Freight Class DefinitionLet’s begin with a definition. The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) defines class as a way “to establish a commodity’s transportability.” The National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) is the standard which enforces this system, grouping commodities into one of 18 classes – ranging from 50 to 500. The NMFC determines this class using four characteristics : Density, Stowability, Handling and Liability.
Density: An item’s density is determined by its weight and dimensions. Check out our density calculator to determine your item’s density in pounds per cubic foot. The higher the density, the lower the class and ultimately, the lower the cost. This may seem backwards at first glance, but consider this: Carriers love shipping freight that is heavy and doesn’t take up much space compared to its weight. This means they can fit more product on their truck, which means more cash in their wallets.
Stowability: Stowability is bit harder to define, though a good rule of thumb is to think of it as an item’s ability to be “stowed” or transported in relation to other items. This takes into account hazardous shipments (which cannot be moved with non-hazardous shipments) or items with strange dimensions that make it difficult to load freight around them.
Handling: Handling concerns the item’s ability to be handled as the freight is loaded and unloaded from LTL terminal to LTL terminal. Dimensions, fragility and packaging play a role in how difficult an item is to handle.
Liability: Liability takes into account the probability of the shipment being damaged or stolen, or damaging other adjacent freight.
How Freight Class Affects Quote PricesThis part is simple– The lower your class, the lower the price. An item that is a class 50 will be cheaper to ship than an item that is class 500.
What are NMFC Codes?Each LTL shipping item has an NMFC code associated with it. NMFC codes are similar in concept to PLU codes at a grocery store– Every item that could be shipped is assigned a code. For example, hardwood flooring may be assigned NMFC #37860, whereas corrugated boxes may be assigned NMFC #29250. These codes can be accessed via an NMFC database, which is constantly being updated. Let a FreightPro know if you need help finding the correct NMFC code for your product, as this is step 1 in determining your freight class. The NMFC code will tell you how to class your item. Some items have a permanent class, whereas others could be classed based on density, packaging, value, or other factors. An item that is density-based means that the freight’s density will determine the class. For example, Machinery may fit under NMFC #133300, which the database says is a density-based code. If you’re shipping machinery, you’ll need to first determine the item’s density (based on weight, dimensions and pallet count), and will then be able to calculate a freight class. With most density-based classes, a lower density means a higher class, and a higher density means a lower class. Using our example, let’s say we have 2 machines on standard-sized pallets with the same dimensions (48”x40”x48”). Machine #1 weighs 1000 lbs, and Machine #2 weighs 500 lbs. This means that Machine #1 is more dense than Machine #2, giving it a lower freight class and (usually!) a cheaper price. On the other hand, some shipping items have a permanent class regardless of their size or weight. An example of a fixed-class item would be a transmission. A transmission’s NMFC code is 19940, which classes at 85 no matter the size, weight, or packaging. There may also be NMFC codes that class based on how an item is packaged, its value, or any other product characteristic. The only way to know for sure is to get your freight broker to help you look up your item in the NMFC database.
Finding Your Correct Freight ClassWe’ve covered what a shipping class is, as well as how it affects the cost of your freight shipping, so let’s finish up with how to find the correct class for your freight. Many carriers and brokers offer a freight class calculator that will determine the density and estimated class. These tools are convenient for casual shippers, but keep in mind that they offer only “estimated” classes. If you’re looking to avoid freight reclasses, the only way to ensure your class is to confirm your freight class using the correct NMFC code, and making sure it is visible and legible on the BOL used at the time of pickup. Your freight broker can you help you do this, as they should have access to the NMFC database. As you can see, there’s a lot to say about class, but if you do have questions, your freight broker will be able to help you find the correct class for your shipment. In conclusion, here are a few classing tips to keep your shipping simple and easy.
Freight Class Tips & Tricks
- ALWAYS include the NFMC code on the BOL so the carrier can see it.
- ALWAYS include the freight description on the BOL to the best of your ability. Something labeled “shipping item” is much more likely to be re-classed, as the carrier has no idea what the freight is and therefore no idea what class is correct.
- Class calculators can give the exact density of a shipment, however their classes are always estimates. Not all items have density-based classes!
- Be aware of carrier habits. All carriers are not created equal and some are harder on re-classes and inspections than others. Know the limitations of the carriers you’ll be using.
- BE HONEST. Resist the urge to cheat on your freight class to fool the shipping companies. In the long run (like Vegas) the house always wins and you’ll end up paying penalties for constant re-classes.
I’m Christie, and I wear a lot of hats around here, but one of my favorite parts of my job is recruiting and interviewing potential future FreightPROS. I’ll be honest with you; it’s not easy to get a job here. We put a lot of effort in to making sure that each new person who joins our team is not only able to handle our hectic industry, but also fully committed to our SUPERBAD core values.
When I’m interviewing candidates, one of the most common questions I’m asked is, “What does it take to be successful at FreightPros?” Great question! In my (almost) 3 years of experience as a FreightPro, I’ve seen lots of successes (and a few failures), so I’d like to share what I believe to be the most important characteristics and practices of a truly great FreightPRO!
In no particular order, here it goes:
Be reliable. If you say you’re going to do something, do it! This is the only way we’ve managed to build the amazing, trusting team we have here at FreightPros today.
Be resourceful. If you don’t know how to do something, figure it out! Get creative, ask questions, and get the job done. Don’t expect someone else to figure it out for you. I learn new things here every single day, and so will you.
Be confident. If you get hired at FreightPros, it’s because we know you’re capable of handling the job. You’re inevitably going to run into difficult or complicated situations, so trust in yourself and know that you can do this! The incredible service we provide to our customers depends on this!
Communicate. Tell your team what’s going on and write everything down. Keep yourself organized so anyone on your team could easily take over a project or case for you if need be.
Optimize. FreightPros has set itself apart from the competition by finding new and innovative ways of handling our processes and solving problems. If you have an idea for how we can do something better, say something! Lots of great ideas have come from FreightPROS in their first few months of employment, who come in with a fresh pair of eyes and are able to pick out inconsistencies, inaccuracies or inefficiencies that we may never have noticed!
Relax. The freight industry is crazy, but that doesn’t mean you have to go crazy every time something doesn’t go your way (because I guarantee you, many things will not go your way!). Take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and think of a gameplan that you can handle feasibly. Take a break when you need one, and don’t carry the stress home with you.
We have a great team of FreightPROS here, and we’re growing so fast that we’re almost always hiring. If you think you may know someone who has what it takes to rock it here, we’d love to hear from you!