Understanding Accessorial Charges

May 18, 2023

Shipping accessorials, also known as accessorial charges or surcharges, refer to additional services or fees associated with a shipment beyond the standard cost of transportation. Accessorials are typically required by shippers to cover additional shipping services — examples include liftgate service, inside and residential delivery, fuel surcharges, appointment fees and reweigh charges.

It’s important for supply chain managers to keep accessorial charges in mind when budgeting for freight transportation to accurately project shipping costs.

What Charges Are Considered “Accessorial”?

The basic definition of accessorial charges includes any fee added by freight transportation carriers for a service that goes beyond standard pick-up and delivery.

These fees can impact any mode of transportation and might be listed on an initial invoice (since some are known as soon as the shipment is tendered) or billed after the shipment is complete, depending on the services provided.

What Are the Most Common Accessorial Charges?

Here are some of the most common reasons an accessorial fee is added to an invoice:

  1. Bill of Lading (BOL) correction—the correct BOL is not provided at the origin location.
  2. Detention—the trailer or containers are kept by a consigner or consignee for loading, unloading, etc.
  3. Demurrage—cargo is in a terminal longer than its allotted time.
  4. Driver load/unload—the driver helps load or unload the shipment from their trailer.
  5. Fuel surcharge—this is based on current fuel prices and helps minimize the effect of rising fuel rates.
  6. Hazardous materials—if the shipment contains anything that must be controlled, stored, or transported in a certain way to prevent hazard to human health, safety or infrastructure.
  7. Inside delivery—the driver must go past the front door or loading dock to pick up or deliver.
  8. Layover—if the carrier’s delivery or pickup isn’t completed on the originally scheduled day.
  9. Liftgate—if the shipment goes to or from a location with no loading dock.
  10. Limited access fee—the driver has to complete unexpected work like finding the consignee or completing any security inspections.
  11. Lumper—any third-party laborers are required to help load or unload cargo.
  12. Out-of-route miles—the carrier provides additional services that take it more than 10 miles outside of the originally contracted rate.
  13. Oversized, overlength, or overweight—if the shipment exceeds standard pallet sizes.
  14. Per diem—a daily charge is applied to use a carrier’s equipment until it is returned.
  15. Redelivery—if the shipment must be redelivered for any number of reasons.
  16. Residential delivery—delivery to a residential neighborhood.
  17. Scale—charged with requests to weigh a load.
  18. Sort/seg—if a driver is required to break up an order or move product from one pallet to another.
  19. Storage—the carrier stores the shipment. This fee is usually calculated by the hour or by days.
  20. Truck order not used (TONU)—the truck is canceled after a pre-established amount of time.

Special Cases Resulting in Accessorial Charges

Most accessorial charges are not a surprise and can be handled immediately. Others might be unanticipated. There are three major reasons accessorial charges occur:

  • Additional distance and time. Any significant delay to the shipping process may result in additional fees. These are often the unforeseeable charges associated with sudden weather events, road closures or accidents.
  • Specialty freight. Some shipments require special handling or equipment to load/unload (such as a liftgate).
  • Special permits or escorts. This includes oversized loads or shipment weights requiring a permit and an escort vehicle.

Who Pays for Accessorials?

The customer is responsible for shipping costs is also responsible for any accessorial charges by the transportation provider. Most accessorial charges are added to the freight bill as soon as the shipment is booked. If any unexpected services are required during shipment or delivery, this will be added to the final bill.

Which Shipments Are Most Likely to Draw Accessorial Fees?

A business will generally be able to anticipate whether or not its shipments will require accessorial fees. Shipments that frequently, if not always, require accessorials include:

  • Hazardous materials
  • Oversized, overlength, or overweight shipments
  • Delivery at an exhibition or area with excessive wait times
  • Blind shipments
  • After-hours or before-hours deliveries
  • Deliveries to major metro or residential areas

How to Keep Accessorials in Check

While some accessorials are unavoidable, there are a few common measures shippers can take to limit these added charges:

  • Automate as much as possible. Accurate product picking and safe packing (with the aid of good transportation management systems and warehouse management systems) can dramatically reduce additional fees.
  • Double-check the shipment’s size and weight. If there are errors in the booking process (like incorrect dimensions or bill of lading errors), you’ll likely see an accessorial fee on your invoice.
  • Prioritize shipping visibility. End-to-end shipment visibility helps identify problems before they happen. Anticipate the equipment your shipment will need for loading and unloading, coordinate shipment delivery and unload timing with its destination and limit any extra time or fuel spent on each trip.

Mitigate Accessorials with a 3PL

Choosing a third-party logistics provider can help you avoid surprise accessorial fees and charges. Working with someone experienced with the different modes of transportation and who has handled freight for dozens of industries and unique circumstances can help your own business steer clear of accessorial fees.

Contact a First Call Logistics expert today to learn more about how we can minimize accessorial fees and give you the best logistics experience possible.

Simplify Your Next Shipment with First Call Logistics

Building and managing cost-efficient supply chains is a full-time job. First Call’s rare combination of in-house assets, expert problem-solving and track record of stellar customer service makes us the 3PL of choice for business partners with a wide range of shipping needs.

More Logistics Resources: