Tip: Unused Skid Space Fee and What to Avoid

Posted On 18th May 2022

Example: You need to ship a box that measures 12” (L) x 12” (W) x 60” (H).  You do not want to ship it lose, so you place it standing up on a normal 40” x 48” pallet.  The outside measurements are 40” x 48” x 65” including the skid height.

At the very least, you will likely be responsible for an Inspection Fee Charge for shipping “potentially unstable freight” per the rule below. You will also likely incur a fee if you fail to ship it at the highest class possible for whichever tariff item yields higher either the commodity you shipped, OR the NMFC# for wooden skid.

Here is the rule from one common carrier:

Maximum Allowable Dimensions of Lift Truck Skids, Pallets or Platforms for 'Potentially Unstable Commodities.' For the purpose of this rule, commodities having an overall height of 1.5 times or more of their shortest base dimension shall be considered potentially unstable. For such commodities, the lift truck skid, pallet, or platform may be of sufficient size to provide adequate stability. The maximum allowable dimensions of the lift truck skid, pallet, or platform are determined using the following formulas.
The Maximum Allowable Length is the larger result of the following calculations:
Maximum Allowable Length (in) = Commodity's(ies') Height (in) x 0.67
Maximum Allowable Length (in) = Commodity's(ies') Length (in) + 12 (in)
The Maximum Allowable Width is the larger result of the following calculations:
Maximum Allowable Width (in) = Commodity's(ies') Height (in) x 0.67
Maximum Allowable Width (in) = Commodity's(ies') Width (in) + 12 (in)

If the lift truck skid, pallet, or platform exceeds the maximum allowable length or width, as calculated above, the gross weight of the handling unit will be subject to the class applicable to either the lift truck skid, pallet, or platform or the commodity(ies) being shipped, whichever is higher.

We had a client ship a 12” x 12” x 60” box set in the middle of a 40” x 48” skid, with overall outside measurements of 40” x 48” x 65”. The total weight was 375 lbs. Based on the commodity shipped, he calculated Class 175. The density of 5.19 lbs. of the skid also matches the density scale of pallets.

In this client’s case, there was no charge due to Class Revision BUT the Inspector and salespeople INSISTED that they must receive the Inspection Fee (though the class was correct) because it was a “potentially” unstable pallet and therefore had to be inspected.

In the past, if weight and class remained unchanged after an inspection, the Inspection Fee was not justified. But per LTL common carrier NMFC tariff says that in this case – due to the unused space on the skid which created a potentially unstable shipment – the inspection fee MUST be paid to the carrier.

Going back to the Maximum Dimension rules:

The pallet was 40” x 48” x 65” and the box only occupied a 12” x 12” square on it so most of the pallet was empty – this is a red flag! 

Per the Maximum Dimension rule, the maximum length allowed would be 43.55", not 48".

The maximum width allowed would be also 43.55”. However, according to the second Maximum Width standard, that box was 12" wide so the maximum width of the skid can be only 24". In this case, the skid width was 40".

Bottom line: make a custom skid or ship the freight loose.  If freight needs to be protected, it’s better to wrap the original box in bubble wrap on the ends and sides and put it in an even larger box. Declare the value and consider purchasing Supplementary Insurance. If it is a vital shipment do not ship it by common carrier; ship it in a direct dedicated truck or cargo van.

We at Freight Run define a vital shipment as one where the supplier will be embarrassed if it arrives late or is lost, one of a strategically important material that has a long lead time to replace, or one going to a sales presentation or convention hall, or similar marketing location.

Any such shipments need to be packed extremely rigorously, “bomb proof” we like to call them, possibly in a hard crate lined by foam depending on the commodity.  And then it should be shipped directly, not via a common carrier.

Ask your Freight Run contact for options such as LTL common carrier, expedited cargo vans, straight trucks, or even larger 53’ dry vans or temperature-controlled trailers, if you require them.