Shortcutting proper Freight Classification and the associated Costs and Headaches!
Shippers tend to want to use the same freight class that they have always been shipping their products under. It is also not uncommon for shipping managers to select the lowest class to get lower overall shipping rates. These practices, however, usually result in unwanted rebills due to being re-classed ultimately wasting more time and money trying to dispute the associated adjustments
It is important to understand that no one gets to pick the class for their own freight. The correct NMFC description for a commodity must be used in order to get an accurate freight classification.
The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) assigned a National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) with corresponding classes for every commodity. This ranges from class 50 to class 500 based on four transportation characteristics: density, handling, stowability, and liability. Together, these four determine a commodity’s transportability and provide a uniform method of rating by class which is used by less than truckload (LTL) carriers all across the country. Commodities with similar transportation characteristics fall under the same class. As transportability becomes more difficult, dangerous or expensive for the carrier the class increases.
Before we discuss freight class in more detail, please make sure to observe the steps below as these will lay the groundwork for getting the class as accurately as possible.
- Identify the NMFC number for your commodity.
- Weigh your freight using a calibrated/certified floor or forklift scale. You will need the weight later on to calculate your shipment’s density.
- Measure the length, width and height. If your freight is on a pallet, make sure to measure the pallet’s length and width. Avoid letting the freight overhang the edges of your pallet as this can lead to freight adjustments. Overhanging freight is also less secure and prone to get damaged during transit. If not using a pallet or if an overhang cannot be avoided, make sure to measure the longest, widest and highest points of the shipments. Protrusions or any packaging that sticks out should be included.
How is Freight Class Determined?
Since freight class determines shipping rates, it is essential that shippers, logistics managers, and all parties involved in shipping understand how it works. This will be beneficial in helping cut costs on shipping as well as save time and resources in the long run.
Let us take a closer look at each of the characteristics used to determine freight class.
This is the space an item occupies in relation to its weight. To get the density, divide the weight of an item in pounds by the volume in cubic feet. To find the total cubic feet, multiply the length/depth x width x height (all in inches) and divide the result by 1,728.
Calculate the density by dividing the weight of the item in pounds by its volume in cubic feet.
Items that are more difficult to store will be given a higher freight class. Package size, shape, ability to be nested/stacked, excessive length/size all affect how well an item fits into a truck as well as the space it will consume.
This takes into consideration the ease/difficulty of handling freight as it gets loaded and unloaded from terminal to terminal. Any freight that requires special handling could be assigned a higher class. This includes freight with excessive length and weight.
This includes a freight’s susceptibility to theft, damage and breakability. Perishable freight or freight that could be easily damaged will be designated a higher freight class.
Here is an example of how to calculate density and freight class for a pallet of bicycles weighing 285 lbs (including pallet weight) and dimensions of 55 inches (length), 40 inches (width), 65 inches (height).
Using the formula discussed under DENSITY, multiply 55x40x65 which is equal to 143,000. Then divide this by 1,728. The result is 82.75 cubic feet. Next, divide the weight which is 285 lbs by 82.75. This give us 3.44 PCF. Based on the table below for NMFC 189800 for bicycles, this falls under Sub 3 class 250.
Understanding how to calculate density and freight class is key to managing your freight costs effectively. At the same time, having access to an automated tool for calculating density and freight class is crucial for accuracy and efficiency. Below is a snap-shot of how this type of tool works. This has a built-in density calculator to calculate your freight class. All you need to do is enter the dimensions and the weight.
How working with a Technology forward 3PL can help your organization save time, money, and headaches when calculating freight class.
Teaming up with a Technology Forward Logistics provider can help you avoid some of these costly and time-consuming freight class-related pitfalls. Providing you access to tech-forward Freight Management Systems that can auto calculated density when quoting and booking loads. Many Freight Management Software Systems can also load all your most shipped products with freight class, nmfc code, and even pictures to make the process easy. Also by working with a knowledgeable 3PL team, these organizations should proactively review your shipments as your partner for errors. Helping you better prevent, or at the very least, minimizing reclassifications, thus helping you manage your shipping costs more effectively and efficiently.
If your organization needs better help with automating or outsourcing any of these or other freight class-related tasks, Easy Logistics Management can help. Our industry-leading Freight Management Software, Carrier Rate, can automate many of these tasks when quoting and booking loads. Additionally, our team of nice, dedicated, professionals are always willing to help you best classify your companies freight class and NMFC information. For uploading it into your account as a simple drop-down menu when quoting and booking shipments greatly minimizing errors and frustration long term!