LTL Freight Class For E-commerce
As an online merchant, if you sell large items like big-screen TVs, ceramic floor tile, kayaks, home gym equipment, barbecue grills, riding lawn mowers, furniture mattresses,…
Parcel shipping probably won't meet your business needs. It's a lot more practical to ship large items that weigh more than 100 lbs by Less Than Truckload (LTL).
LTL freight carriers use a uniform classifying system to negotiate tariffs, rates, and charges. The rate you pay for LTL shipping depends on the item’s freight class.
The marketplace has nearly an infinite number of products moving every day. Freight classification makes the process simpler and more consistent.
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.
Any for-hire carrier can become a member of the NMFTA. Membership entitles the carries to serve on working committees, and take part in updates to the NMFC Participation.
Members can also become eligible for election to the Commodity Classification Standards Board, or CCSB, which develops and maintains the NMFC.
For a trasportation company to participate, they must pay an anual fee and complete a licensing agreement. Participants can use or reference the copyrighted NMFC in their tariffs, rate schedules, and contracts.
The NMFC groups goods into 18 freight classes.
Four factors determine the shipment's freight class-
Density. Expressed as weight per cubic foot, density is the key factor the NMFC uses to determine freight class.
Multiply width X length X height If measuring in inches divide the total by 1728 (the cube of 12) - this is the volume in cubic feet Divide weight of the shipment by volume
Handling. If your shipment needs some special attention, you’ll pay for a higher freight class.
- Fragile items
- Needs a lift gate for delivery
- Temperature controlled
Stowability. This has to do with how well your freight travels with others.
- Does it have unusual dimensions?
- Are there protrusions that would make it difficult to stow with other freight?
- Do government regulations or carrier policies prevent it from sharing a trailer or dock with other kinds of freight?
- Can the carrier stack the pallets to maximize space?
Liability. The value of the item and the risk of damage during the freight handling process get factored in.
Class 50 - 50 lbs per cubic foot and up
Class 55 - 35 lbs per cubic foot but less than 50 lbs per cubic foot
Class 60 - 30 lbs per cubic foot but less than 35 lbs per cubic foot
Class 65 - 22.5 lbs per cubic foot but less than 30 lbs per cubic foot
Class 70 - 15 lbs per cubic foot but less than 22.5 lbs per cubic foot
Class 77.5 -13.5 lbs per cubic foot but less than 15 lbs per cubic foot
Class 85 - 12 lbs per cubic foot but less than 13.5 lbs per cubic foot
Class 92.5 - 10.5 lbs per cubic foot but less than 12 lbs per cubic foot
Class 100 - 9 lbs per cubic foot but less than 10.5 lbs per cubic foot
Class 110 - 8 lbs per cubic foot but less than 9 lbs per cubic foot
Class 125 - 7 lbs per cubic foot but less than 8 lbs per cubic foot
Class 150 - 6 lbs per cubic foot but less than 7 lbs per cubic foot
Class 175 - 5 lbs per cubic foot but less than 6 lbs per cubic foot
Class 200 - 4 lbs per cubic foot but less than 5 lbs per cubic foot Class 250 - 3 lbs per cubic foot but less than 4 lbs per cubic foot
Class 300 - 2 lbs per cubic foot but less than 3 lbs per cubic foot
Class 400 - 1 lbs per cubic foot but less than 2 lbs per cubic foot
Class 500 - Under 1 lb per cubic foot
The chart only accounts for density. But remember, handling, stowability and liability also affect freight class.
For example, styrofoam bowls fall under Class 500, because of their low density. Bags of gold dust are also Class 500 because of their high value.
The NMFC directory contains a list of all goods and their criteria for calculating freight class.
The CCSB maintains a schedule of NMFC number codes. They classify all commodity types to determine freight class.
With the right NMFC code, you can be sure that you have the right shipping class.
You can avoid costly disputes with the carrier if you include accurate information on the bill of lading (BOL) -
- NMFC code
- Accurate product description
- Freight class
To get the right NMFC code, you can contact -
The freight carrier. Any carrier that participates in the NMFC has access to the most current NMFC numbers.
The product manufacturer. Look at their BOL - it might have the code on it. If not, you can call the manufacturer and ask to speak to someone in shipping. Most likely, they’ll know the NMFC number for your product.
The NMFTA. The NMFC directory is the official source for determining freight class.
If you ship a wide variety of wares, it might be worth the price to order a hard copy of the directory from the MNFTA website. You can also subscribe to the NMFC online directory.
Third-party logistics (3PL). Consider working with a 3PL for your LTL shipments. They can streamline the shipping process so you can focus on other business.
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.AK. 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.