What you need to know about the NMFC classification of freight vs. dimensional weight

Cassie Stang

By Cassie Stang Business Development at King Solutions

NMFC classification of freightIt’s an integral, age-old question to business owners: what is the cheapest way to ship my goods? Of course, you could take on the task yourself, or you can hire a 3PL company with a deep history to take care of the task for you, but what do you do when confronted with how you want your freight to be priced before it is shipped?

It may sound like a complicated process with a lot of jargon, but classifying your freight, or just measuring its dimensions and pricing it by volume, is actually not that hard to figure out. You just need to understand the way in which freight is classified by the National Motor Freight and Trade Association, LLC.

Breaking down the NMFC
The National Motor Freight Classification guidelines separate freight into eighteen different classes ranging from a low of class 50 to a high of class 500.

Yes, we said eighteen classes, but if you’re lost already, don’t fret; they are broken down using some simple guidelines.

Each class is measured based on the characteristics of the item: density, handling, stowability and liability, with all the measurements combining to create a score that represents the item’s “transportability”.

Density
Density guidelines are measured by the weight of cargo compared to how many cubic feet the cargo measures. You probably remember your high school physics teacher mentioning something about this as you drifted off in class, so here’s a reminder:

100lbs (a unit of weight) of iron does not take up the same amount of cubic feet (a unit of volume) as 100lbs of feathers because of the difference in density. Therefore, merely weighing your cargo isn’t enough. Density is calculated by dividing the weight of an object by its volume.

Handling
Simply put, handling is measured by how easily the item is transported. Most items can be moved without too much effort, but anything that is fragile, “non-standard” size skids or requires special attention, has a decreased handling score.

Stowability
Stowability is determined by the item’s ability to be stored with other items. While most items can be stored together without trouble, there are a few exceptions that change an item’s stowability.

  • Awkward shapes: if the item has a lot of strange contours or protrusions, it becomes harder to store.
  • Excessive dimensions or weight.
  • Inability to be stacked: this leaves a lot of empty space in trailers, reducing the amount that is shipped at once.
  • Non-compatibility: items that must be transported separately for safety reasons (e.g. you shouldn’t ships barrels of gasoline with grenades).

Liability
Liability is measured by the value per pound of cargo alongside its safety rating. A truck filled with diamonds has a greater liability than a truck filled with cubic zirconia for two reasons: 1) diamonds are worth more 2) the probability of theft is greater. Likewise, perishable goods carry a greater liability than non-perishable goods. Any dangerous or hazardous items carry a greater liability, as well.

Basically, if your cargo can explode, leak toxic waste or escape on its own, you are carrying items with a greater liability.

Can’t I just measure my cargo and be done with it?
Sure, you can always opt out of the NMFC classifications and ship your items based on dimensional weight (i.e. gross weight based on pounds), but it isn’t always the most economical route to take.

Likewise, classifying the majority of your cargo into a single NMFC category just because it is easier could also be costing you big time.

Save money on your shipping
There are a lot of ways in which you can reduce your shipping costs, and the experts at King Solutions can show you how. Give us a call today to learn how we can simplify your supply chain and save you money.

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