One of the most crucial things to consider when you’re planning a less-than-truckload (LTL) freight shipment is securing the right freight class. As defined by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association, National Motor Freight Class (NMFC) is a standardized freight pricing for your shipment based on its “transportability”, ensuring fair pricing when you ship. But a bungled freight class can skew the price on your invoice, even for old hands in the business. A better understanding of freight class means a closer approximation of hard costs, not to mention it’s great to have in your back pocket in case of potential freight claims.
There are 18 different classes, ranging from 50 to 500, and thousands of NMFC variations. Before we can understand how our NMFC can save us money, we have to understand how freight class is determined.
How Freight Class Is Determined
So what factors go into determining your LTL freight class? The freight class is all about the “transportability” of a product. The four factors that determine transportability are stowability, liability, ease of handling, and density. You can easily remember these transportation characteristics with the acronym SLED, defined below:
Stowability—This is how your freight can be transported with other items. If it’s perishable, flammable, or hazardous, the regulations differ; it can’t be shipped with certain materials. Think about how it’s packaged. Is your freight stackable? That will make it easier to stow inside a cargo container or truck.
Liability—What is the value of your freight? Liability concerns the likelihood of damage and/or theft, as well as the probability of the commodity causing damage to other freight in transit. If it poses a bigger risk, the freight class will be higher.
Ease of Handling—How much care is needed to ship your freight? Anything that requires special attention, from fragile items to hazardous materials, will result in a higher freight class.
Density—Density, or pounds per cubic foot, is the measurable amount of space needed for an item. Commodities that are compact with a higher density will be in a lower, and cheaper, class than an item that’s bulkier. Figure out your density with our handy freight density calculator.
Pro-tips for Savings on Freight Shipping
Crated/Palletized Shipments: The way your freight is packaged will affect your NMFC. Make sure you factor the weight of the packaging—whether it’s palleted, crated or boxed—into your final numbers. The additional weight of packaging can greatly affect your final freight class and subsequent cost.
For instance, a crated engine is a class 70, while a palleted engine would be a class 85.
Know What You’re Shipping: The devil is in the details. There’s a gulf of difference between shipping a classifiable item, like a vending machine, to something like a roller coaster part, which is considered NOI, or not otherwise indexed. Both are machines, but there are obvious differences.
Get the jump on your NMFC with our freight class look-up tool.
Consider Density: The final price is going to be based on whichever is greater: dimensional weight or actual weight. The density of your shipment will dictate how much space your freight shipment will require a truck or shipping container, so dimensional weight should be smaller than the actual weight. If freight takes up more space than it may weigh, the cost will increase.
The higher your density, the less space it takes on the truck, which means a lower freight classification. This will decrease the rate for every hundred pounds of your shipment. In addition to savings, the denser the package, the lower risk of potential damage.
Good news! FreightCenter can help you avoid costly oversights like the ones listed above. We take the complicated process of shipping freight and make it simple, helping you save money and resources while improving your efficiency.