04 May How to Determine Freight Class
Customers ask me all the time what freight class their product is. In the US, there are two different freight classing systems which are density based class, and NMFC based class. Let’s take a closer look at the 2:
Dimensional Based Class- Dimensional based classing system is one of my favorites due to its simplicity. It uses pounds per cubic foot to determine freight class. A shipment with lower density means higher class because the shipment is taking up more real estate per pound in the trailer. Central Transport is the only major LTL carrier that I am aware of that uses a density based classing system.
NMFC Based Class- While density weighs heavy when determining freight class, there are also other factors to consider when determining freight class, such as value, stowability, handling and liability. NMFC has an item number for every product imaginable. Finding the proper item number associated with your shipment can be challenging to say the least. I did a search under paper, and came up with 138 items related to paper. Most LTL carriers use the NMFC based classing system.
Being a professional in this industry, I always use caution when determining freight class for my customers. There are some items, where it is easy to determine freight class because there are only 1 or 2 different item numbers associated with that product. The other day I helped a customer determine class for motorcycle parts. Under motorcycle parts in fast class, I found only 2 items. One was for metal motorcycle parts, and one was for plastic. I knew the motorcycle parts were metal, which was a no brainer for determining freight class. If a customer calls in and says they want to know the class for paper, the difficulty in determining freight increases due to there being 138 items associated with paper. Just to put it into better perspective, the NMFC book with all the item numbers is about as thick as the Physicians’ Desk Reference.
Now that we know about the 2 classing systems, let’s figure out how to determine freight class. Since Central Transport uses a density based classing system, they will send you a class calculator in excel format which makes it easy. For the rest of the carriers, call your 3rd party logistics company. If it’s an item, with only 2 or 3 different item numbers, it should be easy. Otherwise, if you are a distributor of a product, you can call the factory. If you are unable to get information from the factory, call your 3rd party logistics company, and they can send an LTL carrier rep out to inspect your product and determine class.
The good news is, the new 2013 NMFC book there are around 350 items that class is determined by density, which means the industry as a whole, is moving over to the common sense density based classing system. In the meantime, until the industry moves to density based classing system, exercise extreme caution when determining freight class, and leave it to the professionals.