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A Quick Overview of Freight Classification
Tips to understand the classification process and accurately classify your freight
Freight classes are a standardized way of categorizing goods moved by carriers. They are important because carriers use them to calculate shipping charges. Different freight classes incur different charges even if they move on the same shipment.
The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) maintains the definitions for freight classes through its National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) program. Every type of product that can be shipped is categorized into one of 18 classes based on four characteristics:
Density – Is your product heavy or light?
Stowability - How is your shipment being packed into the vehicle? For example, shipments that can be stacked receive a more favorable classification than shipments that require all of the space from the floor to the ceiling.
Handling – How difficult is it to load and unload the freight?
Liability – Is the freight breakable? Does it have a high value?
What is the NMFTA?
The NMFTA is a non-profit membership organization. It exists to provide carriers and shippers with standards for classifying freight, carrier identification codes, and standard point location codes. More information about the NMFTA is available at www.nmfta.org.
What is an NMFC Number?
The NMFTA assigns a unique number called the NMFC number to each type of product that can be shipped by an LTL carrier. For example, NMFC #18260 applies to automotive body and trim parts.
Carriers use both the NMFC number and the freight class assigned by the NMFTA to calculate the charges for a shipment. If these numbers or the shipment characteristics are not accurate, then carrier may reclassify the freight, resulting in a higher shipment charge plus an additional fee to reweigh and inspect the freight. For this reason, it is important to review your product and make sure it is described accurately on the bill of lading.
How Are Freight Rates Determined?
The freight class of your product has a big role in how much you will be charged to ship it. Because rates are partially based on weight and density, the rate per hundred pounds for transporting plastic bottles is higher than for bricks, which are heavy but take up less space.
Along with a product's classification, rates are based on the distance a shipment ismoving, the geographic movement of the shipment and the shipment's weight.
You may need to calculate a shipment's density to properly describe your goods on the bill of lading. Follow these steps to determine density for each product shipped:
Step 1: Measure the Shipment
Measure the length, width, and height of the shipment in inches. Measure to the farthest points, including skids or other packaging. On shipments with multiple pieces, repeat Step 1 for each piece.
Step 2: Calculate the Total Cubic Inches
Multiply the three measurements (length x width x height). The result is the total cubic inches of the shipment. If you have multiple pieces, multiply the L x W x H for each piece. Add together the results for each piece to get the total cubic inches.
Step 3: Convert to Total Cubic Feet
Divide the total cubic inches by 1,728 (the number of cubic inches in a cubic foot) to get the total cubic feet of the shipment.
Step 4: Calculate Pounds Per Cubic Foot
Divide the weight by the total cubic feet to get the pounds per cubic foot, i.e., density. For multiple pieces, add the weight of each piece together before dividing by the total cubic feet of the shipment. Round fractions to the nearest full cubic foot number.
If the skid weighs 500 pounds and measures 42 inches x 48 inches x 48 inches:
Multiply 42" x 48" x 48" = 96,768 cubic inches
Divide 96,768 by 1,728 = 56 cubic feet
Divide 500 pounds by 56 cubic feet = density of 8.9 pounds per cubic foot
To simplify the calculation, UTS can provide a density calculator online or as a Microsoft Excel file. These tools will automatically calculate the density once you’ve entered the shipment dimensions.
What Your Supply Chain Partner Needs to Know
To Help You Accurately Classify Your Freight
Determine the basic description of the freight. Be able to describe what material the product is made of.
Know what kind of container your item will be shipped in: pallets, drums, reels, crates, tubes, bundles etc.
Does your freight include hazardous material? What is the description of this material?
Measure the length, width, and height of the object to be shipped.
Weigh the product being shipped with its packaging. It is important to include the packaging in the calculation. The single most frequent reason for carrier price changes is under-reporting the total weight of the shipment.Type your paragraph here.