Say No Way to Reweighs

  • Say No Way to Reweighs

    Virtually every LTL carrier utilizes freight scales to verify the BOL weights of shipments tendered to them.  They do this for several reasons.  The primary reason, of course, is that shipment weights often impact shipment charges and the revenue they collect.  If a shipment’s BOL weight is under-reported, and the carrier does not fix that error, they stand to receive less revenue than they deserve.  No one likes to be paid less than they deserve.

    LTL carriers typically receive 2% – 3% of their net revenue from reweighs.  This represents a significant revenue and profit stream for carriers, one that cannot be overlooked. Conversely, if carriers do not verify BOL weights, it can be a significant drain on revenues and profits.  While carriers in today’s market are reporting profit margins in the 10% to 15% range, and in some cases even better, reweighs can still represent a double-digit percentage of an LTL carrier’s profit dollars.

    Believe it or not, carriers would really prefer to have no reweighs because BOL weights are accurate, and thus the revenue and profit they deserve is generated on the front end.  But revenue is not the only reason carriers reweigh freight.  They also want accurate weights for safety purposes.  Trailers should be loaded in a fashion that properly spreads out the weight across the trailer.  Heavier loads should be placed in the nose of the trailer to prevent it from swaying during transit.  And carriers want to ensure they do not over-load a trailer, as that increases the odds of an accident and leads to over-weight fines.

    Carriers also want accurate BOL weights as they use tonnage for their operational metrics.  Terminals are measured and graded based upon how many pounds they move on the dock, and how many pounds are loaded on a trailer.

    Accurate BOL weights allow carriers to more-effectively load plan their linehaul routings at the end of each day.  They have a better idea of how much weight needs to move outbound from the pickup terminal, and to where.  Accurate BOL weights also allow carriers to cost shipments more accurately within their costing model.  Reweighs are not just a revenue play.

    Today you can expect LTL carriers to reweigh upwards of 90% of the shipments moving in their network. Several carriers have forklift scales mounted on each of their forklifts and can thus reweigh a shipment each time it is touched.  These reweigh weights are increasingly transmitted electronically from the scale to the carrier’s computer system as this saves time and alleviates data entry errors.  It is very rare for a carrier to “fat finger” a reweigh.

    If a customer is providing inaccurate BOL weights, chances are the carriers are going to find it and fix it with a reweigh.  Carriers mostly use forklift scales to reweigh freight, as this is the most efficient method.  However, some do use stationary platform scales, and may even integrate these with their shipment dimensioning devices.  Forklift scales generally cost about $5,000 – $7,000, so carriers are going to use them heavily to get their return on investment.  In the image below, the forklift scale is the rectangular red carriage that the forks rest upon.  It connects to an indicator, on the left, that displays the weight.  The Indicator is installed inside the forklift frame so the driver can see and operate it.

    Forklift and platform scales used by carriers must be certified for use by US Department of Commerce standards because they are used to calculate prices.  These standards are referred to as “Legal For Trade” or “LFT”, and are the same standards used to certify scales at your grocery store for your vegetables and at the airport for your luggage.  These standards for forklifts require weight graduations in 5 pound increments.  Therefore you will almost always see the weight from a carrier reweigh ending in a “5” or a “0”.

    Carriers really do not target shipments for reweighs any more given the high availability of forklift scales. In most cases, they simply try to reweigh every single shipment.  To prevent reweighs from occurring, there are some tell-tale signs and other considerations you should watch for to ensure your shipment weights are accurately presented on the BOL.

    • Weights ending in “00” or “000” –  BOL weights such as of 500 pounds, 1200 pounds, and 2,000 pounds are suspicious as they typically indicate the shipper is guessing at the weight.  If you commonly see weights like this, make sure your dock employees are not just guessing.  When people guess how much a pallet weighs, they usually guess on the low end.  It’s just human nature, as we are not used to picking up things that weigh hundreds of pounds.
    • Lack of pallet weight –  Pallets and crates are considered part of the shipment and thus their weight should be included.  If you frequently see reweighs with your shipments make sure you are including the weight of pallets and other packaging on the BOL.
    • Calibrated scales –  Many shippers have their own platform scales for weighing pallets.  That’s great!  Scales can and will go out of calibration over time.  Most states require that scales are certified each year, but that is often not enough.  Carriers verify the calibration of their forklift scales on a weekly or even daily basis. Shippers should do likewise.
    • Product databases –  When customers know the weights of the products they ship, they often generate the BOL weights from their internal product databases. But the weights generated are only as accurate as the databases themselves.  If you see recurring reweigh issues with your freight, check to see if a common SKU appears to be the culprit.

    Using regularly-calibrated forklift scales and transmitting reweigh data means that LTL carriers do not make many mistakes with their reweighs. But mistakes can and do happen. The best defense a shipper can have for reweighs is internal knowledge of their own shipment weights.

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