessary special handling charges related to hundredweight shipments, cash on delivery, dangerous goods, and collect and third-party shipments, Saturday delivery packages, insurance, and delivery and extended area surcharges, early AM packages, return service, hazardous materials, and late payment,
• shipper-caused exceptions, including those that result from: cancelled accounts, invalid account numbers, address corrections, dimensional weight, additional handling, residential packages, and premium service in guaranteed ground, and
• carrier-caused exceptions, including those that result from: no proof of shipment, late packages, lost packages, and damaged packages. 

Don't let BOL and other errors keep you from achieving the contracted base rates your company should be able to achieve. Work with your preferred third-party solutions provider to develop the auditing and reporting program that will enable you to make cost-saving internal changes and uncover erroneous charges. Mid-size companies that partner with a reputable third party to perform routine audits and gain access to detailed reports can typically save anywhere from 10 to 30 percent on their annual parcel spend.

Steve Stephens is general manager at BridgeNet Solutions.
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