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July 24 2006 03:11 PM

Question: Can I really trust UPS Logistics to audit UPS own bills, or should I hire an independent transportation consultant?


Answer: No corporation enjoys being monitored for its errors and omissions, but some corporations take extraordinary measures to prevent or curtail the auditing of their bills and billing practices. If a prize were to be awarded for the most presumptuous practice in the transportation industry, it would undoubtedly be won by United Parcel Service for its subsidiary UPS Logisticss offer to audit shippers UPS bills for them! Talk about sending a fox to guard the chickens....


UPS has clearly displayed a corporate dislike for auditors and transportation consultants, but the offer to check its own invoices for its customers takes the cake.


UPS dislike of transportation consultants is understandable. Many of UPS customers are small package shippers, and many do not have experienced transportation managers trained in transportation or logistics on staff. Therefore, they are at the mercy of UPS professional transportation personnel when they negotiate rates and contracts. (Negotiate may be the wrong term to use when shippers are given boilerplate adhesion contracts to sign on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.)


Furthermore, an individual customer generally has access only to its own rates, charges and discount levels offered by UPS. Transportation consultants, on the other hand, represent many UPS shippers, and therefore have a general know-ledge of current market-driven discounts. UPS would prefer not to negotiate with a professional consultant who knows the range of discounts other shippers are enjoying.


Another egregious practice aimed at curtailing transportation consultants businesses is to force shippers who wish to have a discount to sign a contract that prohibits the shipper from having its bills audited for the purpose of filing claims for refunds due to service failures. Yes, UPS offers a money-back guarantee when a delivery is late, but not if you wish to have a discount to compete with its competitors that are shipping via UPS at market-driven discounted rates. Thus, shippers have no choice but to sign a discount contract that prohibits the filing of claims for service failure refunds.


It is little wonder, therefore, that a regular garden industry of express bill auditors has developed ever since UPS introduced its so-called Money-back Guarantee program. Given the frequency of UPS practice of over-billing package charges and accessorial charges, it appears that there is a clear need for auditing express bills today but not by a brown fox!


There are many professional auditors that specialize in auditing freight bills and express bills. They can be located through shipper trade organizations such as the Transportation Consumer Protection Council, Inc. (631-549-8988), and the Freight Transportation Consultants Association is available at (505-299-0615) 


William J. Augello is an adjunct professor at the University of Arizona and a frequent contributor to Parcel Shipping & Distribution magazine. Visit Bill online at If you have questions for him relating to your parcel operation, please feel free to contact him via email at Or you can contact him by phone at 520-531-0203. For more information about Parcel Shipping & Distribution, visit