I’ve been spending each Tuesday night on the phone with a large parcel carrier in Australia. We start at 6:00pm, Eastern, which is 8:00am Wednesday morning in New South Wales. We meet to discuss topics on carrier compliance that Kewill engineers are going to implement. The first week we met I was given some rating files and an explanation of how they worked. Great – time to write the functional specification. The next week I had a bunch of questions and the carrier did a mea culpa; they had given me the wrong rating structure and algorithms. Seems my customer had negotiated well and had a multi-tiered rating structure that did not match the file they had sent. I had a similar experience with a computer manufacturers European distribution center. In that engagement the customer sent me a major carriers rate and service guide, however the rate/zone tables had been edited fairly extensively, rows inserted for different products and columns inserted for unique lane negotiations, etc. I was working with a Canadian freight carrier, and naively thinking they would be using something like the NMFTA rating structures I asked a question about class rating, and the reply back was “we have 3: Frozen Fish, Paper, and Wood.” I wonder if the rates changed based on the type of fish?
Here in the US rating is pretty much the same across carriers; postal code to postal code defines a zone, rating is per pound and varies by zone. TThat’s often as complicated as it gets (well – don’t get me started on surcharges and fees, that’s another blog post, but I will say they are at least consistent). Labels are generally 4 x 6 and the data in the human readable and machine readable are often very similar, albeit there are different barcode technologies used from carrier to carrier and even on the same label – again though, they are consistent. And of course we have the National Motor Freight Transportation Association and VICS BOL, for some standards, in the LTL space. However, as soon as you leave the US, everything is up for grabs. Even the larger carriers show a wide variety of implementations and willingness to ‘bend the rules’ with negotiations that wouldn’t be permitted here in the US. I think that is due to the size of some of our hubs, UPS’s World Port in Louisville, for example, can handle 416,000 packages an hour! You don’t get that type of through-put by allowing customers to create their own labeling standards or negotiate outside a standard framework.