If you’re an ecommerce merchant that sells a lot of large items such as big screen TVs, canoes, kayaks, home gym equipment, mattresses, furniture, riding lawn mowers…
Parcel shipping might not meet your business needs. You may need to ship by Less Than Truckload (LTL).
The rate you pay for LTL shipping depends on the item’s freight class.
LTL freight carriers use a uniform classifying system to negotiate tariffs, rates, and charges. With thousands of products moving through the marketplace, freight classification makes the process simpler and more consistent.
In 1983, the Interstate Commerce Commision (ICC) created the National Motor Freight Classification system. Later, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) required participation for all shippers and carriers.
The ICC isn’t around anymore, and the STB no longer regulates freight classification. But carriers and shippers still use the system.
The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) is a non-profit membership organization which publishes National Motor Freight Classification® (NMFC®). It provides a standard for carriers and shippers to negotiate freight rates.
The CCSB updates the NMFC every four months, so you’ll want to check often to see if changes affect your product’s freight class.
The NMFTA is not a regulatory agency, so carriers don’t have to participate. But the NMFC is proprietary, so a non-participant can’t use it as a base or reference to -
The NMFC groups goods into 18 freight classes. The higher the freight class, the higher the shipping rates.
The product’s “transportability” determines its freight class, based upon these four traits -
The freight classes below are expressed as pounds per cubic foot:
As you can see, this chart only accounts for density. But remember, handling, stowability and liability also affect freight class.
For instance, styrofoam cups fall under Class 500, because of their low density. Gold bars, because of their high value, are also Class 500. The NMFC directory contains a list of all goods and their criteria for calculating freight class.
A change went into effect on August 5, 2017 that affects freight class for 141 density-based commodities. The breakdown of this 11-tiered system looks like this:
The CCSB maintains a schedule of NMFC number codes. They classify all commodity types to determine freight class.
While density is the key factor, the other 3 also come into play. You don’t want to get it wrong - the carrier can reclassify and charge you a fee. That’s on top of the higher rate for a higher freight class.
With the right NMFC code, you can be sure that have the right shipping class. You can avoid costly disputes with the carrier if you include accurate information on the bill of lading (BOL) -
To get the right NMFC code, you can contact -
If you ship a lot of different items together, you’ll get the most reasonable rate with a Freight of All Kinds (F.A.K.) agreement. Instead of looking up freight class for each item, the F.A.K. agreement allows you to average out based on the density of the whole pallet.
For example, you want to ship a pallet that has a mix of different items, some class 50 and others class 100. The entire pallet’s weight per cubic foot, however, is 33 lbs. You could ask for a F.A.K. agreement and ship as class 60.
Eniture Technology specializes in helping e-Commerce merchants grow by providing useful information, digital marketing services, off-the-shelf apps that solve common problems, and custom programming services. Please contact us if you need help growing your online business or implementing the concepts presented in this blog post.
If you are interested in offering LTL freight as an option on your online store, take advantage of our free guide on LTL freight.
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