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What are Freight Classes? A Beginner’s Guide to NMFC Codes

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Freight Classes, So you’re shipping your first package and stumbled upon this whole “freight class” thing. What gives? As a shipping newbie, all these codes and categories can feel overwhelming.

Well, don’t sweat it! Understanding freight classes is easier than it seems. This beginner’s guide will teach you the freight class basics so you can navigate the shipping world like a pro.

Demystifying Freight Classes

Freight classes are categories that are assigned to products and cargo to determine shipping rates and liability. Basically, they allow carriers to charge appropriately based on the items being shipped.

The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) maintains something called the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) system. This categorizes thousands of commodities under one of 18 freight classes – from low-density Class 50 to high-density Class 400.

Read: Freight Forwarder vs Third-Party Logistics

How Freight Density Affects Class

A main factor used to determine an item’s freight class is its density. Density refers to the mass per cubic foot of an item.

  • Lower-density products like pillows and marshmallows are loosely packed and take up more space.
  • Denser items like auto parts contain more weight condensed into less space.

Less-dense freight belongs to lower freight classes, which have lower shipping rates. The logic is that lighter products cost carriers less to transport and take up valuable trailer space.

On the flip side, dense freight classes have higher shipping rates since heavy cargo weighs down trucks, requiring more gas and labor.

Why Accurate Classes Matter

Properly classifying your freight is crucial because rates directly correspond to classes. Incorrect classes mean incorrect shipping quotes. Getting it right protects your business.

Besides rates, freight classes also decide coverage limits. If items are undervalued or misclassified, you may not receive full reimbursement for losses or damages.

For new e-commerce sellers, identifying precise classes can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. But as you grow your shipping know-how, you’ll discover it’s an essential piece of the puzzle.

Finding an Item’s Freight Class

So how do you pinpoint that coveted freight class number? Here are tips for cracking the code:

Check the NMFC Directory

Think of the NMFC as a giant freight-class dictionary with every commodity imaginable. You can search by keyword to reveal an item’s assigned class.

For example, a search for “bottled water” shows it belongs to Class 92.5. Easy as pie!

Compare Similar Products

Can’t find an exact match in the NMFC? No sweat. Compare specifications for analogous products already listed to make an educated guess.

Use density as your north star. If Product A resembles Product B but is less packed, give it the next lightest class.

Ask Your Carrier

When in doubt, go straight to the source! Carrier customer service can provide guidance to accurately classify one-of-a-kind or oddball items.

Providing as many product details as possible allows them to make sound recommendations.

Decoding Common Freight Classes

While the NMFC contains over 5,000 classifications, some freight classes apply to everyday items.

Here’s a quick primer on codes you’ll likely encounter regularly:

Class 55: Household Goods

Furniture, and mattresses, which are lightweight and take up ample trailer space.

Class 60: Boxed Meat

Frozen, chilled or packed meat like chicken breasts or ground beef.

Class 65: Products of Unusual Value

Typically used for high-value electronics like laptops or cell phones.

Class 70: Automotive Parts

Replacement parts for cars, trucks, and other vehicles. From mufflers to driveshafts.

Class 125: Palletized Beverages

Shipment of canned or bottled sodas, waters, juices, etc. stacked on pallets.

See, not so bad! With this baseline familiarity with common freight classes, you can more readily classify many everyday shipments.

Learn: Comparing Shipping Methods from the US to the UAE

Leveraging Technology to Simplify Freight

Shipping technology like freight class lookup tools streamline the process from start to finish.

Instead of Memorizing codes, let an automated engine provide instant freight class suggestions as you enter items. Receiving accurate quotes in real-time eliminates surprises down the road.

As you progress on your shipping journey, lean on solutions that condense complex tasks like class identification into a few clicks. More time growing your business, less time scratching your head over codes!

Wrapping Up

And that’s the meat and potatoes on freight class basics! While new shippers often find the concept perplexing, a little diligence goes a long way.

The NMFC directory and handy carrier contacts empower you to classify freight with confidence. Memorize codes for routine items like furniture or meat to speed up quoting. And don’t be afraid to ask questions – no one understands shipping overnight.

Soon enough, you’ll be a freight class master pairing products to codes like a pro. But for now, take it one class at a time friend! You got this.


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