A Guide to Freight Audits

Discover what a freight audit is, why it’s important, and how organizations can implement it.

a freight supervisor conducting a freight audit before clearing release

What is a Freight Audit?

A freight audit is the process of verifying the accuracy of freight invoices by comparing them against the contracted rates and the actual services provided. This ensures that the charges billed by the carrier match the agreed-upon rates and services, identifying any discrepancies such as overcharges or billing errors. The audit helps companies control shipping costs, maintain financial accuracy, and improve overall logistics efficiency.


Conducting regular freight audits offers many benefits for an organization. This is why it’s a critical aspect of the logistics process that shouldn’t be skipped. Here are some specifics:

  • Cost savings – Conducting freight audits helps identify and recover overcharges and billing errors, ensuring that companies only pay for the services they actually receive. This leads to significant cost savings and better financial management.​
  • Improved accuracy – Freight audits enhance the accuracy of freight invoices to help reduce discrepancies and ensure that billing aligns with agreed-upon rates and services.
  • Enhanced visibility – Regular freight audits allow greater visibility into an organization’s shipping expenses and logistical operations. This improved insight enables better decision-making, optimization of shipping processes, and more effective budget management​.

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How to Conduct a Freight Audit

The freight auditing process may vary depending on the organization. This is because freight operations have unique needs and challenges that managers should consider when conducting an audit.

That said, here are a few key steps to conducting a comprehensive freight audit:

1. Data Collection

Data collection is the initial step in the freight auditing process, involving the gathering of all relevant shipping documents and data. This includes freight invoices, bills of lading, shipping manifests, and carrier contracts. The objective is to compile a comprehensive set of information needed to accurately verify and audit freight charges.

2. Invoice Verification

This step ensures that the charges on the invoices match the agreed-upon rates and that all billed services were indeed provided. Any inconsistencies or errors must be flagged for further review​.

3. Discrepancy Identification

During discrepancy identification, auditors carefully examine the verified invoices to identify any differences between billed charges and expected charges based on contracts and shipping data. Common discrepancies include overcharges, duplicate charges, and incorrect service fees. This step is crucial for detecting and documenting any billing errors.

4. Dispute Resolution

Dispute resolution involves addressing and rectifying the discrepancies identified in the previous step. This typically requires communicating with carriers to resolve issues, negotiate adjustments, and ensure that corrected invoices are issued. Effective dispute resolution ensures that companies don’t overpay and maintain good relationships with their carriers.

5. Payment Processing

Once all discrepancies have been resolved and the invoices have been verified as accurate, the final step is payment processing. This involves authorizing and paying carriers based on audited and approved invoices. Ensuring accurate payments helps maintain financial integrity and avoids unnecessary costs​.

Tools Used in Freight Auditing

Companies can use various tools for freight auditing, depending on their goals and needs. The following are a few tools that make a big difference when conducting freight audits:

Freight Audit Software

Freight audit software is a digital platform where managers can facilitate the entire auditing process. That way, there’s a digital record that managers can review while gaining a bird’s eye view of the whole phase. This tool makes freight auditing much easier while allowing workers to perform them accurately.

Data Analytics

This involves using statistical and computational techniques to examine large sets of shipping and billing data. This tool helps identify patterns, trends, and anomalies, providing insights into shipping costs, carrier performance, and potential areas for cost savings. By leveraging data analytics, companies can make informed decisions and optimize their logistics operations for greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI in freight auditing automates the process of reviewing and verifying invoices by using machine learning algorithms and natural language processing. AI can quickly detect discrepancies, predict potential billing errors, and continuously improve its accuracy by learning from past data. This tool significantly reduces the time and manual effort required for freight audits, ensuring faster and more precise results.

FAQs About Freight Audit

Common errors found during a freight audit include overcharges, duplicate charges, incorrect application of rates, and billing for services not rendered. Additionally, discrepancies in fuel surcharges, accessorial fees, and classification errors are frequently identified, impacting overall shipping costs.

Freight auditing ensures carrier contract compliance by comparing invoice charges against the terms and rates stipulated in carrier contracts. This process verifies that carriers adhere to agreed-upon pricing, service levels, and other contractual obligations, preventing unauthorized charges and ensuring accurate billing.

Manual freight auditing involves a labor-intensive review of shipping documents and invoices, prone to human error and slower processing times. In contrast, automated freight auditing uses software to quickly and accurately verify invoices against contracts, detect discrepancies, and streamline the audit process, enhancing efficiency and accuracy.

A freight audit helps in cost recovery and savings by identifying and correcting billing errors, overcharges, and discrepancies. By ensuring accurate invoicing and contract compliance, companies can recover undue expenses, optimize shipping costs, and negotiate better rates with carriers, leading to significant financial savings.

Leon Altomonte
Article by

Leon Altomonte

SafetyCulture Content Contributor
Leon Altomonte is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. With his language degree and years of experience in content writing, he delivers well-researched, informative articles about safety, quality, and operational excellence. In addition to his professional pursuits, Leon maintains a creative outlet as a performing musician.