freight class

Freight Class Explained For LTL Shipments

freight class Freight Class is an important part of the LTL shipping industry, but one that most new shippers are confused by. What is freight class? How do I find mine? How does the class affect my shipping price?  Read on, my friend!  You’re in the right place.

Freight Class Definition

Let’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 Prices

This 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 Class

We’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.
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Freight Class
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changes in freight class

Changes in Freight Class Affect LTL Shipping

changes in freight class
Watch out for Reclasses
Have You Checked Your Freight Class Recently? As a Billing Specialist at FreightPros, one of the most difficult invoice issues I deal with is a Reclass. Your product may not ship at the same class as it did when you started shipping. I cannot stress enough the importance of all five suggestions that our Classmaster, Lucas, made in his blog, Dispatches from the Classmaster, but for the purpose of this blog I want to focus on knowing that your class listing can change. Yes, it’s true; that computer you shipped for the past twenty years at class 92.5 is no longer accurate. The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) is responsible for updating the Freight Classing Database that the majority of our LTL carriers use to class freight. It is a massive database, and can be tricky to navigate; however, the NMFC database is what most LTL carriers base their class rulings on, so it is important that your product can clearly identify with the NMFC/class that is on your BOL. There are thousands of shipping items, so it can be difficult to keep up with all the changes that have and will continue to occur. Do you package your shipment in boxes or crates, or do you put them on pallets? The way you package your product can also affect the freight class. At FreightPros, we try to be as proactive as possible in looking out for these changes and notifying our customers of them. Below are some recent changes that the NMFTA has made over the past few years for certain products: 1) Electronics: They used to ship at class 92.5, however, this item has changed to a density-based item under the provisions of NMFC 116030. Be sure to have accurate dimensions and weight, so that you aren’t hit with a reclass. 2) Household Goods: Previously shipped at class 100, however, this item just changed in August of 2015 to class 150 under NMFC 100240. 3) Magazines/Periodicals: NMFC 161685 (class 60) has been canceled and they will now ship under NMFC 161700, which is density-based and classes range from 55-70. 4) Blinds, Hunters: NMFC 15830 has been canceled and this product is now shipped under item 15520, which is density-based. 5) Steel Lockers: Previously shipped under NMFC 111740. Refer to item 80440, which is density-based.
freight quote vs freight rate

Learning the Difference Between a Freight Quote and a Freight Rate

freight quote vs freight rate
Freight Quote vs Freight Rate
There’s a difference between a “freight quote” and a “freight rate” in LTL shipping. Understanding this difference is key to avoiding additional charges and invoice discrepancies, both with the carriers as well as the freight broker. So let’s break down how a freight rate differs from a quote, and hopefully we can avoid unplanned shipping charges on your bill. The difference between a freight quote and a freight rate is lazy terminology. This makes it all the more frustrating to your average freight shipper. Simply put, a freight quote is what the LTL shipment SHOULD cost based on the information given by the shipper. This includes total weight, freight class, and any additional service like liftgates or inside delivery. A freight rate is what the shipment ACTUALLY costs after the invoice has been received from the freight carrier. This may seem obvious, but sometimes the two terms are used interchangeably by brokers and shippers alike. Most of the time, it’s not a big deal. If the information used to get the freight quote is correct, then the rate will match the quote, and there won’t be any problems. However, if the weight is incorrectly reported, you’ll end up with a reweigh and your invoice will reflect the additional charges. Same goes for a reclass. Another reason for the quote being different from the rate comes from services signed for at the time of delivery. Most of the time, this means a liftgate was used at delivery and signed for by the consignee, but was not included in the freight quote cost. You can learn more about residential delivery practices here. Bottom line, to avoid surprise discrepancies between your freight quote and your freight rate, always make sure to quote with the correct shipment information. If the information changes after you’ve received the quote, get another one. And always inform your consignee which services have been paid for upon delivery, and which ones have not. Don’t rely on the carrier to make the distinction. CC image courtesy Got Credit on Flickr
nmfc code

What’s the Deal with NMFC Codes?

nmfc code Classing your freight can be difficult, especially with the current classing system the majority of LTL carriers use. An organizational body known as the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) is responsible for publishing the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC), a standard that provides a code to just about any commodity imaginable. This code has a corresponding class that is used to calculate your freight shipping cost.

Always Put Your NMFC Code on Your Bill of Lading

If you don’t have an NMFC code listed on your BOL, there is a good possibility that your freight will be reclassified. Some carriers will assign an arbitrary class if there is no code listed on the BOL, often outlined in a carrier’s rules tariff. In Dispatches from the Classmaster, Lucas outlined the importance of providing an accurate description of your freight. This, along with the proper code, will greatly reduce the possibility of additional reclass charges.

Sub-NMFC Codes

As previously mentioned, there are also Sub-NMFC codes which are noted with a dash after the code (i.e. 116030-5). One important thing to do regarding density-based codes (density calculator) is confirming that the Sub-NMFC code matches the correct freight class. As a billing specialist at FreightPros, I’ve seen numerous occasions where a freight class and NMFC code don’t match. Carriers sometimes overlook this, but it’s also not uncommon for them to charge you at the higher class; whether it be the class that was listed, or the class corresponding to the Sub-NMFC codes on the BOL. These can often be disputed, but usually require a manufacturer’s specification sheet and a packing list proving the correct class. That’s more work for both the customer and the broker, and can be avoided by simply double-checking to make sure your class and NMFC code match.
In conclusion, ALWAYS provide an NMFC code on your BOL, the correct freight class, and an accurate description.
If you do these three things each time you ship LTL, then the chances of you incurring additional reclass charges are greatly reduced. And if you have any questions or doubts regarding your product’s freight class, a FreightPro is always here to help. For more information on Freight Class, download our Freight Paper, The Mysteries of Freight Class for FREE.

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