The most commonly asked questions we receive revolve around less than truckload freight class and NMFC numbers. What is “class” and “NMFC” and why do these things matter? It is critical to know the correct class and NMFC for your freight before shipping or you will incur reclassing fees. Carriers are getting very strict on bill of ladings having the correct NMFC and class, which a lot of shippers are often not aware of. Certain carriers will reclass a shipment to a higher class, thus increasing the rate, just because the NMFC for that class/commodity is not noted on the BOL. Some carriers will charge you a reweigh fee even if your freight is found to weigh less. Educate yourself by reading further in order to avoid extra freight charges.
At a very basic level, class can be viewed as a “price tag” for your freight. There are 18 classes that range between the identifiers of 50 and 500, with higher classes being more expensive and lower classes being less expensive to ship. Heavier items tend to fall into lower classes, while high value items tend to be classed higher. NMFC stands for National Motor Freight Classification and is the guide that assigns all classes to freight. The NMFC is determined by the Commodity Classification Standards Board (CCSB), which is an autonomous board comprised of members of the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA).
How is Class Determined?
There are four factors used to determine freight class:
- Value and Liability
- Packaging or Stowability
- Handling Characteristics
While each factor alone is crucial in determining freight class, they are also connected. For instance, packaging can impact how density is calculated. Take a simple box – if the box is palletized yet is of smaller length and width than the pallet itself, you must take the extreme dimensions of the full package (box on pallet) into consideration and use the dimensions of the pallet in addition to the height of the box. The additional weight of the pallet is also used to calculate density meaning that the same box, non-palletized, will have a higher calculated density, subsequently a lower class, and thus a lower overall rate than that same box on a pallet. Simply put, the same piece of freight could have vastly different classes depending on how it is packaged.
As stated above, the value of the freight itself will impact its classification (i.e. high value goods correspond to higher classes) and the same can be said for its liability. Goods with increased liability are items that are:
- Easily damaged
- Liable to damage other freight (via spillage, combustion, etc.)
- Susceptible to theft
We have already touched on packaging and liability above but these factors also go hand in hand with stowability, or the concept of how nicely the freight will play with other freight on the trailer. Oversized, unwieldy freight, items that could damage other goods via transit due to shifting, and difficult to load freight all have stowability issues that will result in higher classing. The last factor, handling characteristics, is similar to liability and stowability issues. Freight that requires hand loading, is excessively long or heavy, or is hazardous, are all handling characteristics that require special attention on the part of the carrier and thus result in higher classification.
While this is just a primer on LTL freight classing, hopefully the basics of this complicated system are more clearly understood. If you have questions regarding your freight classification, submit your dimensions to our LTL team below and they will class it for you. There is also a handy density calculator online that is a great resource to have on hand! Avoid LTL charges - let us class LTL freight for you!