An Introduction to Freight Classes

06/27/2016 — Jerry Spelic

The first time I was introduced to the concept of a freight class was an eye-opener.  At the time, I was responsible for getting all trade show materials to the show site, including product samples, marketing collateral, and trade show booth. The company where I worked had a 100,000 sf warehouse, trucks inbound and outbound all week long, and a guy who managed the warehouse. He was the one that shipped our trade show materials.

When we outgrew our booth and needed a new one, we worked with a local trade show exhibit company and had them ship our materials to the show. When our freight invoice arrived after the show, I was floored! It was considerably more than I was used to paying. That was when I learned about freight classes. The warehouse guy always shipped our trade show exhibit Class 50, which is not the correct freight class. It should have been shipped Class 125, which the trade show company did, resulting in higher shipping charges. My lesson: freight class impacts cost.

Freight class refers to the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) and is the category of your freight as defined by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA). Your shipment’s freight class determines the carrier’s shipping charges and refers to the size, value and difficulty of transporting your freight.

Freight classes are designed to standardize pricing, regardless of what carriers, warehouses and brokers with which you work and is determined by weight, length and height, density, stowability, ease of handling, value and liability. There are 18 classes into which a shipment may fall; the lower the product class, the lower the rate per pound. Class 50 rates are the least expensive and Class 500 rates are the most expensive.   

There is a lot of math that goes into freight class calculations (which we will not cover in depth) but here are some considerations that go into determining your shipment’s class:

  1. Density: The more compact a product is, based on weight, the less space it will take up in a truck. Bricks are much more dense than ping pong balls, so they take up significantly less room per pound and result in a lower freight classification.
  2. Stowability: Most freight stows well, but some items cannot be loaded together, like food and chemicals. Hazardous materials and oversize items also impact stowability.
  3. Handling: Freight is usually loaded with mechanical equipment and creates no handling issues, but weight, shape, fragility or hazardous properties do require special handling.
  4. Liability: Liability is determined by the probability of theft or damage, or damage to adjacent freight. Dynamite has a high amount of liability while books do not.

Here are some examples of products by freight class:

It is very important to understand freight classes and ship your materials correctly. Incorrectly classifying your freight can results in additional costs, as freight carriers have the right to inspect and reclassify your shipment. If that happens, guess who pays? You do. It can also slow delivery of your freight and will cause unneeded headaches.

The bottom line: always correctly identify and classify your freight.

Freight classes can be complex and confusing. For expert assistance on determining your shipment’s freight class, contact PartnerShip at 800-599-2902 or find your freight class online. The freight experts at PartnerShip are here to help!

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