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.
How to Ship a MotorcycleWhen it comes to motorcycle shipping, there’s a lot to know. We’ve talked about how to ship a bike, but we haven’t talked about how to ship a motorcycle. There’s three main things that you need to know when you’re looking at shipping that motorcycle. We don’t want to take up too much of your time, so we’re going to get you the information you need, and get you back out on the road. Follow these steps the next time you need to ship a motorcycle, and you’ll be well on your way. 1.) No Fluids The first thing to do when you ship your motorcycle is draining all the fluids from the bike. You don’t want any leaking during shipment, and neither do the carriers. That’s a recipe for damaged freight, and nobody wants that. The main fluid that you’re going to need to get rid of is the gasoline. Ride your gas tank to empty and then get your bike loaded. If you don’t get rid of the fluids, the carrier won’t pickup. 2.) Unplug & Deflate Second, you need to unplug/remove the battery and release a bit of air from the tires. Electrical issues aren’t common but it’s better to be safe than sorry, and losing some air from the tires will help stabilize your motorcycle during shipping. Speaking of stabilizing your bike, it’s better to do it vertically rather than a side stand. This cuts down on the chance of any breakage or leaking of engine oil or coolant. 3.) Crate Your Bike The next step is the most important part in learning how to ship a motorcycle. Before shipping, your bike must be crated. Once crated, make sure that you tie down the bike and make sure its securely fastened and stable. LTL shipping moves freight from terminal to terminal, and you want as little movement as possible inside the crate. Go straps that will loop through the handlebars for a more stable shipment. Once your shipment is crated, you’ll need to take some measurements. Chances are the freight class on your bike will be density based, so you’ll need measurements of the crate and total weight AFTER you’ve loaded your motorcycle. I would suggest investing in freight insurance for your motorcycle shipping quote. It’s pretty affordable and can provide coverage if something happens to your bike. After that, it’s a matter of getting your shipping quote, getting in touch with your freight broker, and let the motorcycle shipping begin.
If you’re a shipper you want to cut down on Freight Cost. It’s not rocket science. Cutting costs is part of running a successful business. The tricky part, however, is making sure that these cuts don’t include dropping your level of service. Crappy service means losing customers, which means…well…you get it.
At FreightPros, we may not know the intricacies of your business, but we know the intricacies of ours. Simply put: We know freight, and part of our job is to help YOU know freight. You may never master the Shipping Muse (She is wild and tempestuous), but you don’t need to be an expert to cut down on your freight cost. Just follow these tips!
1. Use a BrokerWhat can a broker do for you to cut down on freight cost? They can negotiate lower freight rates with the carriers. They can provide inside knowledge of markets and capacity to ensure you’re getting a fair freight quote. They can give you access to a Transportation Management System that lets you set up shipments on the go. They can track your shipments, fight false invoice charges from the carrier, get you third party freight insurance for your fragile shipments, and get you custom BOLs to cut down on the chances of a reclass or reweigh. They can do it all, and if you’re serious about your shipping, you should work with a freight broker.
2. Keep Your Commercial Invoices & RecordsWith a broker or without one, if you ship enough you’ll accrue in-transit additional charges. The most common of these charges are reweighs and reclasses, and to fight them with the carrier, you’ll need records of the items. These records will need to have official weights and dimensions of the item being shipped. If it’s something you’ve bought, keep the receipt. If you’re the manufacturer, make sure you have some record of the item’s specs. Completely avoiding reclasses and reweighs is impossible, but if you have the correct paperwork, you can fight those additional charges. Getting these charges off your shipping bill will keep your freight cost low.
3. Consolidate ShipmentsWhenever possible, it’s best to consolidate your shipments. This practice helps cut freight costs in two ways. First, when you consolidate your shipments, you lower the chance of lost freight. It’s easier to lose 1 out of 10 loose boxes than it is to lose 1 pallet with 10 boxes on it. The same theory applies to shipments. Second, shipping in bulk cuts down on ancillary costs like gas prices or unused truck space. It will still cost more to ship two pallets than one, but it will likely be cheaper than shipping two pallets in two separate shipments.
4. Get InsuranceFreight insurance depends on the value of your shipment, but if its the right choice for your freight it can save you serious cash. When you’re shipping freight, LTL or otherwise, you’re going to have to face the risk of damage or loss. Carriers carry their own insurance, but sometimes it’s less than the value of the shipment. If you’re shipping anything valuable or fragile via LTL, you should get third party insurance. Truckload shipping is different. Good brokers only work with carriers that have a minimum amount of coverage (usually around $100,000), so make sure you’re working with a broker that thoroughly vets the carriers they partner with.
5. Consider InterlineUtilizing interline is a great way to cut your freight cost if your shipment is not time sensitive. Interline is the practice of combining truck and rail freight, and though its not available for all shipments, it can save you some serious cash. The drawback to interlining your shipment is the time factor. Interline shipments take longer than a standard LTL or truckload shipment. That being said, if time is not a factor and you’re looking for the cheapest way to move your freight, ask your broker if interlining is an option for your next shipment.
6. Ask About FAKsIf you’re not a regular shipper, you’ve probably never heard of a “Freight of All Kinds,” agreement (or FAK for short). FAKs are an agreement between carrier and shipper that can cut down on freight costs by bundling services such as liftgates or freight class rates. You’ll need a broker to negotiate any FAK, and you’ll need to be shipping some major volume to make it worthwhile for the carrier, but if you’re a high volume shipper you should ask your broker if FAKs are an option for your freight. They can simplify your shipping game, and save you money in the process.
7. Confirm Freight ClassFreight class is a huge part of freight rates, and unfortunately, it has a tendency to change. The LTL industry as a whole is slowly moving away from NMFC codes and towards density-based classing, but you’ll still find a large amount of traditional freight classes designated by NMFC. It’s hard to keep up with changes in freight class, so it’s important to confirm your item’s freight class with your broker once a month or so. A good broker will have access to the classing database, and will be able to see if your shipment is good to go. Avoiding reclasses is always a fine way to cut freight cost. And if you’re shipping truckload? Well, you don’t need to worry about freight class. It’s not a factor in full truckload shipping.
8. Package Shipments ProperlyThis is perhaps the easiest way to cut down your freight cost. Improper packaging results in numerous damages and loss, both for LTL and truckload. Freight shipments need to be boxed and palleted. The shipments will be moved on and off docks and trucks with forklifts, stacked and unstacked. Recognize how much your shipment will be handled, and plan accordingly. Pack with plastic, packing peanuts, tape and newspaper, etc. The more packing the better. As long as there is freight shipping there will be damage, but shipments that are packed properly will cut down on your chance of dealing with damage or loss.
If you’re new to shipping and looking for a freight broker, how do you decide who to go with? Do you just Google the phrase “Freight Broker?” Do you reach out to your shipping contacts and see who they’re using? Do you try to go straight to the carrier, and bypass the broker option entirely? Shouldn’t it be easier to get started?
Below you’ll find 10 questions to consider when choosing your freight broker. These questions are not in any particular order or level of importance, but if you can answer all or most of them, you’ll be on your way to getting the right freight broker for you and your shipping.
It’s important to remember that the relationship between a shipper and a broker is a two-way street. Some brokers are experts in certain fields, some put a higher priority on different kinds of service. Freight brokers are always looking to work with great shippers, and a good broker-shipper relationship should be a great exchange of services, that make BOTH parties happy.
Whether this is your first foray into freight, or if you’re an old pro looking for a new broker, utilize these 10 Questions to Consider When Choosing Your Freight Broker: