What are Accessorial Charges in Shipping?

Most shipping carriers charge a base rate for standard pickup and delivery, but there are many services that add extra fees, these are known as accessorial charges.  

Especially in a soft market, when buyer demand is low, brands need to be careful to avoid any additional fees. There are some accessorial fees that you can project, and others that will come as a surprise.  

It’s important to understand what accessorial charges are, how they are calculated, and which ones you can avoid when building your shipping strategy. 

How Freight Shipping Fees are Calculated 

Shipping and transportation costs can take up a large portion of any ecommerce shippers’ budget. Knowing which shipping service is best for your brand and product is key, and the first step is understanding how your shipping fees are calculated.  

A shipping invoice has many components, it may not be intuitive to understand each line item and how it’s calculated. Surcharges that can be added on top of regular rates or base fees, and accessorial charges can be a surprise.   

The main components that go into your overall shipping invoice include:  

  • The base rate. This is the carrier’s rate for standard pickup and delivery.
  • Service rates. If you choose to apply any services (like Expedited Shipping, or Signature Required) or your products need to be transported at specific or to specific locations (like Saturday Service, or Delivery Area Surcharge) then you will incur the fees associated with that specific service. Multiple services layered on top of each other will be added up.
  • Surcharges. At any time, a carrier can apply surcharges. Historically reserved for times of high volume, surcharges can be applied for any length of time and are subject to change, with or without notice. In the case of fuel charges, they are applied annually to offset the market price of fuel.
  • Accessorial charges. These are extraneous charges that are applied when your carrier extends any extra resources to shipping your products. This includes extra time, labor, equipment, or storage.

It’s important to select a shipping service that is right for your brand and your product, but it’s also important to cut out unnecessary charges. Understanding which fees are necessary and which can be avoided will help you lower your overall shipping costs.