Accessorial charges in land transportation in USA

When you receive the rates for any drayage service the times you have worked either with a Freight Forwarder or a trucking company in the United States, you may have noted that there are some charges named as accessorial charges, which can normally cause some confusion and lead you to think: What does each of these accessorial charges mean and when could I be charged for each of them? Well, it is exactly for this reason that we want to clearly provide you an explanation about what does each of those charges mean and when they could apply in order to give you a better understanding about how drayage services operate and when each charge could apply.

First, let’s define what a drayage is. Drayage is a service generally used in exports and imports, where the containers used to transport the cargo are own by ocean carriers. Those containers are normally stored at container depots/terminals distributed throughout the country. Then, in the case of the exports, the drayage service consists of the entire operation executed by the trucking company from pulling the empty container from the forementioned depots, taking it to the exporter’s warehouse to load it, and transporting the container back to the export terminal/port. In the case of imports, the drayage consists of pulling the full container from the import terminal, taking it to the importer’s warehouse to discharge it, and transporting the empty container back to the container depot/terminal.

Now that we have a better understanding about what a drayage service is, let’s explore what are the most common accessorial charges you could pay for and when they could apply. They are called ‘accessorial charges’ as they are additional services that a trucker can provide you when the main service (Drayage) is being executed, depending on the needs of the operation. The most common accessorial charges are the prepull, chassis split (or split alone), storage, detention, overweight, hazmat, among others. Have you ever heard about them? Well, let’s explore them one by one:

For exports, the prepull happens when the empty container must be pulled from the terminal one day before the loading appointment with the shipper. For imports, this happens when the full

container must be pulled from the terminal one day before the unloading appointment with the shipper.

This may be needed for different factors. The most common situation is when the loading appointment is so early in the morning so that the trucker cannot pull the empty container from the terminal that same day. However, this could also happen either when the distance between the terminal where the empty container is pulled from and the shipper is so long or when the terminal is so congested, as none of both situations would allow the trucker to arrive at the shipper’s warehouse on time regardless the appointment is early in the morning or not.

For this reason, prepull is required for some movements to comply with planned schedules and to avoid any backlogs that may affect the normal and smooth flow of transport.

This accessorial charge applies when the trucker has to take the container to the trucker’s yard. There may be many situations that could cause this. The most common cause is when the container cannot be delivered at terminal at the appointed time for any issue that may arise, so the container has to be stored until another appointment with the terminal gets available.

Chassis split happens when the terminal where the empty container is pulled from is different to the terminal where the full container is delivered. For imports, this is charged when the terminal where the full container is pulled from is different to the terminal where the empty container is delivered once it has been discharged. This can also happen if the trucker does not find any available chassis at the terminal where the container is going to be pulled from.

In exports, chassis split is required when the terminal (where the container will be delivered after it is loaded) does not have available empty containers, so the trucker must look for another terminal that has container availability.

This accessorial refers to the time the trucker has to wait while loading/unloading the container or at the terminal. Waiting time at terminal is also referred to as Port congestion.

Generally, truckers offer 1 or 2 free hours before detention fee is charged.

Applies when the weight of the cargo exceeds the legal weight permitted. Legal weight can vary from state to state; however, it is generally 38,000 pounds for 20ft standard containers and 44,000 pounds for 40ft standard containers.

Applies when container must be weighted by the trucker to know the exact weight of the container. This can be made upon the customer’s request or sometimes it is a must for overweight cargo.

This applies when the trucker unsuccessfully attempts to deliver the full container to the terminal (for exports) or the shipper (for imports) at the appointed time so that a new delivery attempt must be made.

Applies when the trucker makes an unsuccessful attempt either to pull the empty container from the terminal to load it at the shipper (in case of exports) or to pull the full container from the terminal in order to discharge it at the consignee (in case of exports).

This accessorial is charged by the trucker when the transported cargo is considered as Dangerous Good.

Now that we have explored each of the most common accessorial charges, you will have a better understanding of how the drayage services work either for exports or imports in the United States, so that you will no longer be confused when you see them once you receive any tariffs and will have a more accurate prediction about how much each operation will cost at the end of the day. Hope this may be useful.

Brayan Taborda
Ocean Export Analyst
In Motion Logistics, LLC